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Our History

To learn more about the History of the OECS, please view the following six part series: 'The Founders' or alternatively see key historical milestones below.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Key Milestones

Significant historical dates in the formation of the OECS

1962: The four-year-old Federation of the West Indies, which comprised the British West Indian colonies of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the Windward and the Leeward Islands, was dissolved, following a referendum in which Jamaica opted out of the federation.  In August 1962, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago each became independent from Britain.

The remaining territories - Barbados, the four Windward Islands of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the three Leeward territories of Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, and Montserrat continue to negotiate with the British government for a new federation of the “Little Eight”.

The mechanism for these discussions is a Regional Council of Ministers comprising the heads of government of each territory.

1966: The ‘little eight’ federal talks break down and Barbados gains independence on its own, while the Windwards and Leewards are granted a new constitutional status, Associated Statehood with the United Kingdom.

At the eleventh meeting of the Regional Council of Ministers in Barbados in August 1966, the representatives of the Windwards and Leewards agree that a new organisation to succeed the Council should be established for the West Indies Associated States and Montserrat. It was to be known as the West Indies Associated States Council of Ministers and its members were the Heads of Government of each territory.

The West Indies Associated States Council of Ministers (or WISA Council as it became known) was formally established and based in Saint Lucia in September 1967.

The Council’s role was to administer common services among the member territories and to eventually take over functions, like external affairs, which the British performed for the islands.  

The Chairman of the Council would come from each territory on a rotational basis for one year. A secretariat headed by an Executive Secretary provided the technical and administrative support for the Council.

1968: All the former members of the West Indies Federation along with Guyana venture into a new regional grouping, a free trade arrangement known as CARIFTA- the Caribbean Free Trade Association. The WISA Council established a number of associated institutions, which later formed the basis for the functional cooperation network of the OECS. Chief of these was: The West Indies Associated States Supreme Court (1967) which became the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court; the East Caribbean Currency Authority (ECCA) which was transformed in October 1983 into the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and the Directorate of Civil Aviation (1967) which evolved into the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority.

The Windward and Leeward islands, which would have been at an economic disadvantage in the CARIFTA, (because they were less developed than the other countries), decided to form their own economic integration grouping as a negotiating and defence mechanism in CARIFTA. In 1968 the WISA Council establishes the East Caribbean Common Market (ECCM) whose secretariat is based in Antigua and Barbuda.

1974: Grenada attains independence from Britain and as the prospect of independence for the defence of territories of the WISA Council beckon, the heads of government of the Council begin to give thought to cooperation in external affairs after independence. A committee, headed by Premier John Compton of Saint Lucia, was created to explore mechanisms for Joint overseas representation after independence. 

1979: The Report on Joint overseas representation recommended that the WSIA Council of Ministers and the ECCM be merged into a new organisation whose objectives would be cooperation and harmonisation of policies in foreign affairs, economic affairs, defence and security and other functional services. 

1980: The Report on Joint overseas representation is adopted and the Commonwealth Secretariat provides a legal advisor who drafts a treaty creating the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, based on the recommendations of the Report.

1981: The representatives of the Governments of the WISA Council signed the Treaty of Basseterre on the 18th of June, establishing the successor to the Council - the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.  In Article 3, the major purposes of the Organisation were declared to be:

  1. To promote cooperation among the Member States and at the regional and international levels having due regard to the Treaty establishing the Caribbean Community and the Charter of the United Nations;
  2. To promote unity and solidarity among the Member States and to defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence;
  3. To assist the Member States in the realisation of their obligations and responsibilities to the international community with due regard to the role of international law as a standard of conduct in their relationship;
  4. to seek to achieve the fullest possible harmonisation of foreign policy among the Member States; to seek to adopt, as far as possible, common positions on international issues and to establish and maintain wherever possible, arrangements for joint overseas representation and/or common services.
  5. to promote economic integration among the Member States through the provisions of the Agreement Establishing the East Caribbean Common Market; and
  6. To pursue the said purposes through its respective institutions by discussing questions of common concern and by agreement.


 Treaty of Basseterre Signatories: Hon. Lester Bird – Antigua and Barbuda
                                                                    Hon. Eugenia Charles – Dominica
                                                                    Hon. Maurice Bishop – Grenada
                                                                    Hon. Franklyn Margetson – Montserrat
                                                                    Hon. Kennedy Simmons- Saint Kitts and Nevis
                                                                    Hon. Winston Cenac – Saint Lucia
                                                                    Hon. Hudson Tannis – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

2001: The OECS Member States decide to deepen their regional integration process when they agree to form an economic union under what is known as the Revised Treaty of Basseterre.

2006: The OECS Flag and logo were adopted on the 21st of June.

oecs flag after 2006The flag was first raised on that day at Basseterre, the capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The design and colour scheme represents a positive celebration of the Eastern Caribbean region, while never losing a sense of formality,  projecting the OECS as a meaningful and increasingly strong voice within the Caribbean Sea.

The flag has an internal ring that shows the nine elements of the OECS, evolving into nine points of contact, radiating from the core, out into the region and beyond.  There is an outer “O” which is for the OECS and which is circled by another ring, representing the world at large. The double ring gives the flag a constant dynamism, indicative of movement and growth.

The central core of the flag also carries a resemblance of a blossoming flower and a tertiary resemblance of science and technology.  The colours are fresh and clean, optimistic and bright as a “refreshed Caribbean” moving out to meet new opportunities, while the formal dark blue retains a firm, corporate and establishment influence.

oecs logo after 2006 
In addition to the flag, the new design is also used as the new OECS logo, replacing the previous logo.

oecs logo before 2006This previous logo was designed as a handshake encircled by nine points and stars. The flag, logo and logotype were designed and developed for the OECS by Present Image Design Limited, a Total Identity Development and Image Management Company, located in Saint Lucia. 

The Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the economic union is signed on the 18th of June.

2011: The Revised Treaty of Basseterre comes into force on the 21st of January, effectively operationalising the economic union for better socio-economic outcomes for all OECS citizens.

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