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Posted in: Statements from CARICOM Meetings by admin | 29 September 2013 | Release Ref #: 65/2004 | 2508

    It is my pleasure to welcome you all on behalf of the Directorate of Human and Social Development and indeed the entire CARICOM Secretariat. I wish in particular to thank you Minister and your staff at the Ministry of Health for making the arrangements for hosting this meeting. I also wish to express great pleasure that The Hon. Orville London Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly has graced this opening ceremony with his presence. We thank the Ministers and participants for making the adjustment in travel schedules to be here in Tobago after there was need to switch this meeting from Port-of-Spain with little over a week to spare. Hopefully, these exquisite surroundings and the kind hospitality of the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago will more than compensate for any inconvenience you may have experienced.

    Since COHSOD VI in April 2002, in which Health and Development was featured, our Directorate has been working assiduously to implement the decisions taken at intervening meetings. There was COHSOD VII in Georgetown Guyana (October 2002), which focused on Human and Social Development with Special Reference to Education, Youth and Sport; COHSOD VIII in Suriname (April 2003) on Cross cutting issues in the Human and Social Development Agenda: Culture and Gender; and COHSOD IX in Guyana (October 2003) on Labour and a Competitive Workforce. Over the past year there were two special COHSODs on Education and technical meetings of Chief Education Officers, Chief Labour Officers, Cultural Directors, Customs and Immigration on procedures for the CSME. The Directorate has coordinated programmes in Higher Education with the Universities of the West Indies, Guyana, Suriname and St. Georges. There have been a number of policy round tables on gender, drugs, the rights of the child and youth and development

    The Council for Human and Social Development from its inception has been challenged not only with establishing an appropriate mission, but also with identifying an effective mechanism for defining the most appropriate arrangements for inter-sectoral activity at both the regional and national levels. Under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas the COHSOD is expected to function as an integrated unit with responsibility for promoting human and social development. The aim of COHSOD is therefore to bring coherence to the functioning of the social sectors and complementarity between the economic and human dimensions of the region's development.

    For this reason the Directorate, after examining its role and functions in this new structure proposed that COHSOD would best achieve its objectives by adopting an integrating theme as a framework for its work. COHSOD IV (October 2000) approved the theme Investing in Human Capital with Equity, which was amended at COHSOD V (October 2001) to Investing in Human Resources with Equity. The consequences of this conceptual framework have been far reaching. First of all it meant that the Directorate of Human and Social Development (HSD) was required to find a formula to operationalize the inter-sectoral approach in its varied components: education, health, culture, labour, youth, sport, gender, drugs and crime.

    Second, whatever the formula, the consolidation of activities into integrated outcomes, has increasingly been reflected in the design and implementation of the Directorate's work programme. Whereas in 2000 there were 54 strategic outcomes among eight programme areas, in 2004 the realignment according to the inter-sectoral matrix -planning approach adopted, resulted in 8 strategic outputs.

    This inter-sectoral approach obviously poses a challenge. As a result the COHSOD process has been slow to catch on especially at the national level. Many of our stakeholders find it more comfortable to recoil in their sectoral enclaves, perhaps as a result of the structure and functioning of government across the Caribbean. Many also wish to see a reversal to the tedious process of the standing committees for each of the eight segments of the HSD programme notwithstanding the high costs of maintaining such a system and the wastage of human resources in the process. This would be a retrograde step. In the Ministerial Caucus therefore we would try to address this anomaly and come up with possible solutions. We may be at the stage for another review of the COHSOD system.

    More and more, however, COHSOD has been able to demonstrate at these meetings how much synergy there is between the sectors that fall within this Directorate.

    Ø      How can we for example, adequately address HIV/AIDS prevention and control without integrating the policies with respect to the workforce, health and education to begin with, and without the expertise of legal and behavioural scientists?

    Ø      How do you explain productivity of the work force without reference to skills training, technical and vocational education and workers health?

    Ø      How do we hope to eradicate poverty without placing emphasis on special assistance to disadvantaged groups that involve education, health, and environmental protection programmes?

    Ø      How do we begin the conception of a viable CSME that facilitates the free movement of people without provision for sharing health services, common policies for social security and a more viable Caribbean Cooperation in Health?

    Ø      How do we preserve the integrity of our health and environmental professionals without appropriate mechanisms for accreditation, and standardization, and programmes that harness our cultural talents and engage the people of this region?

    Ø      How do we make our health systems more viable without understanding the links between macrocosmic policies and health, which is one of the major foci of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development?

    Ø      How can small states in a region like ours, with limited capacities, better cope with the requirements of an accelerated approach to HIV/AIDS than by making the Pan Caribbean Partnership a viable network for collaborative efforts?

    These are all issues underlying the discussions at this meeting that place emphasis on the role of health and the environment in sustainable human and social development.

    Highlighting Some Regional Programmes

    Over the past year the Directorate has spearheaded many endeavors in collaboration with several Partners, and in collaboration with other Directorates within the Secretariat and organs and institutions of the Community.

    The new strategic emphasis in our Youth and Development Programme was fashioned in collaboration with UNICEF, UNFPA, and the Commonwealth Youth Programme.

    This year the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS has attracted additional resources from the Global Fund, the World Bank and GTZ and has expanded the scope of its activities.

    The Directorate also coordinates the activities of the CARICOM Task Force on Crime and Security, located in Trinidad and Tobago and supported by that Government.

    Our Gender programme has consolidated the work on gender mainstreaming and has fully demonstrated that gender is indeed a cross cutting element in any Human and Social Development Strategy.

    In the area of Education, the major focus has been on getting the structures of accreditation and standardization in place, which means close collaboration with our CSME Unit and the Legal Division.

    In the area of Culture the Directorate has spearheaded discussions, based on research from UWI that is designed to ensure that cultural products yield dividends for the artists. It coordinates a Task Force on the revamping of CARIFESTA based on the recommendations from CARIFESTA VIII in Suriname.

    These are just some of the programme areas in which the Directorate has been involved over the past year. Others include: the facilitation of the Regional Civil Society Council; the work of the Futures Policy Group; the special programme on Institutional Strengthening on HIV/AIDS sponsored by the European Union and coordinated by CARICOM; the development of the Regional Strategic Plan on Demand Reduction for Drugs; plan of action for the Rights of the Child in collaboration with UNICEF and a programme in Education and HIV/AIDS with UNESCO.

    Now at this meeting we turn our attention to one of the core elements of our Human and Social Development Strategy: health and the environment. As you will note from our agenda, we expect concrete recommendations on many issues. Chief among these are working groups for designing effective plans for implementing the Caribbean Health Initiative, alternative strategies to avert the outflow of trained health professionals and for health and emergency services at world cup cricket 2007.

    On behalf of the Directorate of Human and Social Development. I once again welcome you.