11 March 2010

Cayman Islands to Join United Nations Committee

Bermuda to Follow?

OTR News Service
Maria Rodriguez, International Correspondent

The application of the Cayman Islands for associate membership in the United Nations (UN) Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC) is scheduled for consideration at the 23rd Session of that United Nations organisation on 18th March 2010. The session will be held in Grenada.

The CDCC is a permanent subsidiary body of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) comprised of virtually all independent and non-independent Caribbean countries of the hemisphere. The CDCC was created in 1975 to concentrate on the specific development needs of island countries, including the non self-governing territories as well as the associated countries of the region.

According to the terms of reference of the UN regional economic commissions, non-independent countries must first gain associate membership in the parent body ECLAC prior to its accession to the CDCC. The Cayman Islands previously attained associate membership in ECLAC at its 32nd Session in 2008 held in the Dominican Republic, becoming the penultimate non-independent country to join. The Cayman Islands is now proceeding with its separate membership application for the CDCC.

Of the ten Non-Independent Countries of the hemisphere, only Bermuda has yet to attain associate membership in ECLAC and CDCC, but indications are that their accession to both United Nations bodies is in train, and could be realised at the ECLAC 33rd Session scheduled for Brazil in June, 2010.

In 1990, the countries of the CDCC created the Working Group of Non-Independent Caribbean Countries NICCs), and over time, a work programme was developed for these countries primarily aimed at increasing their level of participation in programmes and activities of the United Nations system which could assist them in their socio-economic development process. The Group was formally renamed “Working Group of Associate Member Countries” in 2004 by resolution of the CDCC member countries.

Territorial Participation in UN System

Several expert studies were completed for ECLAC by past CDCC Chairman and founder of the Working Group of NICCs Dr. Carlyle Corbin, the former Minister of State for External Affairs of the US Virgin Islands. The most recent analysis, completed by Dr. Corbin in 2007 was the 68-page “ Plan of Action for the Further Integration of Associate Member Countries in the United Nations System including its specialised agencies.” The research remains the most comprehensive study to date on the role of the wider United Nations system in assisting the development process of non-independent countries, including those in the Caribbean as well as Pacific regions.

The findings of the study recognised that the interest of the non-independent countries in participation in United Nations programmes and activities had been encouraging, but had not been sustainable owing in part to the insufficiency of information on areas of participation available to the governments of the associate member countries. This is in spite of the annual resolutions of the UN Economic and Social Council, and the General Assembly, respectively, in favour of UN support to the territories, and was attributed to the lack of systematic dissemination of information of such support.

The study acknowledged that ECLAC “had contributed to increasing access of AMCs to United Nations programmes and activities in the economic and social sphere by conducting various analyses on widening and deepening the participation of these countries in the broader United Nations system, mainly through encouraging the extension of formal status to these countries to participate in relevant United Nations world conferences, and General Assembly summits and special sessions.”

An important feature of the analysis was a review of support to the non-independent countries from the United Nations programmes, funds and specialised agencies, along with an examination of the prevailing criteria for the participation of these countries.

Present Associate Members

The present associate members of ECLAC are the British-administered dependent territories of Cayman Islands, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla. The disposition of the associate membership of the Turks and Caicos Islands in both ECLAC and CDCC since the abolition by the British of the elected government of that territory in 2009 is being questioned in some quarters, as calls have become more frequent for the suspension of the territory until elected government is restored.

Additional associate members in the Caribbean region include the United States-administered dependent territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands which achieved associate membership in 1992 and 1984, respectively. Puerto Rico subsequently served as only the second associate member to chair ECLAC, from 2004 -2006, while the US Virgin Islands was twice chair of the CDCC in 1988-89 and again from 2004-06. The remaining associate members are the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba (the first associate member to chair ECLAC).

When the present dismantling process of the Netherlands Antilles is given final effect, it is likely that the Commission would provide for Curacao to replace the Antilles as an associate member (similar to the replacement of the UN membership of the former Soviet Union with the Russian Federation). In this vein, it would be likely that the newly separated Sint Maarten would proceed with a request for associate membership in its own right in the two UN organisations, and in other relevant UN and international bodies.

The associate member countries of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) include the French administered dependencies of New Caledonia and French Polynesia. The US-administered dependencies of American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are also ESCAP associate members along with the New Zealand associate states of the Cook Islands and Niue, and the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao.

As Corbin wrote in “Islands at the Crossroads - Non-Independent Countries in the United Nations (2001), “the incorporation into France of Guadeloupe and its dependencies, Martinique and Guadeloupe (and Reunion) as overseas departments in the hemisphere would preclude their categorisation as non-independent countries” and therefore negate their eligibility for separate representation in United Nations and other international bodies, unlike the Pacific overseas countries of France which have sufficient autonomy for independent representation through their associate membership in ESCAP and other bodies. This is evidenced by the membership of France in the Association of Caribbean States in representative of these overseas departments. Such ‘representation’ of the territory by the cosmopole would not be tolerated, however, under UN procedures.

Associate Member Countries in UN Review

The Cayman Islands along with the other associate member countries should look forward to a number of upcoming events I which they are eligible to participate. By resolution of 2009, the UN General Assembly agreed to extend observer status to associate member countries of ECLAC and ESCAP in the five-year review of the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation (MSI)of the international programme of action on the sustainable development of small island developing states. The review is scheduled for UN Headquarters in September, 2010.

This category of participation for associate member countries dates back to the 1992 International Conference on Environment and Development, and was extended to these countries for most of the major UN global conferences and special sessions between 1992 and 2005 as a direct result of the advocacy of the Working Group of Associate Member Countries of ECLAC. Corbin’s 2004 study for ECLAC, “The Participation of Associate Member Countries in United Nations World Conferences” provided much needed-historical context to this emerging trend.

Associate Member Countries (AMCs) of ECLAC will now have the opportunity to participate in the United Nations process of the High Level Review of the International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States held in Mauritius in 2005. Last fall, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the subject which, inter alia, “Invites the participation of association members of regional commissions in the high level review…in the same capacity specified for their participation…” at the Mauritius meeting. Observer status had been extended to the associate members in Mauritius, and the highest level of participation from the Caribbean and Pacific were in attendance.

The first step in the process is the Caribbean Regional Review meeting of the Mauritius Strategy to be convened in Grenada from 16 - 17 March 2010. The AMCs of the Pacific will have the same opportunity to participate in the regional conference of the Pacific during the same period.

The Cayman Islands and the other associate member countries have the opportunity to make their views known on issues related to their socio economic and sustainable development. In a broader sense, these countries will also have the opportunity to enhance their governance capacity through increased international organisation participation. As Corbin wrote in 1991, “(non-independent countries) should not be precluded from direct participation in the very international institutions which would not only facilitate their decolonisation, but which would assist in their socio-economic development process.”

(Carlos Otero also contributed to this article).