The 73rd Meeting of the OECS Authority began with an Opening Ceremony on Sunday 18th June 2023 at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Headquarters Conference Room, with remarks from the Director General of the OECS as well as other Heads of Governments. In keeping with long-established convention requiring that newly elected or appointed Heads of Governments deliver a brief address during the Opening Ceremony at their first sitting off an OECS Authority, the meeting received remarks from Dr. the Honourable Natalio Wheatley, Premier of the Virgin Islands who was in April 2023 elected to office. The Opening Ceremony also marked the delivery of remarks from the incoming Chair of the OECS Authority, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew, Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis; as well as remarks from the outgoing Chair of the OECS Authority, Hon. Joseph Farrell, Premier of Montserrat.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Drew outlined the main priorities that will drive his Chairmanship of the OECS Authority for the upcoming year. According to him,
‘’It is in the context of this service that today, I share with you the strategic priorities which will be pursued during my period as Chairman of the OECS Authority. Strong institutions are needed to deliver development for the region. For the OECS during my term, there will be five areas of special attention – youth, health, violence as a public health issue, energy, and environment.’’
In his remarks, Director General Dr. Didacus Jules spoke to the progress of the OECS, as the Organisation also celebrated its 42nd Anniversary. He was also hopeful about the future of the OECS, calling for members to leverage their collective strengths to achieve its unbounded potential. He stated,
‘’To create a resilient and prosperous region that meets the needs and aspirations of its people, we must leverage our collective strengths. However, realizing this vision requires commitment, collaboration, and effective implementation of policies and programs. With determination and a shared sense of purpose, the OECS can make significant strides towards a future marked by vision, integration, sustainability, and progress.’’
Premier of Montserrat and outgoing Chairman of the OECS Authority, Hon. Joseph Farrell, appealed for continued collaboration with agencies working towards the adoption of a
“Multi-dimensional vulnerability index for SIDS allowing member states who are still not eligible for concessional financing; - because they are classified as middle or high income countries; - but are more vulnerable that the income data suggests, to be able to access such funding. This must be a priority going forward” , he stated, “Indeed, Member States are sovereign and march to the beat of different drums”.
In the main the meeting focused on, inter alia:
a) Implementation of Free Movement of People Regime
With a focus on the implementation of Free Movement of People Regime and the establishment of the OECS Customs Union and Free Circulation of Goods; Portability of Social Security Short term benefits, facilitating the inter-regional use of OECS IDs, harmonized Border Management Environment, and the requisite institutional and legislative frameworks were among areas highlighted among the Heads of Governments discussions.
b) The 7th Sitting of the OECS Assembly
The 7th Sitting of the OECS Assembly is intended to be convened in or about November 2023, and will focus on the operationlisation of the economic union, with a concentration on the bills intended to give effect to important aspects of the economic union.
c) Endorsement of the Eastern Caribbean Regional Ocean Policy (ECROP) 2020
Under the matter of the Revised ECROP, final endorsement was sought, with recommendations proffered for consideration by the Authority, cognizant of the challenges and opportunities faced by the Member States. The REVISED ECROP 2020 contained integrated, visionary, and holistic strategic outcomes to support the achievement of the OECS Strategic Priorities and Strategic Outcomes. National Ocean Policies and Strategic Actions (NOPs) for Member States which participated in the CROP, that are aligned to the REVISED ECROP 2020 were outputs of the Project.
d) Update on the BVI
Premier of the Virgin Islands. Hon. Dr. Natalio Wheatley addressed colleague Heads of Governments on the matter of the situation of the BVI. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) continues to face the threat of direct rule being imposed on the people of the islands by the United Kingdom (UK) that is maintaining an Order in Council in reserve that would immediately suspend the Territory’s constitution if triggered. The Governor stationed on the islands is also seeking additional powers over the Territory. The Government and people of the BVI requested ongoing support from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to prevent these outcomes.
The OECS Heads of Government expressed their unreserved solidarity with the BVI and committed to provide support to the completion of the decolonization process in the Caribbean and the respect for the democratic will of the people of the BVI.
e) Other Matters
Among other matters brought before the meeting of the Authority were the budget of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court for the financial year 2023/2024; an update on the progress made by the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) on the restoration of the Category One Status to the region; OECS matters of finance and the work programme; regional air transportation, directions for foreign policy convergence, the impending accession of Saint Martin to the OECS; and an appeal related to the constitutional and political status of Bonaire.
Heads of Governments and Representatives of Heads of Government
- Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew – Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Hon. Gaston Browne – Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda
- Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit – Prime Minister of Dominica
- Hon. Philip J Pierre – Prime Minister Saint Lucia
- Hon. Natalio Wheatley, Premier of the British Virgin Islands
- Hon Dr. Ellis Webster, Premier of Anguilla
- Hon. Denis Cornwall, Minister of Finance, Representing the Prime Minister of Grenada
- Hon. Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Finance, Representing the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Mrs. Patricia Telle – Commissioner, Executive Council of the Territorial Authority of Martinique, Representing the President of the Collectivity
- Mrs. Penchard Marie-Luce, 2nd Vice-president of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, Representing the President of the Regional Council.
- Hon. Dame Janice Pereira, Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court
- H.E. Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
- Commissioners of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
- Mr. Anthony Whittier, Director General, Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority