The achievement of greater economic and social cohesion is central to any integration project. Cohesion is a balanced pattern of economic and social development that simultaneously promotes economic efficiency, political stability and social equity. It is typically pursued through targeting structural disparities between countries and regions, and promoting equal opportunities for all.
CARICOM has acknowledged that the Community has a responsibility to respond to inequalities between locations and population groups and that integration needs to be accompanied by substantial efforts to help those less able to take advantage of integration, or who may even experience increased disadvantage because of it.
The CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) is established to provide financial and technical assistance to disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors. The CDF is intended to use its resources to provide a more complete response to its mandate by offering financial and technical assistance to disadvantaged regions and sectors, as well as Member States, to address any dislocation brought about by the CSME. By promoting economic and social cohesion in this manner the Fund will promote overall economic efficiency in the Community, and by extension political stability and social equity.
The CSME and the European Union (EU) are by no means comparable, either in terms of size or the scale and depth of the respective integration movements. However the concept of cohesion, while subject to differences in contextual definition, refers to similar notions for both groupings. The Treaty arrangements for both integration constructs speak to the goals of “harmonious development”, “reduction of disparities among members”, “promotion of convergence” and “raising standards of living”. Cohesion therefore, is about ensuring that CARICOM citizens in all Member States are better positioned to share in all of the benefits of economic integration.
As the development mechanism mandated to provide financial and technical support aligned to the measures outlined in Chapter Seven of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (which focuses on Disadvantaged Countries, Regions and Sectors), the CDF has a role to play in the evolving discussion on cohesion in the region and building out of a comprehensive policy on cohesion. The CDF in moving towards the adoption of a results-orientated Cohesion Policy, collaborated with a team of consultants from the European Policy Research Centre (EPRC) of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.
For the successful roll-out of an elaborate Cohesion Policy for CARICOM, the CDF identified three necessary outputs to be agreed on in consultation with key Community stakeholders.
A Situation Analysis that provides an overview of the current socio-economic and policy contexts in CARICOM with respect to economic and social cohesion matters;
A Cohesion Policy for CARICOM that is results-orientated and strikes the optimum balance between ambition and realism, as well as being fully compatible with the existing priorities of both CARICOM in general and CDF in particular;
An Implementation Plan that will carve-out the main types of activity to be supported for each of the policy’s strategic priorities, as well as the institutional arrangements and procedures for implementation of the policy.
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The consultations in formulating the Policy will conclude in September 2017, with presentations being made to key stakeholders for Community adoption in 2018.