Caribbean heads of state are congregating at the 39th Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government meeting in Jamaica to discuss regional issues including crime, disaster management and climate change.
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne said: "The Caribbean is our neighborhood. We have to make it more prosperous, and we certainly have to raise up its value."
Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley stressed the importance of regional cooperation, particularly in terms of transport and communication: "We are always better walking together than walking alone," she said.
Addressing the assembled officials, Grenada's Prime Minister Keith Mitchell explained the importance of integrating Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) into Caribbean schools' curricula.
Cuba's recently elected President Miguel Diaz-Canel is also attending the meeting, which opened Wednesday afternoon as the regional body marked the 45th anniversary of its establishment on July 4, 1973.
"The heads will also meet with the new President of Cuba HE Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez. This will be the first opportunity for Caricom as a collective to engage their Cuban counterpart on Caricom-Cuba relations and on issues of mutual importance," Caricom said in a press statement.
The conference is being attended by other newly elected heads of state in the region, including Chilean President Sebastian Piñera.
The Conference of Heads of Government is a key inter-governmental body in the Caribbean which helps form a common vision for the region and guides policy making.
Key issues are crime and violence, disaster management and climate change, as well as Caricom's single market and economic policies. Some of the other issues on the agenda include the upcoming G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina: the first to be held in South America.
Nearly 200 foreign officials are attending the meeting, including the heads of state and other government officials, and their delegations, officials from other regional and hemispheric international bodies and institutions, as well as members of the diplomatic corps, both local and overseas, accredited by Caricom.
For the first time in over a decade, all the 15 regional government heads who form the organization are expected to attend the summit. Preceding the opening ceremony, the new President of the Caribbean Court of Justice Adrian Saunders will be sworn in.
The Conference of Heads of Government is the supreme organ of the Caribbean Community and determines and provides its policy direction. Jamaica's hosting of the conference this year is keeping with the regular system of rotation within Caricom.
The conference will also welcome its newest member Barbados Prime Minister Mottley, who was elected to the position on May 24, as well as re-elected heads of states, Grenada's Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, and Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda.
The conference will take place at the Convention Centre, Montego Bay, Jamaica, from July 4 until July 6, 2018.