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Small enterprises considered key to a sustainable Caribbean economy

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Commonwealth Open-Ended Ministerial Working Group on Small States Meeting. Photo credit: Commonwealth Secretariat Flickr.

On March 26 – 27 2014, the Commonwealth Secretariat co-hosted, in collaboration with the Government of Saint Lucia, the third Global Biennial Conference on Small States.

This year’s conference theme was “Building resilience in Small States,” with government officials in attendance from 31 Caribbean, African, Pacific and the Indian Ocean small states. Representatives from academic institutions, regional and international organisations such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the World Bank, were also in attendance. The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), as well as the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) and representatives from non-governmental organisations from Mauritius and Samoa, were there from civil society.

“We are less at risk in we have policies that make us resilient.” This statement by Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, in his opening remarks to the conference, pointed to some of the key issues that were going to be discussed at this gathering of small state representatives.

The conference drew on work by the Commonwealth’s Technical Working Group (TWG) on building resilience in small states, in particular the five key pillars of resilience building: macro-economic stability; micro-economic market efficiency; good governance; social development and cohesion, and sound environmental management.

Potential opportunities for building resilience through transitioning to a new and inclusive model of economic development were discussed during the session titled “A civil society view of the priorities for the post-2015 agenda: building economic resilience through the green economy.”

The session was chaired by Cletus Springer, Director, Department of Sustainable Development at the Organisation of American States (OAS), and was attended by representatives from CARICOM, the International Trade Centre, the governments of Saint Lucia, Grenada, as well as civil society representatives from Samoa, Mauritius, and the Caribbean.

During the session, Loïza Rauzduel, CANARI Technical Officer, provided an overview of CANARI’s involvement in the post-2015 development agenda processes as a member of the International Research Forum (IRF www.irf2015.org ), a collaboration of research institutes from across the globe that provides an independent source of critical thinking, integrated analysis and awareness-raising on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

As an IRF member, CANARI is contributing an independent analysis of what are regional priorities for CARICOM member states, including perspectives from Caribbean civil society. This will support strong negotiation positions in the post-2015 agenda process and help to ensure that this global agenda is relevant to the needs and opportunities in the Caribbean.

Discussions at the conference reflected consensus on the need for the post-2015 development agenda to focus on accelerating the development of the region. The ongoing regional dialogue on green economy, led by CANARI, has recommended that there also needs to be a shift towards an alternative form of development that would achieve human well-being within climate and ecological boundaries, thus ensuring social equity and environmental sustainability.

While discussions pointed out that economic growth is still central for the sustainable development of the region, and as noted in the outcome statement of the conference, the use of GDP alone as a development measure has proved inadequate for small states. Therefore, and as the session’s chair noted, the notion of growth certainly needs to be deconstructed, and tailored to our specificities and needs.

In light of this, CANARI recommended that small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), including those based on the sustainable use of the natural resources, should be at the centre of an economic growth strategy for Caribbean states. Indeed, since SMMEs contribute significantly to the workforce and GDP of CARICOM states, regulatory frameworks and policies should be designed to foster SMMEs’ competitiveness, while improving their contribution to the social and environmental benefits they already generate, and therefore to the greening of the economy.

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