OECS: Tug of Unity



Deborah Hackshaw, Founding Editor, ApaNa

As the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2021, we note that it has strengthened its regional integration efforts with a monetary union and economic union. Perhaps, now is the time to put the OECS political union back on the agenda.

It was just over thirty years ago when I wrote my undergraduate dissertation exploring the notion as to whether the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States will achieve the final goal of a political union of the OECS member-states in the short term. While studying the European Common Market integration; I thought the Eastern Caribbean integration might be an excellent topic to explore. 

After much research on this relatively new organisation that had achieved so much in ten years, I concluded that if the OECS did not form a political union at that time, it would not happen for another fifty years or, perhaps, not in my lifetime. 

As we all know, the drive to form a political union waned over the years and, this goal seems to remain a distant one. No doubt, one of the reasons was the need to massively transfer power from each member-state to this one state. However, it is a monetary union and is now an economic union which have worked well thus far. 

It is heartening to note that the theme of the OECS’ 40th-anniversary celebrations is ‘Onward with Integration for Progress and Sustainability’. However, one begs the question as to how far are we willing to go? Perhaps we should consider putting the issue of OECS as a political union back on the agenda. 

In my view, at no other time is an OECS political union more relevant. Our economies and people are being negatively impacted by the fallout of the pandemic and natural disasters. For how much longer can we act on our own and unite only when and if necessary? We need to revisit the concept of a political union for the OECS sooner rather than later. 

No longer can we continue the old modus operandi in this changing world where size, money and might matter. We must stop lamenting our small size as an excuse for our limitations and innovate ourselves out of the impending economic disaster that awaits us. 

Let us hope that, like the visionaries of forty years ago, our OECS leaders can take that leap of faith with collective fortitude and a dream of a better future for our Caribbean people to spearhead that movement towards achieving the next level of integration. 

We must put the OECS political union back on the agenda. No doubt, we will have in mind different things for a political union. However, as the last forty years have proven, each member-state will work through those differences. Therefore, we need to kick off this debate on the type of political union they would want sooner rather than later. 

I do hope that my prediction of fifty years is wrong and we can celebrate the achievement of a political union by the OECS’s 50th-anniversary!

Congratulations to the OECS and all the best in its continuing integration efforts in the region. Perhaps, one day in the not too distant future, OECS citizens will enjoy the benefits of a political union.



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For more articles on sustainability and social engagement in the Caribbean, read our latest issue of ApaNa Magazine.

ApaNa Magazine Issue 5 – OECS Celebrates 40 Years

Issue 5 provides a range of technical articles covering the environment, climate change and renewable energy, corporate giving and features nonprofit organisations including the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Barbados Youth Business Trust, the Jamaica Social Stock Exchange, Martin Keeley (renown mangrove activist and educator who developed the Mangrove Education Curriculum) and the Cayman Islands Mangrove Rangers.

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