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What is Caricom?

Caricom (Caribbean Community) is a group of 15 member states and five associate members. It was founded in 1973 and represents a population of 16 million people. All its full member states are considered “small states,” which are judged by the UN to be especially vulnerable to climate change and its effects. With their small populations or geographic size, they are often vulnerable to external shocks (both economic and natural), and have challenges in accessing international markets.

Twelve of the 15 member states are in the Commonwealth, which has previously supported the states to access funds to address climate change and debt issues. Its five associate members are all UK Overseas Territories: Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

UK policy towards the region

In its 2021 Integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, the UK Government said it would develop partnerships with countries in the Caribbean based on shared democratic values, and seek to promote inclusive and resilient growth. The UK focus would also include helping the region to address climate change and serious and organised crime.

The two priority regions for UK aid spending are the Indo-Pacific and Africa. The 2022 aid strategy, which runs for ten years, reiterated commitments to work with the Caribbean region on development and climate change. The UK’s development finance institution, British International Investment, will also support the delivery of renewable energy infrastructure in the Caribbean.

Past UK aid support has focused on supporting local resilience to crises, including natural disasters, improving infrastructure and employment, and supporting stability.

Reparations to account for the UK’s historic role in the trade of enslaved people

Clive Lewis MP, who is leading the debate, has said he will raise the issue of reparations to account for the UK’s historic role in the trade of enslaved people, and call on the UK Government to enter into discussions with Caribbean states on the issue.

From 1624 to 1807 (when the British trade of enslaved peoples was abolished), an estimated 2.3 million enslaved Africans were taken to the British Caribbean, primarily to work on sugar and other plantations.

In 2014, the 15 member-states of Caricom agreed to establish national reparations committees and a regional Caricom Reparations Commission.

The Governments also unanimously agreed a “Ten-point plan for reparatory justice” for European colonisation in the region. Among the ten points are a full formal apology from European governments, establishing a legal means for individuals in the Caribbean to return to their homeland (if this is requested), and for debt cancellation.

In response to a 2020 e-petition, “Pay Slavery Reparations to all Caribbean & African Descendants,” the UK Government said reparations are not part of the Government’s approach, and is instead working to address racial and ethnic inequalities and modern slavery. The full Government response can be found on the e-petition’s webpage.

Section 1 of the debate pack provides more on UK policy towards the Caribbean and debate on reparations.

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