Caricom Secretariat–The recently completed 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Programming Seminar, held in Georgetown, Guyana, was an engagement that the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (Cariforum) considered to be of critical importance to development in the region.Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom and Cariforum and regional authorising officer (RAO), expressed this view at the opening ceremony of the 11th EDF Programming Seminar, which was held from 19-20 September.The centrepiece of the forum was discussion on future development co-operation under the 11th EDF, which will run from 2014-2020, for the Caribbean region. Particular attention was paid to national and regional priorities for the use of funds under the National and Regional Indicative Programmes, respectively.
Under the 11th EDF, Carifrorum has called attention to people-centered development objectives.Headlining the programming seminar's opening were Donald Ramotar, President of Guyana; Oliver Joseph, Minister of Economic Development, Planning and Trade and Cooperatives, Grenada and the chairman of the Cariforum Council of Ministers; Ambassador LaRocque; and Andris Piebalgs, the European Union (EU) Commissioner for Development.In attendance from the Cariforum side were regional policy-makers, national authorising officers (NAOs), senior officials from states and regional institutions, and representatives from non-state actors. The EU side was headed by Commissioner Piebalgs, and included officials from the European Commission Development and Cooperation–EuropeAid and European External Action Service (EEAS).References to the strong historic, economic and cultural ties between Europe and the Caribbean permeated remarks delivered by the speakers, as did references to political, trade and development relations.
"The EU has made a big contribution to development in this part of world," President Ramotar said as he underscored the importance the Caribbean attached to its relationship with Europe.
LaRocque noted that while the relationship between the two regions was evolving, "it nevertheless is underpinned by certain constants such as a commitment to global peace, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights."He characterised the attendance of Commissioner Piebalgs at the seminar as a reflection of the importance the EU attaches to its relations with Cariforum.Joseph noted that 11th EDF programming was unfolding under very different circumstances from those of negotiations on the 10th EDF. He called attention to the global economic downturn, and added that the Caribbean was deeply appreciative of the EU's continued support of the region, at a time when some of its member states were themselves experiencing fiscal, financial and economic challenges. This point was reaffirmed by LaRocque, who said that the EU's maintenance of support during this time of hardship as "clear evidence of the strength and durability of our relationship."
However, LaRocque voiced Cariform's concern regarding elements of the new EU external aid policies. He referred specifically to the twin principles of differentiation and graduation from access to grant resources.Piebalgs said of the process of negotiations on the 11th EDF, "it is technical, but also political." He added, in reference to the strategic dialogue that is unfolding on the choice of priority sectors for cooperation, "there has to be a meeting of minds."Over a two-day period, Piebalgs heldbilateral meetings with national authorizing officers (NAOs) from respective Cariforum states. The Commissioner met separately with LaRocque and his team.The EU is the largest provider of grant resources to Cariforum, via national indicative programmes and through regional indicative programmes. LaRocque said the resources provided through these two mechanisms as well as those disbursed through Intra-ACP Programmes, Joint ACP/EU Institutions and Budgetary Resources of the Commission of the EU, "have been significant and have contributed immensely to national and regional development in Cariforum."