On June 18, 1981, the Treaty Establishing the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) was signed by seven Member States in Basseterre, the capital city of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. The Treaty was signed by Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In November 1984 and May 1995 respectively, the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla ratified the Treaty as Associate Members. Among the most important objectives of the Treaty establishing the OECS are: to promote cooperation, unity and solidarity; to assist Member States with obligations with respect to International Law; to engage in joint overseas representation; to promote economic integration; and to establish common institutions and take actions in common.
In preparing the region for an era of heightened integration, on June 18, 2010, which marked the 29th anniversary of the OECS, the Prime Ministers of the six independent Member States of the OECS signed the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union. In the spirit of deepening integration among Member States this Revised Treaty has aided the region to provide for, inter alia, the establishment and implementation of a free movement regime within a single economic and financial space.
Thirty-four years later it is interesting to review the historical records of the OECS in its bid to ultimately unify the islands and integrate the people of the region. According to OECS Director General, Dr. Didacus Jules in his 34th Anniversary Speech “Anniversaries like this provide us with an opportunity to assess and celebrate the accomplishments of the past recognizing that it is on the foundation of these accomplishments that the future is constructed.” On reflecting on the range of achievements, Dr. Jules further stated that “The record is punctuated by many important things that we take for granted today. And the fact that they are taken for granted is the greatest testimony of their lasting impact – because they now constitute an indistinguishable element of our everyday existence.” Some of the key pillars of the region’s resilience include the operation of OECS institutions – such as the Central Bank, the Supreme Court, the Civil Aviation and Telecommunication Authorities (dubbed as the first of their kind globally) and its Organs.
Today, the reality of the region’s unique circumstances, coupled with a brutally competitive world that is dominated by the large and powerful economies, calls for greater optimism in the region’s potential and ability, rededication to solidarity and stronger unity; and demands resolute will and unwavering speedy action, as well as a reaffirmation of a commitment to a common collective path. In noting the enviable track record of the OECS, Dr. Jules acknowledges that “The entry of Martinique to the fraternity of the OECS in its 34th year of integration marks a qualitative shift in our approach to regional integration. It signals the putting aside of linguistic and cultural barriers….It opens new windows of possibility for people to people exchange, trade, exchange of services and the collective development of the region.”
The road ahead for the OECS in the coming years is aptly summed up by Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, during his opening speech at the 61st Meeting of the OECS Authority when he stated that “…this is the time for us to bind more closely together than ever, and like our Carib ancestors, to fight harder for each other. It is indeed a time to stand firmer in the face of all that seeks to undermine our unity and development.”