HAVANA – The Association of Caribbean States kicked off on Thursday its seventh summit in Havana with the challenge before it of continuing to revitalize the organization, strengthen its position as a mechanism for political and economic agreement and guarantee unity among the countries of the region.
The summit, which will run until June 4, began with a closed-door meeting of top officials from the 25 member states, who were tasked with reviewing, modifying and preparing the elements to be included in the final ACS declaration and action plan for 2016-2018.
“We have moved forward very quickly in the discussion and on approval of the aspects of the final documents. In general, there has been a high degree of consensus on the great majority of the key points,” the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Manuel Aguilera, told the island’s state-run television.
Aguilera added that to craft the organization’s action plan the member states have had to consider questions linked with sustainable development and environmental protection, starting with several cooperation projects proposed by Cuba, which currently holds the ACS rotating presidency.
Also discussed at the preparatory meeting were issues such as the need to increase cooperation and trade among Latin American and Caribbean nations and to foster multi-destination transportation and tourism.
To prepare the documents, summit organizers said that they are considering decisions made at the recent Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit held in January in Ecuador.
This initial meeting, in which the organization’s secretary general, Colombia’s Alfonso Munera, participated, will be followed on Friday by the sessions for foreign ministers and heads of state on Saturday, where the final version of the Havana Declaration, including the summit’s conclusions, will be approved and made public.
Attending the summit are representatives of the 25 ACS member states, the seven associate members, 21 invited countries and nine international organizations in the capacity of observers.
On the itinerary for the gathering are also the decision whether to admit the French territory of St. Martin as an associate member, and Bolivia, Uruguay and Kazakhstan as observers, as well as the way to integrate the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas, or ALBA.
The ACS was formed on July 24, 1994, in Cartagena, Colombia, with the aim of promoting consultation, cooperation and concerted action among the countries of the Caribbean.