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Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Foreign Ministers were  Monday urged to advance the objectives of the Community by leveraging their voices as one to derive maximum benefits for the Region.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque,  asserted that there was “ample evidence” to prove the Community benefitted when acting in concert on the international stage.

LaRocque was speaking in Nassau, The Bahamas, at the opening of the Twenty-First Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR).

“What we do as a Community continues to make a difference. Just recently, we were successful in pressing the case of the undocumented British citizens of Caribbean descent long resident in the United Kingdom (the Windrush Generation). We have brought global attention to issues of non-communicable diseases, graduation from access to concessional financing, climate change and the vulnerability of Small States to name just a few,” the CARICOM official pointed out.

He said other external challenges, including blacklisting, the withdrawal of correspondent banking services, transnational crime, and the threat of violent extremism, must also be addressed by the multilateral system, rather than by “individual action by countries or groups of countries in fora in which we have no voice.”

LaRoque expressed the Community’s perpetual gratitude to partners who had supported affected countries in their efforts at recovery and building resilience.

Such assistance was most welcome, Secretary-General LaRocque noted, particularly as most of CARICOM countries were denied concessional development financing due to the use of GDP per capita as a primary criterion for access to such funds.

The Bahamas, in particular, suffered three consecutive years of significant damage by hurricanes amounting to more than half a billion US dollars, but is one of those countries affected by this denial of access, due to its categorisation as an upper middle income country.

With the support of the United Nations Development Programme and the Commonwealth, among others, the Secretary-General said international financial institutions are beginning to consider vulnerability as a factor in providing development financing.