Australia and Caribbean Community nations today pledged to build on a growing partnership and to continue sharing experiences and expertise in addressing development challenges in the Caribbean.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Grenada’s Foreign Minister Karl Hood, co-chairs of the Australia-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Foreign Ministers meeting, reaffirmed a commitment to develop the relationship between Australia and the Caribbean, made at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2009.
"Australia and the CARICOM are home to the two largest stretches of coral reefs in the world, and share a strong interest in coral reef preservation and protection," said Mr Rudd.
From 2012, over two years, Australia and Belize will co-host the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI).
The first ICRI meeting in 2012 will be co-hosted in Cairns. This initiative brings together coral reef scientists, academics and policy makers to work collaboratively in the preservation of these threatened habitats.
“Working together to address the serious degradation that our coral reefs are facing is a great example of the partnership Australia is forging with the Caribbean Community. Through this initiative, Australia and CARICOM countries are sharing valuable expertise and knowledge to make a real difference to the marine environment," said Mr Rudd.
CARICOM countries have been working closely on a program of technical cooperation with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
"This cooperation has provided CARICOM countries with new strategies to better manage the impact of climate change on coral reefs," said Mr Hood.
“We are now better equipped to protect our coral reefs — one of our most treasured natural resources.
“Protection of the coral reefs is a critical component of the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea, which is a priority for the Caribbean region."
The Ministers agreed to collaborate to prevent the spread of non-communicable diseases in their respective countries and to give prominence to this issue on the international stage.
Ministers discussed the importance of youth employment in building national and regional resilience.
Australia is also working with CARICOM Member States to negotiate a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty, aimed at stopping the illicit arms trade.
"Australia has organised workshops in the Caribbean to exchange information and expertise on the negotiations, which will be finalised at a United Nations conference in July 2012," Mr Rudd said.
"Caribbean countries have a major stake in the outcome of the negotiations, and Australia is pleased to collaborate in ensuring their concerns are addressed."
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