CARICOM honors former Sec.-Gen. for contribution, devotion to Caribbean unity

Former CARICOM Secretary-General, Amb. Irwin LaRocque
Former CARICOM Secretary-General, Amb. Irwin LaRocque addresses the opening of CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Suriname on Sunday, July 3, 2022.
CARICOM Secretariat

Former CARICOM Secretary-General, Amb. Irwin LaRocque, received the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC) on Sunday, July 3, at the opening ceremony of the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in Paramaribo, Suriname.

According to the Georgetown, Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat, Amb. LaRocque was honored for being “a regionalist who dedicated his time and effort to realize the regional integration agenda set by CARICOM Heads of Government.”

In doing so, he has served as assistant secretary general at the CARICOM Secretariat and the seventh secretary general of the Community.

LaRocque was born in Dominica where he received his early education. Subsequently, he attended the Queens College, the New School for Social Research and New York University where he majored in political philosophy, political economics and economics.

In Dominica, he accepted the position of permanent secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Enterprise Development, and subsequently served as the permanent secretary in the Ministries of Tourism and Foreign Affairs.

“There is no doubt that his tenure in the Public Service of the Commonwealth of Dominica prepared him for his duties and responsibilities at the CARICOM Secretariat,” the citation says.

LaRocque joined the staff of the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown in 2005 as assistant secretary general.

In 2011, he was appointed secretary general by the CARICOM Heads of Government and served for two consecutive terms.

“Upon his appointment, he immediately became the champion for reform at the Secretariat,” the citation says.

With the assistance of staff, consultants and various organs of CARICOM, the first CARICOM Strategic Plan 2015-2019 was approved at the Conference of Heads of the Government in 2014.

The CARICOM Secretariat said the Strategic Plan outlined a framework for social and economic development, with Caribbean citizens as the beneficiaries of the actions to be implemented by the Secretariat, Organs and Institutions of the Community, as well as member states.

“The preparation and adoption of the first Strategic Plan was, indeed, a major achievement for Amb. LaRocque and his staff,” says the citation, listing, among his major achievements, the restructuring of the Secretariat to make it more efficient and effective; strengthening of the internal systems to improve on audits, communications and monitoring of results; establishing the CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors to enhance governance and advance implementation in member states; and strengthening of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

The citation says Amb. LaRoque also strengthened the Caribbean Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) to perform a coordinating and organizing role for an effective and efficient Regional Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) regime to benefit trade in agriculture; established the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE); and established the Caribbean Community Administrative Tribunal (CCAT) to arbitrate employment disputes for all staff at the Secretariat and other CARICOM institutions, “as these bodies, being international organizations, enjoy immunity from local laws and before national courts.”

“His emphasis on and interest in the youth was a major driver of his work,” says the citation, stating that Amb. LaRoque oversaw the development of the CARICOM Human Resource Development Strategy 2030 and Action Plan, and was a keen advocate of the Creativity for Employment and Business Opportunity (CEBO) Program, which fostered an entrepreneurial spirit among the youth.

The citation says LaRocque was also instrumental in the re-engagement of the private sector with regular interaction with Heads of Government and other Community Organs, resulting in the formation of the CARICOM Private Sector Organization, which was formally established in 2021, and is an associate institution of the Community.

“He worked to the end, bringing global attention to issues that were significantly impacting member territories, such as climate change; the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and, in particular, the acquisition of vaccines; and blacklisting and de-risking, security, maritime and border protection,” the citation says. “Issues of staff tenure and advancement were fixtures on his agenda, as was the budgetary limitations of the Secretariat, and he used every opportunity to dialogue with Heads and colleagues, always hopeful for better outcomes.

“Throughout the many seasons of global and regional challenges, natural economic and manmade, Amb. LaRocque maintained his calm nature, and skillfully navigated the Caribbean Community through the raging waters and rugged landscapes,” it adds. “For his contribution and devotion to Caribbean unity, and sustained commitment to regional integration and advancement, we applaud Amb. LaRocque for outstanding service to the region.

“We salute him for leaving and indelible mark on this institution and the region, and confer on him the Community’s Highest Award,” the citation continues.

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