Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jamaica Pooh-Poohs the CARICOM Special Visa; Whither ECLAC?

In a post reminiscent of this one, I am re-visiting the issue of the CARICOM Special visa for the very fact that yesterday was the day that visa "ended".

Meaning that now, countries like CARICOM-member Jamaica will...

"...revert to its original national laws and policies as they relate to immigration, customs and other measures which were temporarily suspended for the hosting of the CWC 2007 games,"

At least, so said a ministry coming from the Ministry of National Security.

It further

instructed visitors to check with their respective country authorities, and or their diplomatic and or consular offices to ascertain if they are required to have a national visa to enter the particular country

I am not very sure about how Jamaica sees itself ensconced within the CARICOM region as a merely tourist destination, but for sure, it has issues about retaining the visa, and one of them is this:

Jamaica has always been talking about diversifying, that we don't put our eggs in one basket," he said. "Now the basket that is affected is the same one that requires the CARICOM visa. So, rather than encouraging a developing market, the CARICOM visa will have the opposite effect of driving that market to other places that will not have such a visa requirement."

I can understand that even if other members of CARICOM are in favour of the idea, it could not be extended or mooted just like that. There will, in fact, be a meeting in July in Barbados--not necessarily to discuss this issue. However, I am sensing that if other member states feel compelled to raise the issue, then why not.

This development in the CARICOM region might seem odd to the casual observer like myself who feels that CARICOM is a region that has some similarities with regions like the West African one of ECOWAS. I couldn't be more wrong, for this is one of the things that underscores the importance of comparative studies of regional integration, which serve to help people get round in their mind what elements of a regional integration agreement can be emulated, or extrapolated to another one.

The Belgium-based United Nations Univeristy's UNU-CRIS does a great job in reminding us of the importance of regional integration in the rapidly-changing landscape of international relations. It asks five major questions:

We are a research and training programme of the United Nations University that is driven by the following questions:

Question 1: What is happening in the world - Past, present and future - with regard to regional integration processes?
Question 2: What governance structures are emerging through regional integration?
Question 3: How can regional integration contribute to peace and human security in the framework of the UN?
Question 4: How can regional integration contribute to the development of LDCs?
Question 5: How do people and societies deal with regional integration?

Finally, I believe that in asking those questions, we can begin to advance on the theory and practice of regional integration that is people-centred, as well as one that comprehensively bridges the disconnect that is perceived to exist between regional economic communities and the United Nations.

I look forward to the day when in the discussion of CARICOM, there is an ineluctable, or inevitable, involvement of the central role of the UN's regional commission for that region, ECLAC.

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