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CARICOM - The Caribbean Community

An Overview of CARICOM, The Caribbean Community Organization

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Guyana Flag

CARICOM, the Caribbean Community, is headquartered in Georgetown, Guyana. The flag of Guyana is shown above.

Source: CIA World Factbook, 2007
Updated June 11, 2014
Many countries located in the Caribbean Sea are members of the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, an organization founded in 1973 to make these several small countries more cooperative, economically competitive, and influential in global politics. Headquartered in Georgetown, Guyana, CARICOM has achieved some success, but it has also been criticized as being ineffective.

Geography of CARICOM

The Caribbean Community is composed of 15 "full members". Most member countries are islands or island chains located in the Caribbean Sea, although some members are located on the mainland of Central America or South America. Members of CARICOM are:
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas (actually located in the Atlantic Ocean)
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Suriname
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Montserrat (not an independent country, but a possession of the United Kingdom)
There are also five "associate members" of CARICOM. These are all territories of the United Kingdom:
  • Anguilla
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
The official languages of CARICOM are English, French (the language of Haiti), and Dutch (the language of Suriname.)

History of CARICOM

Most members of CARICOM gained their independence from the United Kingdom beginning in the 1960s. CARICOM's origins are rooted in the West Indies Federation (1958-1962) and the Caribbean Free Trade Association (1965-1972), two attempts at regional integration that failed after disagreements about financial and administrative matters. CARICOM, initially known as the Caribbean Community and Common Market, was created in 1973 by the Treaty of Chaguaramas. This treaty was revised in 2001, primarily to change the organization's focus from a common market to a single market and single economy.

Structure of CARICOM

CARICOM is composed of and led by several bodies, such as The Conference of the Heads of Government, The Community Council of Ministers, The Secretariat, and other subdivisions. These groups meet periodically to discuss the priorities of CARICOM and its financial and legal concerns.

A Caribbean Court of Justice, established in 2001 and based in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, attempts to resolve conflicts between members.

Improvement of Social Development

A major goal of CARICOM is to improve the living conditions of the nearly 16 million people that reside in member countries. Education, labor rights, and health are promoted and invested in. CARICOM has an important program that prevents and treats HIV and AIDS. CARICOM also works to preserve the interesting mix of cultures in the Caribbean Sea.

Goal of Economic Development

Economic growth is another crucial goal for CARICOM. Trade amongst members, and with other world regions, is promoted and made easier through the reduction of barriers like tariffs and quotas. Additionally, CARICOM tries to:
  • Manage the great amount of revenue that arises through tourism
  • Promote agricultural and industrial development
  • Encourage international investment in the region
  • Benefit from free trade agreements it has with countries such as Canada, Venezuela, and Cuba
  • Control exchange rates and devise a single currency for CARICOM member countries.
Since CARICOM's inception in 1973, integration of members' economies has been a difficult, slow process. Originally devised as a common market, CARICOM's economic integration goal has gradually transformed into the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), whereby goods, services, capital, and people looking for employment can move freely. Not all features of the CSME are currently functional.

Additional Concerns of CARICOM

CARICOM's leaders work with other international organizations like the United Nations to research and improve numerous problems that exist due to the location and history of the Caribbean Sea. Topics include:
  • Natural disasters such as hurricanes and volcanic eruptions so that damage can be prevented or mitigated
  • Assistance to member countries affected by natural disasters, such as Haiti's 2010 earthquake
  • Climate change, because many CARICOM members are low-lying and vulnerable to sea level rises
  • Management of water and energy resources
  • Prevention of crime, especially drug trafficking
  • Improvement of communications, technology, and transportation in member countries
  • Making travel and immigration to other member countries easier through a common passport

Challenges for CARICOM

CARICOM has achieved some success, but it has also been strongly criticized as being very inefficient and slow at implementing its decisions. CARICOM has a difficult time enforcing its decisions and settling disputes. Many governments have much debt. Economies are very similar and are focused on tourism and the production of a few agricultural crops. Most members have small areas and populations. Members are dispersed over hundreds of miles and overshadowed by other countries in the region such as the United States. Many ordinary citizens of member countries don't believe that they have a voice in CARICOM's decisions.

Acceptable Union of Economics and Politics

Over the last forty years, the Caribbean Community has attempted to regionalize, but CARICOM must change some aspects of its administration so that future economic and social opportunities can be seized. The region of the Caribbean Sea is distinctive geographically and culturally and has abundant resources to share with the increasingly globalized world.

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