President Ramotar joins UNASUR Heads for Summit in Paramaribo
Georgetown, GINA, August 31, 2013
President Donald Ramotar was among 12 Heads of State who attended that 7th Ordinary Meeting of the Council of Heads of State and Government of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), in Paramaribo, Suriname on Friday.
President Donald Ramotar in light conversation with his Surinamese Counterpart Desi Bouterse at the UNASUR summit
The Summit, which saw Surinamese President Desi Bouterse assuming the pro tempore presidency of the South American bloc from Peru, examined several critical issues for regional development, including transportation and infrastructure
The heads also discussed the integration process and challenges that are facing the region.
They were also expected to sign the Paramaribo Declaration, agreed by the Foreign ministers on Thursday.
The document includes various strategic issues for UNASUR and will establish the working areas that need priority, including political and social integration.
The Paramaribo Declaration highlighted its determination to promote a South American identity. “The council emphasises its determination to build a South American identity based on shared values such as democracy, the rule of law, absolute respect for human rights and consolidation of South America as a zone of peace,” it said.
President Donald Ramotar, and Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues- Birkett among the Guyana delegation at the UNASUR summit
A long-term strategic vision of UNASUR should be based essentially on the guidelines including the strengthening of connectivity among member states, to promote the integration of their citizens and encourage the establishment of the South American identity, according to the declaration.
“The construction of a South American identity requires the coordination of different dimensions such as economic, political, social, civic, defence and security, cultural, amongst others,” it added.
UNASUR said the process represents an important institutional challenge which calls for the improvement of the management mechanisms.
A session of the UNASUR summit in Suriname
The summit also addressed the development of a strategic vision for UNASUR, the institutional strengthening of the secretariat, as well as establishing work groups on human rights and youth affairs.
President Ramotar had expressed optimism about the future of integration of South America and the Caribbean, which he believes will yield significant benefits for both sides.
Speaking in a live interview with Venezuelan state-owned Television Telasur in Paramaribo, Suriname on Thursday evening ahead of the summit, he said that the Caribbean/South American partnership is growing slowly, but surely. He noted however that rate of integration has increased.
“ The tempo (of integration) has increased, particularly, since the presence of president (Hugo) Chavez, who had placed more attention to this issue, and over the years I would say the integration of south America and with the Caribbean has increased quite a lot,” the president noted. He described the late President Chavez as a strong integrationist, who he praised for his efforts to bring the two regions together. “He has left a very good base for us to build on, and that’s what I hope this meeting here will help to promote.”
Heads of Government pose for a photograph at the close of the UNASUR summit in Suriname
He highlighted language barrier and scale of economies as some of the factors responsible for the pace of the integration process. “You have to recognise that we are not at the same level of economic development, therefore the progress which we will make in the integration process, should not be expected to be tremendously faster than it is…We have to remember that even though we were on the same continent, that we have not had this regularity of contact, some of this had to do with probably, separation of language and our history and traditions, but now I think, conditions have improved, with the development of transport and science and technology, it is bringing people closer into contact with each other and those barriers are gradually being broken down,” he noted.
UNASUR, a 12-nation bloc comprising Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela and Paraguay, is aimed at promoting the integration of South American nations. Its headquarters is located in Quito, Ecuador.