The Conference on the Caribbean, which brought together heads of state of the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), was held in Washington, D.C. June 19-21, 2007.  The Conference aimed to further strengthen the relationship between the United States and CARICOM and to promote regional development with the assistance of the Caribbean Diaspora.  The Conference fostered a dialogue on priority issues facing the Caribbean through the staging of three fora: an Expert Forum, a Private Sector Forum, and a Diaspora Forum.

Panelists at the Expert forum, hosted by the World Bank, addressed a myriad of pressing issues on the regional agenda, including the role of regional integration in increasing competitiveness, educational quality, HIV/Aids, and non-communicable diseases.  The panelists also considered the important role that security plays in the development of the region.  Recommendations resulting from this forum included: commitment to the Doha round and Caribbean Basin Initiative, reform of criminal justice systems, gun control, drug interdiction and increasing collaboration with donor agencies, mobilizing private sector investment, privatization of water and electricity, a regional air bridge and management of public funds.

Issues discussed at the Private Sector forum, hosted by the Inter-American Bank (IDB), included the main trends in bi-lateral trade flows, accessing the services market, the role of US markets in connection with EU, and other markets and the vulnerability of CARICOM’s trade to US competition. The future of agriculture, barriers to financing, and the cultural and health perspectives on trade were also cause for concern within the region.

In forging stronger ties, the Diaspora forum, hosted by the Organization of American States (OAS), underscored principal challenges and opportunities for the Caribbean-US Diaspora. Participants saw financial empowerment, mobilization of skills, knowledge and professional networks and engaging the youth as important focal points for contributing to a framework for regional development.

During the final plenary session held at the OAS, a summary of policy recommendations were presented calling attention to reducing the region’s vulnerability, increasing its relationship with the US and the Caribbean-US Diaspora and garnering support for regional development initiatives.

Considering that Trinidad and Tobago will host the Fifth Summit of the Americas, the issues discussed at the Conference on the Caribbean have special relevance for the Summit Process.  The OAS and the Summits Secretariat will collaborate closely with the host government and CARICOM member states in considering many of the issues and policy recommendations discussed at the Conference in the work leading up to and following the Fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009.