Dominica, A Member of OECS, CARICOM AND ALBA

Dominica is a unique island, not only for its towering mountains and physical rarities but historically as well. The countries government has fostered a close relationship with a number of friendly nations including, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Belgium, France, and Britain. The island is a member of both regional and international organizations. The islands membership to organizations such as CARICOM, OECS and ALBA has further strengthened Dominica’s relationship across the other Caribbean and regional nations.

In 1972, Commonwealth Caribbean leaders at the seventh heads of government conference decided to transform the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) into a common market. This led to the birth of the Caribbean Community /CARICOM, of which the common market would be a fundamental part. CARICOM an organization of Caribbean nations and dependencies strives to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, ensuring equity among member states. The Caribbean Community currently has fifteen full members: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. There are five associate members: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Commonwealth of Dominica joined CARICOM on May 1st, 1974. Later, Together with eleven other CARICOM nations the island joined the Caribbean Single Market and economy on July third, 2006. The CARICOM Single Market and Economy seeks to further foster unity and cooperation among member states. Under the CSME (Caribbean Single Market and Economy) heads of government expressed their determination to work toward establishing a single market and economy. The CARICOM Single Market and Economy was established to benefit the people of the Region by providing more and better opportunities to produce and sell the nations goods. This will create a large market among participating member states with the benefits of creating:

  1. A common external Tariff
  2. Free movement of CARICOM nationals- through measures such as removing all obstacles to intra- regional movement of skills, labour and travel, linking of social services, education, health, providing for the transfer of social security benefits and establishing common standards for accreditation.
  3. The Caribbean Community had agreed to establish a common passport in order to make intra-regional and international travel easier for their citizens. The passports boast at having better security and are machine readable.
  4. Free movement of capital- through eliminating foreign exchange controls, convertibility of currencies or a common currency, and integrated capital market such as regional stock exchange.

The CARICOM secretariat maintains regular contact with an organization named the ORGANIZATION OF EASTERN CARIBBEAN STATES (OECS). The OECS came into being on June 18th 1981 with seven Eastern Caribbean Countries signing the treaty Of Basseterre, including Dominica. The seven eastern Caribbean islands; Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines signed the treaty agreeing to cooperate with each other and promote unity and solidarity among the members. Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands are associate members of the OECS. The member states realized the need for the OECS after the island gained their independence from Britain. It became evident that there was a major need for a more formal arrangement to assist with their development efforts. The OECS main objectives are:

  • To promote unity and solidarity among the member states.
  • To promote cooperation among OECS member states
  • To assist member states in the realization of their responsibility to the international community with due regard to the role of international law as the standard of conduct in their relationships among member states.
  • To promote economic integration among member states.
  • To achieve a high level of synchronization of foreign policy among states to adopt a common position on international issues and to establish and to maintain wherever possible.

The OECS member states share a common:

  • Single currency; the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD). The undertaking of the currency is overseen by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
  • Supreme Court: the Eastern Caribbean Supreme court ha s two divisions; the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court is headed by the Chief Justice. The High Court Judges are based in each member state where as the judges of the Court of Appeal are resident in St Lucia, and travel to each country to hear appeals.

The member states of the OECS can also travel to other OECS countries using their; driver’s license, voters registration card, social security card or national identity card. The OECS member states all have a common goal to promote economic integration to its fullest capacity among member states.

The Commonwealth of Dominica as the name denotes, is a parliamentary democracy within the British Commonwealth. Dominica has a parliamentary style of government, modeled after Britain, where executive power rests with the prime minister and his cabinet. The British Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 independent sovereign states, most of which were former British Colonies or Dependencies. After Dominica gained its independence in 1978 the island became a republic underneath the British Commonwealth with the president as the head of state. The British Commonwealth cooperates with common values and goals. The queen heads the Commonwealth in a symbolic capacity and does not have executive power over the member states. The United Kingdom does not exercise power over the affairs of the member states.

The main aim of the Commonwealth is the promotion of democracy and development. No one government in the Commonwealth exercises power over the others. The objectives of the Commonwealth as outlined by the Singapore Declaration in 1971 are as follows:

  • World peace
  • Opposition against gender and race discrimination.
  • Equality
  • Individual liberty
  • Promotion of a representative democracy
  • Free trade
  • Good governance

The organization is celebrated each year on ‘Commonwealth Day, which is the second Monday in March. The British Commonwealth is committed to democracy, good governance and equality among its member states.

On January 10th, 2008 the decision was made by the Commonwealth of Dominica to join the Bolivarian Alternative for the America’s. ALBA the Acronym for the Bolivarian Alternative for the America’s is a bold plan by Latin American countries to promote integration, and fight against poverty and social exclusion. Members of ALBA at present are Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba. Dominica’s decision to join the organization is seen as a historical one. The Venezuelan Government prior to Dominica’s admittance to the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) have fostered close and friendly ties with the local government. Through The Venezuelan Embassy, the Venezuelan Government is working with the local government to provide literacy and competency in the Spanish language. Through ‘free’ classes at the Venezuelan Institute hundreds of Dominican citizens have been given the opportunity to experience Spanish culture. The Venezuelan government through the years has aided the country in a number of causes such as road rehabilitation projects. The decision was made to join ALBA as a means of further strengthening the relations between the countries.

Since ALBA’s inception in 2001, the organization has identified a number of concerns among member nations:

  • Energy: to help reduce social inequalities and raise the standard of cooperation in oil and gas provision, Petrocaribe (an agreement signed in June 2005) seeks to ease the energy burden placed upon the Caribbean in oil market prices. At present there is construction going on in Jimmit, Dominica to establish a Petrocaribe plant on the island.
  • Health and Education: Venezuela and Cuba are working jointly to provide literacy and healthcare programs to member states and other countries of the region. The Venezuelan and Cuban Government have been offering nationals the opportunity to further and advance their education in a number of fields such as: psychology, Accounting Medicine, Agriculture, Linguistics, Engineering, Physical Education, Special Education( to teach students with special needs) and foreign languages to name a few. The medical field in Cuba is very developed and Dominican students studying in Cuba can specialize in just about any field of medicine.

ALBA is devoted to work jointly with member states to keep progressing against the poverty and other social ills affecting countries.

The Dominican government through fostering close and friendly ties with organizations such as OECS, CARICOM and ALBA are devoted in fostering bilateral and multilateral relationships, with the main goal of solving international, economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems.