OECS focuses on island development constraints

CASTRIES, St Lucia, January 29, 2007 – The success of small island states such as Ireland, Iceland and Singapore will be the platform on which the members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) will discuss how to advance the economic union of the Caribbean sub-group when they meet for the inaugural OECS Development Conference here today.

“One of the major questions that we are expected to address is how can the OECS, as an economic and political construct, consolidate its position as an indispensable component of the engine of economic and social progress of the people of the sub-region,” said Prime Minister Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda who is the featured speaker at the event. “In addition, we will look at how the OECS can present and project itself, both regionally and internationally, so as to ensure that the Organization continues to add value to the individual and collective endeavours of the people of the region.”

Spencer said that deeper OECS integration is their inescapable model of development, born and nurtured out of a necessity to consolidate the economic, social, cultural and functional cooperation gains of the last 25 years, and for the ultimate benefit of the region’s people.

The conference is also expected to finalise plans for a comprehensive community education drive over the next six months, as the first vital and defining public phase of the OECS Economic Union initiative.

The two-day conference will be held under the theme “Vision 2015: Shaping the Future of the OECS – New Development Paradigm in the Context of Small Island Developing States.”  Presenters, including many high profile intellectuals,  will be drawn from the World Bank, IMF, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the European Union (EU), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Governments of Puerto Rico, Ireland and Iceland, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), University of the West Indies (UWI), OECS Member States and the OECS Secretariat.

The conference will seek to get to the root of the various forces which shape the prospects for development of the OECS, including those related to small size and vulnerability, and examine how these can be transformed to resilience.  Participants will analyse the experience of other small states such as Malta, Iceland, Ireland and Singapore to identify ways in which they overcame constraints related to “islandness” and size, and what lessons can be applied to the OECS as a group.

The Multilateral Financial Organizations will also reflect on the challenges, strengths and prospects for growth and development of small island developing states, given constraints of size and other vulnerabilities.

The International Development Conference is part of a year-long calendar of events, starting June 2006, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Basseterre which established the OECS.  Other major events included the unfurling of the first OECS Flag, the unveiling of a draft OECS Economic Union Treaty and an OECS Trade Exposition.

The OECS is made up of nine Member States;   Antigua/Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.