Press Release: First Regional Meeting between the Caribbean Congress of Labour, the World Bank, the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank Held in Trinidad and Tobago

February 21, 2006

Press Release No. 06/35

The following statement was issued on February 17, 2006 in Port of Spain after a meeting between the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Caribbean Congress of Labour:

"The first ever meeting of its kind between executive committee members of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) from 10 Caribbean countries and representatives of the World Bank, the IMF and the IDB took place on February 17, 2006 in Port-of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

"The meeting, which focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the Caribbean in the 21st century, is the first of its kind between regional representatives from the Trade Union movement across the Caribbean and the 3 international institutions. Discussions focused on the need to accelerate poverty reduction, employment creation—particularly the importance of decent work, productivity and competitiveness, strategies for equitable growth, regional integration, fiscal prudence, debt sustainability labour market reform and the determination of a way forward between the CCL and the international agencies.

"Opening the conference, Mr. George de Peana, General Secretary of the CCL, said that 'this is an historical and significant meeting, which provides a unique opportunity for the international development institutions and the regional labour movement to join forces to tackle some of the existing problems in the region.'

"While the international institutions have often met with individual trade unions, this was the first meeting to brainstorm on development opportunities and challenges with trade union leadership from across the region as a whole. The proposal for a region-wide meeting emerged from a discussion nine months ago between the CCL and the World Bank and the IMF in Barbados.

"'The Caribbean is at a crucial development crossroads. Including the labour movement in any discussion of national or regional development strategies is vital,' said Caroline Anstey, the World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean, during her opening remarks.

"Ms. Ratna Sahay, Assistant Director of the Western Hemisphere Department at the IMF, noted that greater engagement of the International Development and Financial Institutions and the governments with trade unions was essential to increase ownership of reforms.

"Discussion focused particularly on the need to deepen and accelerate regional integration, the importance of combating high youth unemployment, of further exploiting economic benefits from tourism, and of increased focus on equitable social progress, including skills, quality education and the provision of social safety nets. 'Improving the functioning of labour market institutions is key to achieve quality employment, increase productivity and foster competitiveness,' noted Ms. Dora Currea, Division Chief for the Caribbean at the IDB.

"The discussion also focused on the importance of increasing growth, which addresses the issue of job creation, social inclusion and strategies to facilitate broad-based participation and consultation in the formation of national and regional development programs in the Caribbean. The need for improved collection and dissemination of information and transparency in the region to foster better informed discussions and increase the effectiveness of policy making were emphasized by several participants.

"The meeting agreed to convene annually to further enhance cooperation. The meeting also underscored the need to deepen consultation and collaboration on a range of regional and national analytical studies and policy recommendations.

"The CCL, which was established in 1945, presently has 30 affiliates in the English and Dutch speaking countries of the Caribbean with a membership of more than 500,000."


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