Youth Standing up for Human Rights: Demands resonating at COP 25 in Madrid With Apologies to our ChildrenRead Now
This blog is being written on World Human Rights Day (December 10, 2019). The theme, “Youth Standing up for Human Rights“ aptly describes their interventions at the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid, now in its second and final week. Reports highlight the involvement of young people in climate policy making, and demands that their rights be respected. By the time this blog is posted, the decisions from COP 25 should reveal if their demands have fallen on deaf ears. These twin events have triggered some random thoughts about the wide ranging scope of youth, human rights and the future.
Generally, Human Rights Day commemorates the day — December 10, 1948 - when the General Assembly of the UN adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This Declaration, one of UN’s major achievements, stipulates universal values and a shared standard of achievement for everyone in every country. While the Declaration is not a binding document, it inspired over 60 human rights instruments that today make a common standard of human rights. It is the most translated document around the globe, available in over 500 languages. More specifically, under the 2019 universal call to action "Stand Up for Human Rights," the aim is to celebrate the potential of youth as constructive agents of change, amplifying their voices, and engaging with a broad range of global audiences in the promotion and protection of rights.
Beyond the symbolism of World Human Rights Day, there are several examples of the power of youth in human rights initiatives that have multiplier effects by engaging wider communities. Amnesty International Kenya, for example, is a youth led inter-University Human Rights Debate. It was founded in 2012 to create a culture of human rights awareness and activism and influence knowledge, skills and capacity among young people. Human Rights Watch, that investigates and reports on human rights abuses around the world ranging from Syria's civil war, refugees in Europe, US Immigration and mass killings in the Philippines makes specific reference to the role of young people with political aspirations becoming involved in conflict resolution through participation in civic life. This is due to the fact that civic organizations tend to have lower access barriers, are less ideological, have greater “community focus” and are more “issue oriented” than political parties or other pressure groups.
More focused is Human Rights Day in South Africa that is historically linked with March 21, 1960, and the events of Sharpeville. Then, by coincidence or design, the digitization of the collection of Rosa Parks documents in the Library of Congress in New York was opened to the public on 2019 World Human Rights Day. Among the records highlighted at the launch were documents of Parks' affiliation with organizations and institutions including the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self- Development, an organization she founded with Elaine Eason Steele to promote youth development and civil rights education.
More far reaching in scope is the proclamation by United Nations General Assembly of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. It is to be noted that World Indigenous
Peoples Day, highlighting a population of 375-500 Million, occupying 22% of global land area, is celebrated on August 9th. However, the focus on indigenous languages aims at raising global attention on the critical risks to peoples representing the greater part of the world's diversity and speaking the major share of the world's 7000 languages. Most notable is that UNSECO has promoted the power of Language Technologies (LT) to make sure indigenous languages are preserved and promoted worldwide.
Sanguine reflections triggered by COP 25
Reflections on World AIDS Day and the remarkable efforts of Youth at COP 25 in Madrid have led to a search for the examples of the far reaching effects of human rights that defy the meaning of a one day celebration. The reports from Madrid so far signal the need for relentless all year round activism. Up to half a million people took part in a march in Madrid in support of rapid climate action, but according to observers, 'negotiators haven't got the message'.
This blog is being written when The Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid has commenced. Over the next 2 weeks leaders and technocrats from participating countries will be debating policies and programmes resulting from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Among the key alignments, are limiting carbon emissions, attaining green agendas, supporting geoscience, highlighting clean energy, rationalizing fossil fuel investments, implementing carbon taxes and expediting the Climate Investment Fund.
From COP 25 to GIPEX 2 in Guyana
While we await the decisions from COP 25, it is important to note that a most informative event, the 2nd Annual Guyana International Petroleum Business Summit and Exhibition (GIPEX 2019), was held at the Guyana Marriott, November 20-22 hosted by the Office of the Presidency, Department of Energy in collaboration with Exxon Mobile as a strategic Partner and several other events organizers, supporting partners and lead sponsors. The GIPEX 2019 Summit was complemented by an Exhibition that attracted a wide cross section of the Guyanese public, no doubt sensitizing them to the possibilities of opportunities in the new economy. The event was held against a backdrop of impressive developments with potential for rapid economic growth. Guyana is poised to achieve first oil (production) later this month. Its good fortune according to the Department of Energy is illustrated by 16 petroleum discoveries with an estimated recoverable barrels in excess of 6 billion, foreign direct investments of US500M, the creation of 1357 jobs and the establishment of 70 joint ventures and partnerships. The main focus of the Summit was on streamlining the operations within the oil and gas sector while paying particular attention to the Guyana’s commitment to the Green State as a foundation for its sustainable development.
While the depth of the presentations and richness of the discussions cannot be adequately captured in this brief sketch, it is important to note the wide array of experts that participated. They ranged from geologists, petroleum engineers and senior level managers in oil and gas to specialists in risks, assessment and insurance, digital transformation, economic diversity, and green development initiatives. Their presentations established the complexity of the challenges and prospects for achieving success in Guyana’s new venture. For example, Dr William Heins, Product Ambassador at GETECK, UK, renowned geologist, explained through the “mirror theory” that many more successful explorations are to be expected in Guyana. The experiences of other oil producing countries included officials from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mauritius, Nigeria, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Not only did they amplify the 'mirror theory' but also identified the business models, the new economics of deep water exploration, protection plans to ensure minimal environmental disruption, preparedness and appropriate responses to oil hazard substance and chemical pollution. These lessons to be learned will be of enormous financial benefits for Guyana and its potential to accelerate sustainable development. More specifically so, since Guyana's genetics and mineral heritage imply possible uptakes in gold, diamonds, bauxite and semi-precious stones also.
The Issue of Local Content
The time from exploration to production has been relatively short. Hence there is need to accelerate and put in place, laws, training and capacity building. A very useful set of discussions on enhancing local content, centered around how to use the “big boon” to benefit value chain opportunities for revenues obtained from natural resources to be diversified and invested in other sectors. This included a very interesting exchange of ideas among senior policy makers and innovators on strategies to protect eco-systems and biodiversity, as well as discussions on development of eco-tourism, infrastructure and towns along the river. But to establish a firm basis for these achievements require skilled negotiators, experts in energy law, provision for local companies to be given first consideration, certification and duty waivers for capacity building. In this regard, one outcome from GIPEX was the signing of an MOU between the University of Guyana and Halliburton, US oil and gas provider for US$2M to support the Faculty of Engineering and Technology for skills building.
There is also need for public education to manage expectations. Kwame Jantuah, Ghana’s Head of Africa’s Consortium Limited reflected on the lessons learned from his country on the issue of local content. There was a national outcry that oil companies were not interested in hiring their welders and fabricators, not understanding that these skills in the oil industry are much different from the normal industries and therefore required special training. Among the innovations he referred to were turning fisher folk into divers since they had no fear of the sea, teaching them new skills in underwater fabrication and maintenance of sub-sea infrastructure and training welders to maintain containerized cargo units. Of all the takeaways this one resonates most: “ Be very careful of the big word corruption … The oil and gas industry is big enough to take care of everyone if local content is practiced in favor of people and there must be trust, transparency and accountability and above all a long term development plan that will help invest the revenue equitably “
A critical factor to be further explored is optimizing wealth creation of the petroleum sector for emerging local producers to identify the opportunities, gaps and challenges that hinder citizens from actively participating in the sector. Allied to this are accelerating the growth of national capacity and strengthening the bonds of inclusivity in the context of a Green State.
“Communities are supported to exercise their powers to choose, know and demand that governments accelerate their efforts to achieve HIV, Health and Development goals” Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director UNAIDS.
World AIDS Day provides the ideal occasion to join scientists, activists, practitioners and people living with and affected by AIDS around the world in celebrating the successes that have been achieved. In the Caribbean 55 % of PLHIV are on treatment compared with less than 5% in 2001;deaths from AIDS are one quarter of what it was in 2001 because of access to treatment; seven (7) Caribbean countries out of 11 worldwide have achieved the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis and four others are in close range of this achievement. There is even the aspirations that AIDS, based on the 90-90-90 UNAIDS targets can be ended by 2030, if by next year, 90% of persons with HIV get tested, 90% that are tested positive are on treatment and 90% of those on treatment have viral suppression at a level that does not transmit the disease. Yet there are indications that at best only three Caribbean countries are on track to achieve these targets and the need for caution against complacency that will contribute to reversing these gains.
The Convergence of Community Led Organizations and Community Led Responses
This year it is appropriate that World AIDS Day focuses on communities. They make a difference. Whether as Community led organizations or as Community led responses, they represent the voices of the marginalized. They champion the causes for inclusiveness and equality that are fundamentals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Community led organizations comprise identifiable groups or networks that are determined by and respond to the needs and aspirations of their constituents. Community led responses provide strategies that seek to improve the health and human rights of constituencies. In the context of World AIDS day , “Community-led”, in principle, is an umbrella term that includes people living with HIV, key populations, women, youth, and all self-organized groups. In practice, it focuses on advocacy, campaigning and holding decision makers to account; promoting service delivery, capacity building, and funding of community-led organizations, groups, and networks. These activities may take place at the global, regional, national, subnational, and grassroots levels.
For the Caribbean, making a difference at the community level has always been driven by the regional response from the inception of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV in 2001. The four (4) iterations of the Caribbean Regional Strategic Plans (CRSF): 2002-2007, 2008-2013, 2014-2018 and 2019-2025 have provided the blueprint for the partnership that comprises governments, civil society , private sector representatives, development partners and a specific set of stakeholder groups. Chief among which are parliamentarians, faith leaders, key populations and youth. The CRSFs have consistently acted as guidelines for activities on the ground which include national and community engagements and through broad based consultations among its various stake holders
PANCAP was the first Regional entity to ever receive a grant from the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) in 2004, while sub regional partners such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States HIV Programme and the Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV (CRN+) were the first of their kind to also receive support for strengthening the reach of their programmes in the areas of prevention and treatment in 2004 and 2006 respectively. As the umbrella organization PANCAP’s modus operandum involves close engagements with the highest level regional decision making authorities: the Caribbean Heads of Government and the Council of Human and Social Development on which sits Ministers of Health, Education, Culture , Youth and Gender Affairs and which formulates policies that ensure implementation of CRSF’s priorities at country level. With the reduction in donor funding for HIV to the Caribbean based on the invidious classification of high and upper income countries, PANCAP’s advocacy has contributed in no small measure to the agreement at CARICOM Council of Ministers of Finance and Planning (July 2018) to make provision for funding the country integrated health priorities that contribute to SDG #3 including ending AIDS by 2030.
This is the context in which the vital role of CVC-C in community engagement can best be appreciated.
The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities -Coalition (CVC-C) and Community Engagement
Caribbean Vulnerable Communities initially pioneered by the late Dr Robert Carr in 2005 was a spinoff from and supported by PANCAP. It has evolved into the Caribbean Vulnerable Community Collective (CVC-C) with headquarters in Jamaica and joint operation with Centro de Orientacion e Investigacion Integral (COIN) in the Dominican Republic comprises approximately 40 grass roots civil society groups that work with marginalized populations. These populations are especially vulnerable to HIV due to socioeconomic exclusion, punitive laws and policies, high levels of violence against women and girls and stigma and discrimination across the Caribbean. CVC-C has developed a shared incident data base cataloguing human rights violations for 34 organizations in 11 countries and has provided pro bono legal assistance, community action and outreach in more than 200 cases. In addition, its media work, in some cases, in collaboration with the Caribbean Media Broadcasting Partnership against HIV has advanced the cause of human rights in more than 2000 cases. Among its most prominent roles in community education and media work are to advance human rights for key populations that in collaboration with URAP support activism, especially related to high profile cases in the courts of Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2013 -2014 the joint PANCAP-CVC submission to the 9th GFATM programme placed emphasis on delivery of health care especially in the implementation of primary health, including strong community participation. Community involvement in the Caribbean over the years, has transitioned from family and community led financial, social, and psychological support to the establishment of formal community based HIV support organizations and networks. It now focuses on testing , education and health promotion at the local level and linkages to health services. Community Systems Strengthening in the PANCAP Regional Strategic Framework focuses on supporting key populations networks, facilitating national programming and outreach to and conducting specifically to these populations and conducting in key populations specific monitoring and evaluation and research.
What is important to note that in the most recent GFATM grant, CVC-C and PANCAP made separate submissions and received separate grants. But notwithstanding these developments, they maintained complementarity in the thrust for PANCAP’s engagement with high level policy makers and CVC-C with its focus on community engagements. However, in the implementation of their respective mandates, it is clear that the overlap in the visions and missions is reflected in the PANCAP Justice for All Programme and Roadmap, supported by CVC-C.
There are no better illustrations of the value of this approach than in PANCAP’s consultations with parliamentarians, faith leaders, key populations and civil society with the support of CVC-C. The presentation of CVC-C to the PANCAP Parliamentary Forum in Jamaica In February, 2019 strongly advocated against the criminalization of willful transmission of HIV. CVC-C interventions in other PANCAP fora have helped to shape the policies for inclusion of access of migrant communities to medicines and services, of funding more specifically programmes to reduce the spread of AIDS among prisoners through prevention measures and highlighting the evidence of violence against the LGBTI populations and the need for equitable policies for sex workers.
What has emerged in the next steps of the PANCAP_CVC-C nexus is a project: Removing Barriers to accessing HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Key Populations in the Caribbean (The Global Fund Project) The barriers to be addressed by the Grant Program include:
1. The legal and policy environment that is at odds with a public health response.
2. Harmful societal norms and high levels of stigma and discrimination.
3. Limited capacity of national programs to integrate and implement rights-based approaches.
4. Limited capacity of national programs to provide innovative, evidence-based, high impact services that reach key populations, especially in the area of prevention.
5. Weaknesses in health systems, particularly in the areas of strategic information and l aboratory services.
6. Insufficient attention to sustainability planning and financing.
Building on the uniqueness of the Caribbean Partnership
These are mainly sketches of a vibrant Pan Caribbean Partnership in which CVC_C plays a critical, even defining role in community-led responses, protecting the civic space for the vulnerable and marginalized and promoting the growing importance of innovation in HIV response designed to end the AIDS epidemic. CVC-C’s collaboration with and supporting for PANCAP’s Knowledge for Health Programme, has enhanced the capacity of the partnership to produce baseline evaluations, treatment and adherence goals policies to prevent or reduce secondary transmission through the ground programmes that explore the unique history and reality of the marginalized and vulnerable groups.
This uniqueness has the potential of making community engagement and empowerment in the Caribbean a win-win scenario. In so many ways the Caribbean experience is fully responsive to the clarion call by the new Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima in launching her first UNAIDS Report, Power to the People "UNAIDS to take big steps in a new direction.. the first step is to address inequality and injustices that fuel the HIV epidemic . … it cannot be right that some people get treatment and live long lives while others cannot access health care and die.... We need to provide more services — education, health, social protection. That is how we will end AIDS “
This is an excerpt from the address by Professor Edward Greene at the Dual Ceremony of his Installation as 10th Chancellor and the Graduation Ceremony at the University of Guyana on Saturday, November 16, 2019
I was once told by an eminent Guyanese Historian, the late Professor Elsa Gouveia that “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.”
I see my task as putting this ceremony into a context by connecting the dots and capturing their meaning and purpose. On the one hand, we connect the dots by looking backwards, from whence we came – our achievements, our challenges and the lessons learnt. On the other hand, we aspire, propose priorities and look forward to dotting the future. But in so doing we have to be mindful of the need to give meaning and purpose of this ritual which, for me, is to facilitate the unleashing of our most ambitious imaginings and our profoundest commitments. Connecting the dots, and capturing the meaning and purpose of this ceremony are embedded in my understanding of a University.
My Understanding of a University is not novel nor new. It draws on a body of knowledge, expert assessments and evaluations that connect the dots overtime.
A University is not about results in the next quarter. It is not even about who a student has become by graduating. It is about learning that molds a lifetime, learning that transmits the heritage of millennia; learning that shapes the future. A University looks both backwards and forwards in ways that sometimes conflict with a public’s immediate concerns or demands. Universities make commitments that are timeless, yielding results we cannot predict and often cannot measure.
Universities are curious institutions with varied purposes that they have neither clearly articulated nor adequately justified. This results in public confusion especially at a time when higher education has come to seem as an indispensable social resource. It is therefore understandable that this situation produces a torrent of demands for greater “accountability” for institutions of higher learning.
The University of Guyana is a perfect example of an institution on a development trajectory. One indicator of this is the increasing enrollment from 164 students in 1963 to approximately 1000 in 1981 to over 8,000 in 2018. The graduating class in 1967 was 32 including 28 male and 4 female. This year the graduating class numbers 1918, including 610 male and 1308 female. Herein lies a vivid reminder that in terms of global numbers females are outperforming males. But it is also a reminder that both female and male in this 2019 graduating class, you have been blessed with far greater opportunities for access to higher education than that of your parents and guardians and the generations before. But these opportunities—the link between looking backward and forward—are accompanied by obligations.
As incoming Chancellor, I am still in the process of coming to grips with the steep learning curve. However, I know that as Chairman of the Board (Council as it is called) I must work in partnership with the Vice Chancellor as CEO and the Management Team, and with all stakeholders within and outside the University in building Accountability to the Future. This means:
Among the core values of a University, I highlight six (6)
Creating a New Geography of Learning
This graduation is taking place when the global arena is engaged in delivering the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which the Government of Guyana is one of the 192 signatories. Without going into detail, it is obvious that the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs are interrelated. What this signals is that in preparing students to truly tackle the essence of sustainable development, the University must give due consideration to a new geography of learning that breaks down the silos in designing course offerings: a new geography of learning and builds on the principles of free enquiry and life-long learning. There are useful models of higher education, burgeoning around the globe. Some are like our own experiences and others are unlike our own experiences. A common tendency is for narrowing distances between fields and disciplines, forging interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches, grasping at intertwining the arts and sciences, striving to produce development scientists and recognizing that increasingly, in this transnational and digitized world in which we live, knowledge itself is the most powerful connector. Hence the foresight of UG's administrators through the Academic Board and Council must be highly complemented for approving the introduction of the PhD degree in Biodiversity. Programmes like these truly fit the bill of "transformational", "cutting edge” and "preparing its graduates for a future" that must confront the challenges such as global warming and climate change.
But there is another dimension to the new geography of learning which I attribute to one of my mentors. It is his advice mainly about emotional intelligence. "Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, invite smarter people or find a different room". In academia, it is called collaborating. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships.
Making a Difference and Making the University Relevant
So how do we use our relationships to make a difference and make the University relevant? Our accountability to the future makes additional demands on the citizens of the University which is uniquely multivariate. It is a place of philosophers, artists, adventurists as well as analysts, scientists and activists. It provides the enabling environment for posing the questions of ethics, of discovering the truth and confronting the human, the social and the moral significance of our changing relationships with the natural world. As citizens of the university, we are accountable to one another and to shaping the institution that in turn defines our possibilities and that of future generations. This is so even after you leave this campus. Hence there are certain imperatives: your active roles as alumni, and contribution to the University's welfare must be seen as an investment in ensuring its international recognition and protecting the integrity of your qualifications. Accountability to the future encompasses special requirements: to give back to the University, bolster its development and promote its purpose. Class of 2019, this could be your collective legacy.
Yours is the good fortune to be armed with the knowledge. You had the opportunity. You seized it. But there is much more. You need to recognize your accountability to your community and the wider world. Your accountability to the future is to help to break down those barriers of divisiveness, inherited from generations that have left the scars of racial conflict and discord; of dismantling the coarseness that has crept into our social discourse and the rupturing incivility that has become ingrained into our political culture. As President Obama said in his Eulogy at the memorial service of the late Ranking Congressman Elijah Emmanuel Cummings last month 'being civil and honourable is a moral strength and not a weakness'. Hopefully during your years at UG interacting with a cross section of colleagues and friends—collaborating or competing or grappling with ideas and ideals or confronting a myriad of challenges — you have come to the view that sometimes the only thing that’s important really, is just letting each other know we’re here, reminding each other that we’re part of a larger self.
This is the time for bold measures inspired by this ritual today. It is not about individual egos. It is about collective leadership that must be put to the benefit of this country. Yours is the generation of graduates fortunate to emerge at the cusp of a projected buoyant economy in this dear land of Guyana. It is the Eldorado (and I don't mean Eldorado 15) of which your parents and their parents dreamed. Your reality is to recognize that the Degree or Certificate that you are about to receive is a blunt instrument unless you go forth and build something with it.
Voices for Transformation
How do you go forward to build something out of your degrees and certificates? For a start you can aspire to be voices for transformation. Recently at a Symposium of Youth from around the globe at the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings in October, a clarion call was sounded. That clarion call is most relevant to my appeal. As you take the next steps, you don’t need to wait for someone in power to give you permission or even listen to you to be an activist. You can begin by educating yourself on issues, educating others and organizing in your communities. You can generate momentum and consciousness and try to make advocates out of everyone you meet. You can say to your political leaders that they should have noticed by now that this generation is ready to speak out, write, lead, march, vote on issues important to them. Let them know that as activists you refuse to be ignored. Taking this kind of stand demonstrates an unfettered understanding of who you are, where you came from, where you are going and why.
For me, these are some important elements or dots toward the transformation of our civilization.
Professor Selwyn Ryan's Engagement with the World Ryan Recalls: Selwyn Ryan: His Memoirs (Book Review)Read Now
This review by Professor Compton Bourne was delivered at the Launching ceremony at UWI St Augustine on October 30, 2019. It is the most recent of Professor Selwyn Ryan's 27 Books. He has been prolific. His academic achievements have been outstanding at York University Canada, the Universities of Ghana and Uganda and then at UWI as Director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research, St Augustine. He contributed a weekly column in the Trinidad and Tobago Sunday Express for over 2 decades and presided over many prestigious Boards and Commissions.
See Ryan Recalls Paria Publishers, Trinidad ISBN 978-976-8244-40-6 Pages XV + 446 can be purchased through Paper base Book Store: email@example.com Tel 868- 625-3197 and Nigel Khan: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 868-235-3276
“Ryan Recalls” is a uniquely constructed massive book, 460 pages long. It combines in varying proportions the reflections and current comments of Professor Ryan on his childhood years in Princess Town [Trinidad]; his periods of residence in Canada, the USA and Africa and travel to many other countries; his adult life in Trinidad; excerpts from several of his major scholarly publications, newspaper articles, reviews of some of his scholarly publications by eminent scholars; letters exchanged with political leaders such as Ugandan President Milton Obote and the eminent global African Ali Mazrui; tributes from colleagues at the time of his retirement from the University of the West Indies; and numerous photographs of himself, his past and present family and friends. The book is a representation of the total man, as he evolved from childhood into the joyously multi-faceted individual that many persons in his native Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean, and the wider world were able to know and appreciate.
As is the norm for memoirs, Selwyn Ryan begins with the circumstances of his childhood, providing various snippets of life, including the coping mechanisms for families of modest economic means, in South Trinidad beset by inadequate infrastructure in the 1940s and 1950s. The reader learns of a happy childhood in which mother and father played different influential supportive roles. During those early years, he developed a love for dancing which he never lost as his accounts of later life and many of the photographs attest. His love for dancing was so great that in his own words, he couldn’t understand how people could waste good music.
Selwyn entered Naparima College in 1951 and stayed until 1954. It is useful to learn from his memoirs that his life of academic excellence started there. More instructive for most readers would be his observations about the college and South Trinidad. He recalls that Naparima College, despite being mainly Indian, was “ethnically and religiously inclusive”. Race was not an issue. Ryan concluded that “there is a qualitative difference between the people of the North and those of the South.” He believes that “the people of San Fernando are kinder, gentler and a more tolerant tribe and thus are well positioned to play an important role” … in the resolution of ”ethnic asperities and insecurities”. Many Naps alumni might demur at his additional assertion that the invention of doubles on the Hill is perhaps the College’s greatest contribution to national wellbeing despite the firm place of this food item in the daily diet of Trinis.
According to Ryan, the years 1955 and 1956 made him politically and socially conscious. Pivotal events were the development of the petroleum industry, immigration from the southern Caribbean islands which in his opinion “changed the character of Trinidad and Tobago”, and the emergence of political leaders like Uriah Butler, Roy Joseph, John Rojas, Ashford and Mitra Sinanan, and Gerard Montano. The most profound influence was Eric Williams with his “rousing political evangelism” and his indirect educational role in political philosophy. Readers of later sections of the memoir will be able to trace the lasting influence of Eric Williams’ politics and political ideas on Ryan’s professional life and writings.
The memoirs deal briefly with Ryan’s life as a student at the University of Toronto and Cornell University and as a professor at York University between 1956 and 1971.
From York, he moved to Ghana and Uganda. The material on the African experience is very informative, helping to shed light on the history of Uganda especially in the time of Milton Obote and Idi Amin. On 9 January 1971, President Milton Obote wrote Ryan a remarkably frank and full letter in which he sets out his views, some of which had evidently not crystallized, on the appropriate mechanisms for elections, including the position of President, in a one-party State; his own preference for not deciding on “each and every public policy”; his expectations of assistance from Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Malawi as the early leaders in the African one-Party State experiment; his commitment to the Common Man’s Charter adopted by Uganda on 9 October 1962; and his rather startling conviction that President Mobutu was overwhelmingly elected even though “either through enthusiasm or inefficiency some of the electoral officers in some areas filed returns which gave the President more than 100% votes.” Ryan’s reply on 20 January 1971 was diplomatic: “I am fully convinced that if led by the right people with the right ideology, the one-party system is the only answer to some of the problems which face African states at the present time.”
Pages 44-46 of Ryan’s memoirs present an interesting account of the expulsion of Asians from Uganda by President Idi Amin. His interpretation is that the root of Amin’s actions was the re-Africanisation policy of Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and Milton Obote. Ryan claims that Asians initially welcomed Amin’s coup against Obote in the expectation that he would reverse Obote’s Re-Africanisation policy but the initially close relationship was ruptured by accusations of profiteering, denied by the Asians, but presumably on which Amin acted. Ryan notes Amin’s later unsuccessful attempts to woo back the Asians in an effort to end the economic collapse precipitated by the mass exodus of Asian enterprise, know-how and financial capital. As Ryan observed during a much later visit, the Ugandan economic and political tragedy continued for many years.
Ryan in an influential paper titled “Civil Conflict and External Involvement in East Africa” published in the inaugural edition of The African Review in 1972 and referenced on page 106 of the memoirs discussed extensively and perceptively various causative elements such as religious diversity, tribal rivalries and antagonisms, geography and racial mixture and foreign economic and military involvement in the spread of civil conflicts in the Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
Ryan returned to Trinidad and Tobago in 1973 and took up a Senior Lectureship at the UWI which he found “seething with ideological racial rage”.
Dealing with national politics and governance in Chapter 6, he found that in Trinidad and Tobago, the independence movement was in crisis or verging towards crisis. He discerned “serious challenges by powerful internal and external forces”, “near fatal systemic collapse”, efforts by “radical out-elites” to delegitimize incumbent political elites, vocal concerns about the appropriateness of the economic strategies being pursued, and the Black Power movement and its denouement into an unsuccessful miniscule guerrilla battle with the State. He comments on the emergence of political parties, leadership squabbles, his scepticism about the appropriateness of replacement of the first-past-the post electoral system by proportional representation which he saw as a concern for representation rather than democracy, and the disintegration of the National Alliance for Reconstruction in which “democracy ran riot.” There is a valuable discussion of the role democratic political parties are traditionally expected to perform and an assessment of those in Trinidad and Tobago against the standards. He concluded that the parties have performed satisfactorily with respect to the recruitment aspect but poorly in respect of providing opportunities for debate and discussion by members whose role has been limited to amplifying decisions made by the leader, official cadres or financial advisers.
The memoirs return to these issues and some related ones in Section 4 entitled Governance, Constitutional Reform and the State. The Section leads off with a short account of the circumstances of George Chambers’ seemingly reluctant ascension to the post of political leader of the PNM and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the risk-averse nature of the man, his fear of Eric Williams, and his perception that antagonistic powerful vested interests constrained his administration. Chapter 12 deals with proposals for an Executive Presidency associated with Prime Minister Patrick Manning, the related Draft Constitution Report prepared in 2006 by Sir Ellis Clark and others, the views articulated by The Principles of Fairness Committee, Professor John Spence and Lloyd Best, and the concept of constitutional consultation between President/Governor-General and Prime Minister which Ryan describes as a “dark hole” because it lacks precise meaning. The Executive Presidency issue is discussed in detail in a Ryan column reproduced in the memoirs.
Ryan had of course served between 1971 and 1974 on a previous Constitution Commission chaired by Chief Justice Hugh Wooding. His memoirs contain a letter to the Commission from John S. Donaldson, a senior member of the government, which has a radical proposal not known to the general public but worth highlighting here. Donaldson proposed that parliamentary privilege should not be granted in respect of parliamentarians’ abuse of private citizens or public servants. Evidently, the proposal got no traction but behaviour in many sessions of Parliament since then makes it still relevant.
In Section 4, Professor Ryan deals at length with contemporary challenges to Caribbean democracy. Some of the major ones are political clientelism and the perversion of democratic institutions and systems, economic collapse, international drug trafficking and emigration. In the excerpt from a Caribbean Affairs publication in 1990 which dealt with the Caribbean State in the 21st Century, he contrasts the onset of structural adjustment policies with the importance post-Independence leaders had attached to social welfare public policies and the consequential marginalisation of the State and rise in political disaffection. Ryan also notes the progressive deterioration of human capital, declining standards of nutrition and social polarization, all of which to his mind weakens the interest of the populace in competitive politics, undermines the integrity of public servants and law enforcement officers and diminishes the quality of elected representatives.
Referencing his 2002 journal article, Ryan provides on pages 212-216 of the memoirs a summary of his views on political power sharing. The summary serves as an introduction to the topic of electoral reform in which he itemises the arrangements for ensuring integrity in elections administration, campaign finances, diaspora voting and representativeness of electoral systems illustrated by the experiences of the Caribbean, Latin America and several other foreign countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Nigeria.
Section 6 of the memoirs reveals a growing unease about the social stability of Trinidad and Tobago. Influenced by the acute social problems of “peoples of African descent, but males in particular”, he appeals in 1998 for them to be “the prime source of affirmative action” for the future. Perhaps realising that his plea fell on deaf ears, Ryan between 2010 and 2013 published six articles dealing with the problem of gangs which were manifest in urban areas in North and West Trinidad and chaired two committees which analysed the modern gang phenomenon and made recommendations for reducing its incidence among young males.
I have selected just a few of the many matters of interest in Ryan’s memoirs. There is much more to read beneficially: the evolution of his professional career and the manner in which he became the quintessential public academic bringing to bear his scholarly skills and aptitudes with unfailing objectivity to many highly important issues affecting politics, governance and society in Trinidad and Tobago; his success in transforming the material explored in his public engagements into well-regarded scholarly publications; his pioneering of electoral polls in the country, first in collaboration with his colleague and good friend, Professor J. Edward (Eddie) Greene and then on his own, with the usual accompaniment of critical comments from whichever political party was disconcerted by the particular results; and his accounts of personal life, love, marriage, children and dear friends which together with numerous photographs admirably complement the material and recollections on his professional life.
Ryan Recalls (Selwyn Ryan: His Memoirs) is a remarkable book well worth reading thoroughly and well worth adding to one’s personal library.
Professor Emeritus (UWI)
October 30, 2019
Another Dimension of Inclusiveness and Equality: Reducing the Vicious Cycle of Hatred against LGBTQ PeopleRead Now
This Blog is presented with the kind permission of Richard Burzynski and Chrissy Dideriksen co-editors of Equal Eyes (October 15, 2019). This edition of Equal Eyes draws on the discussions and outcomes of the UN Summit on The Sustainable Development Goals (September 30, 2019). It highlights the public discourse against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, their heightening exclusion and marginalization. It identifies recommendations about overcoming the vicious cycle of hatred, fear and loathing. ( See website: https://equal-eyes.org).
“Political campaigns, parliamentary debates and public demonstrations reveal social prejudice and misconceptions about the nature and moral character of LGBT people,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN’s Independent Expert in the latest report on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity(SOGI) presented to the UN General Assembly (October 24,2019) presenting a report.
The Report focuses on the social, cultural and economic inclusion of LGBT individuals. It builds on the understanding that “an inclusive society enables people to enjoy protection from violence and discrimination, and leaders in the social, cultural, political and other fields can have an important role in communicating, motivating and fostering that inclusiveness.”
Findings relate to key areas of concern for the life of every person: education, employment, housing, health, public spaces, religious and political discourse. They address the topic of intersectionality, to underscore that any analysis of the causes and consequences of discrimination must consider multiple characteristics of a person’s lived experience, such as age, gender, disability, socioeconomic, migratory and citizenship status. The list of identities addressed in the report is non-exhaustive, but it will hopefully allow some of these lived experiences to be made visible and, therefore, addressable. At last, the report discusses dynamics of inclusion and presents conclusions and recommendations for moving forward.
Discriminatory laws and socio-cultural norms continue to marginalize and exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons from education, health care, housing, employment and occupation, and other sectors. The marginalization and peripheralization are part of a vicious cycle that give rise to a host of other problems; in a context where access to economic, social and cultural rights is hampered, a series of negative impacts on individuals, their families, groups and communities can be observed, resulting in poverty and exclusion, lower socioeconomic status, and limiting access to assets that are essential to enjoy the full range of human rights. The excluding environment inevitably lends themselves to violence and discrimination, as it hampers access to their rights, creates inequality of opportunity and access to resources.
A joint statement released by 12 UN entities in 2015 expressed concern about these issues:
(a) Children face bullying, discrimination or expulsion from schools on the basis of their actual or perceived SOGI, or that of their parents.
(b) Discrimination and violence contribute to the marginalization of LGBTI people and their vulnerability to ill health including HIV infection, yet they face denial of care, discriminatory attitudes and pathologization in medical and other settings.
(c) The exclusion of LGBTI people from the design, implementation and monitoring of laws and policies that affect them perpetuates their social and economic marginalization.
Some important steps are already being taken at the international, regional and national levels to address these issues. For example, UNESCO convened an international consultation on homophobic bullying in educational institutions in 2011, bringing together education ministries, UN agencies, NGOs and academia from more than 25 countries around the world. The World Bank is managing a project aimed at filling the LGBT data gap, focused on inclusion in markets, services, and other spaces. UNDP is leading and partnering in the development of the LGBTI Inclusion Index, which will measure inclusion of LGBTI people in health, civic and political participation, personal safety and security, education, and economic empowerment. Together with the World Bank, civil society, governments and academics UNDP has developed a proposed set of 51 indicators for the LGBTI Inclusion Index, aligned with the framework of the SDG with a view to identifying who is “left behind” and why. Trade unions and employers’ organizations have worked to promote the meaningful inclusion of LGBT people in the workplace, and around 240 businesses have expressed support to the Standards of Conduct for Business in tackling discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. States have passed legislation explicitly protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing and access to social security.
A glance at these issues quickly affirms the interdependence and inter-relatedness of all human rights. Addressing the social and economic rights of LGBT people is critical to any efforts to address violence and discrimination on the basis of SOGI. Under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community committed to leaving no-one behind. In order to lift LGBT people from cycles of exclusion and abuse, we must critically examine these issues as well as emerging good practices. With my report I further seek to highlight the unique role of leaders in different fields, which will allow to break the cycle of exclusion and which can have a positive impact on misconceptions, fears and prejudices that fuel violence and discrimination. “This vicious cycle of hatred against LGBT people is being fueled every day. It impacts on their social inclusion and hinders their access to healthcare, education, housing, employment, political participation, personal security and freedom from violence.” This view is substantiated by a variety of studies and report. See From the UN, Fear and Loathing
Conclusions and Recommendations
The UN Independent Expert concludes that inclusion is key to enable people to enjoy a life free from violence and discrimination. In order to break the cycle of exclusion, the Independent expert highlights effective State measures, including the unique role of leaders in different fields, which impact positively on the misconceptions, fears and prejudices. Urgent responses are required from States to:
Readers who wish to receive the monthly Equal Eyes Bulletins may make their requests on the website, under subscribe ( https://equal-eyes.org).
In September 2015, 192 countries signed on to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 17 Goals and 169 targets. The UN General Assembly 2019 endorsed the Political Declaration adopted by the Sustainable Development Goals Summit, held at its Headquarters in September. The Summit committed Member States to taking a myriad of actions to implement the 2030 Agenda, ranging from mobilizing adequate and well‑directed financing to investing in data and statistics for the Sustainable Development Goals. This spread of actions was fully ventilated at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2019 under the theme "Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality". Not only did It demonstrate the central role of SDG #10 “reduce inequality within and among countries" but also the pervasive 'inclusiveness and equality' across the 17 SDGs. See: https://sdg.iisd.org › news › global-goals-website-creates-target-level-icons
This week we outline the global principles and some applications of the SDGs. It is our intention to follow up in future blogs with examining the challenges and prospects for developing countries and regions, achieving inclusiveness and equality.
The background document prepared for the ECOSOC HLPF illustrated that (10) targets within SDG #10 cast a wide net to capture multiple drivers of inequality and to ensure that no group or individual is left behind. Four targets address inequality within countries across social, economic and political dimensions that aim to expand prosperity, inclusion, and social protection. Three targets aim to reduce inequality among countries with attention to cross-border flows of finance and people. Three other targets focus on the means of implementation and put forward concrete steps for attaining greater equality by directing resource flows toward those most in need. High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) 2019 Convened by ECOSOC
In addition, 60 targets across the SDGs – not including those in SDG #10 – are directly linked to reducing inequality. Equal or universal access for all to resources, services and opportunities is a recurring theme across the SDGs. For example, SDG #2 that aims at eliminating hunger calls for access to food, land and productive resources; SDG #3 on good health and well-being calls for universal access to reproductive health-care services and universal healthcare; and SDG #4 calls for equal access to quality pre-primary through tertiary education and other learning programmes. SDG #8 on decent work and economic growth directly addresses inequality by calling for stronger growth rates in least developed countries, increasing micro, small and medium enterprises, promoting migrant workers’ rights or calling for more government spending in social protection. The list also includes access to energy, infrastructure and transport. Above all achieving equality-oriented targets in other SDG Goals promises to directly affect progress toward the targets in SDG #10.
Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015, the UN reports positive movement as measured by SDG #10 targets. In 64 per cent of the countries with data, the incomes of the poorest 40 per cent of the population grew faster than the national average. The global average cost of sending remittances has declined in recent years although rates are still more than double SDG targets.
And tariffs faced by small island developing States and least developed countries have been falling. This progress has been mixed across countries and regions.
Some groups including those in rural areas (e.g. family farmers), women, young people, people with disabilities, indigenous peoples and others have persistently clustered at the bottom of distributions. Real wage growth has constantly declined since 2015 and at the same time, a warming climate, demographic change, decent work deficits, political crises, technological change and conflict risk exacerbating inequalities. In these circumstances actions are toward equality in both opportunities and outcomes are necessary. Inequalities can become self-perpetuating across generations, thus hindering progress towards one of the central objectives of the 2030 Agenda – that of ‘leaving no one behind’. There is another important gap in between establishing indicators and informing inclusive policies. It revolves around tracking progress on discriminatory practices and income deprivations at the global, regional and national levels is limited.
A set of issues from the UN SDG Summit that can exacerbate such tendencies include rapidly changing technologies; climate related shocks, disasters and crises; the globalization of information, business, and social networks; the decreasing bargaining power of workers; conflicts and many other trends. "But they can also open up space for new alignments and forward-looking cooperation within and among countries. At the same time, not all groups will be equally affected by these trends, with those who are already marginalized having limited resources to withstand shocks and to capitalize on emerging opportunities, which could further deepen inequalities". SDG Summit
These are global trends. They indicate some of the major indicators that should engage the attention of countries nationally, sub-regionally and regionally. Listed here are some of the recurring suggestions from several sources some of which will be further explored in future blogs:
Human Capital Development
Growth and Development
Planning and Financing Development
Public Policy and Partnerships
Contending ideas among of policy makers , experts and practitioners sharing experiences around the world, and at the more recent symposia at the UN, the IMF and the World Bank, indicate that multilateralism and international cooperation are essential to overcoming the challenges facing SDG implementation. Strengthened fiscal capacity, improved tax systems, reoriented expenditure on projects with bigger development impact and combined tax incentives with bigger returns to countries, are all priorities. The clincher for me that aptly describes the challenges to inclusiveness and equality is represented in a statement by Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO, Christian AID. At the CSO session "SDGs: Making it Happen" at the IMF -World Bank Annual meetings (2019) she said: “Many mothers need to make decisions on whether to spend the money they have on a sick child who is about to die or on the food for children that are starving and hungry”.
While awaiting the Report from the Caribbean Congress for Adolescent and Youth Health (CCAYH) which was the focus of the GOFAD blog last week (18-09-19), it is important to note that two events involving youth in Washington DC are worth highlighting. The first at the IMF-World Bank Annual meetings (October 14-19 ), involved Generation Z (born 1997-2012) The other focused on Millennials sponsored by Brookings Institution and the Millennial Action Program (22-09-19). The issues that formed the basis of discussions at these events are worth considering by Caribbean Youth in their quest for rebranding and transforming youth leadership.
“How Millennials think differently about Climate Change and Debt?” was the theme of the Brookings Institution event. It struck a chord especially since the debt issue, so important to the Caribbean, has hardly been mentioned in the conversations of Caribbean Youth Leaders. As in the case of Climate Change, unless urgent corrective action is taken, debt is likely to be a major burden to Millennials, GenZ and future generations. At the end of 2018 debt is above 60 percent of GDP in 12 Caribbean Countries. ( CBD annual report, 2018).
The National Debt and Future Prospects: Playing with Fire
At Brookings, based on extensive surveys, the National Debt in the US was deemed to be significant even though it did not rise to same level of urgency as climate change. Millennials associated the consequence of debt accumulation which is now US$23 Trillion as integrally linked to rising cost of education and high levels of student loan debt, as well as the sustainability of social security. These issues will tend to affect their economic prospects due among other things, to high debt service of student loans with effects on their standards of living. Recognition was given to the fact that the Generation X, preceding Millennials, experienced the Great Depression but were better able to cope with navigating difficult times. This was due to the nature of the economic recovery and the role of the state. Now, the national debt combined with inflation, slow growth, the rising cost of housing, unemployment and underemployment are compounding factors with adverse effects on readiness for retirement. And even more so in the opinion of one of the panelists “more of the pay checks of Millennials are going to service the growing national debt while the prospects of living a life of dignity in old age are being threatened”.
Despite these ominous trends, the public policy debate on debt does not get the traction that Climate Change does. For Millennials, the challenge is getting individuals engaged in issues for which the impact is many years in the future. For governments, the enormous debt is too big to tax their way out of it.
One of the major lessons to be drawn from the dialogue at Brookings is the need to make fiscal matters real by illustrating the personal consequences and engaging in financial literacy. It requires transparency in establishing the causes and effects and 'teeing up' the fiscal debate in the public sentiment to drive public policy. The Millennium Action Project (MAP) provides a useful model for taking action based on research and tracking public opinion.
Climate Crisis evokes a sense of urgency: Framing the Future is Essential
A Brookings Survey (2019), done as part of the Millennial Action Program (MAP) demonstrated that Millennials recognize that they are at the point of no return “as the first generation to see the effects of Climate Change and the last with a chance to do something about it”. Aware that Climate Change Science is saying “act now to protect the health of future generations”, MAP has developed a module which illustrates the options for framing Climate Action by efficacy i.e. investing in solving problems urgently. This includes recognizing the urgency in taking action with either (a) low efficacy that leads to negative outcomes and (b) high efficacy that leads to optimal outcomes.
The IMF-World Bank session (October 15), IMF inspired Generation Z: Finding its Voice was informative. It focused on a series of issues including adolescent health, rights to health, physical and mental and child marriage referred to by one of the speakers as "pedophilia". On climate change they blame Millennials for the poor state of the environment which they have left them.
GenZ is much more diverse than Millennials based on race and ethnicity. They are less religiously affiliated. Malala Yousafzai, Co-Founder of the Malala Fund, and Aya Mouallem, Women Deliver Young Leader, advocate, for bringing knowledge and passion and are eager to see social change now. They admit to a challenge to get decision-makers to take them seriously and to directly engage young people in the policies and programs that affect their lives. They have messages to world leaders on the power of meaningful youth engagement. They have examples and anecdotes that demonstrate this power.
Significant is the charge by Malala Yousafzai: “First, to young people: you don’t need to wait for someone in power to give you permission or even listen to you to be an activist. You can begin by educating yourself on issues, educating others and organizing in your community. Get some momentum and try to make advocates out of everyone you meet. As for political leaders, I would say that they should have noticed by now that this generation is ready to speak out, write, lead, march, vote on issues important to them. You can ignore us once or twice, but we’ll keep coming back. And when you are gone we’ll knock on the door of whoever comes next.”
Some Takeaways for Transformative Leaders
The voice for rebranding and transforming youth leadership that resonates beyond the Halls of the IMF and the World Bank is that of 18 year old Natasha Mwansa from Zambia. Her pedigree and the relevance of her message are fully illustrated in the video clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xYh9Rk-P48
This blog is being written as the first Caribbean Congress on Adolescent and Youth Health (CCAYH) in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on 15 – 17 October 2019 is in session. The theme of the Congress is "Championing our wealth: promoting the health and well-being of adolescents and youth in the Caribbean." has according to the report attracted the participation of approximately 200 youth.
Ms. Terez Lord, CARICOM Youth Ambassador provided a fundamental challenge to the Congress in her remarks at the opening session as follows:
It is indeed a distinct honour to stand before you as CARICOM Youth Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago on this incredible occasion to deliver these words—out of my mouth but pouring out of the hearts of young people- youths and adolescents of the entire region. Today we witness and we contribute towards history which is more than the path left by the past. It influences the present and it can shape the future. Today, history is being made as we inaugurate the first ever Caribbean Congress on Adolescent and Youth Health. This congress is a safe space, rich in dialogue, where international partners and practitioners can highlight and address issues/challenges circumventing good health and wellbeing of a major subset of the population and a critical human resource: the youth and adolescents. Not forgetting adolescents and youths with disabilities. It is a catalyst for policy makers to discuss how to improve as well as how to sustain investment in our health in a manner that is deliberate, impactful, measurable and sustainable.
This Congress, the first of its kind is for youth, by youth, with youth and supported by many agencies. It is bolstered by the momentum of or time. It is action- oriented and should have decisive follow up. This is not a talk-shop. We must set the basis for no less. Health and well-being is far and wide in reach and impact and must be met with ambitious, future-oriented, systemic regional responses.
When I think of regional responses, I think of the Caribbean Community— CARICOM. Collaboration. Camaraderie. Cohesion. Caribbean Integration. It makes meaningful and manifest the dream and ideology, or as my sister would say- the epiphany that birthed CARICOM when it was established in 1973 by the Treaty of Chaguaramus in Trinidad and Tobago .Today, this audacious, integrative move as integral to the sustainability development of our Region is so that future generations would have benefitted from what we as young leaders would have advocated for and for what we agitate. The young people are here in this room and beyond connected by the technology that allows us to web stream. They are present and ready. They are ignited by passion and purpose. We are ready to contribute to the conversations that impact our lives and that of generations to follow.
This landmark Congress is being held under the patronage of Mrs. Sharon Rowley, wife of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago with the support of several partners including PAHO, UNFPA, PANCAP and the Spouses of Caribbean Leaders Action Network (SCLAN) We therefore await the outcomes of the Congress identified as “regional commitments", a "vision and core principles" to address the health needs of adolescents and youth, empowering champions and developing "action plans" based on current and emerging priorities. This event promises to lead to a rebranding of Youth affairs in the Caribbean, a phrase is actually borrowed from the vision of the Hon Deyalsingh that Trinidad and Tobago is rebranding its approach to mental health.
Rebranding here is applied to the broader range of issues at the CCAYH and should be closely aligned to recent international events especially that occurred during the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September. To set the context for a follow up reflections next week, I have provided a sample of programmes and policies at the global level , referred to by many of the speakers at the opening ceremony. These provide useful lessons.
Some Lessons to be Learned from Recent International Engagements
The four illustrations are by no means exhaustive but provide some useful signposts for action.
1. UNGA 's first Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since they were adopted in 2016 . The political declaration, entitled, “Gearing up for a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development,” proclaimed: “We stand firm in our determination to implement the 2030 Agenda as a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership – a plan to free humanity from the tyranny of poverty and heal and secure our planet for future generations.” Many of the speakers especially H.E Paula-Mae Weekes the President and the Hon Terrence Deyalsingh, underscored the importance of SGD# 3 on Health and wellness referring in particular to the need for the Congress to address NCDs, Mental Health, suicide among young people and violence against women and girls.
2. UN General Assembly Political Declaration themed “Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World” This was highlighted in the address by Dr. Carissa Etienne, PAHO Director who highlighted its aims as striving toward significant achievements over the next decade by (a) tackling communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, while addressing non-communicable disease and the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance through robust and resilient primary healthcare systems; (b) ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services and reproductive rights; (c) protecting the wellbeing and dignity of women and girls; (d) changing the financing paradigm by stepping up the pace of investment towards UHC; and (e) the importance of bold leadership.
3. HIV, Health, and Wellness: The Lancet HIV published a first of its kind review and meta-analysis that found that HIV continues to disproportionately affect gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men throughout Africa. The authors evaluated 75 independent studies conducted across 28 countries. They found that HIV awareness, ART coverage, and viral suppression remain too low to reach UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020. Additionally, levels of testing were significantly lower in countries with severe anti-LGBT legislation compared to other countries.
3. Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health https://www.who.int/life-course/partners/global-strategy/en. Foremost among the leadership of this strategy is UNFPA whose Regional Director, Ms. Alyson Drayton amplified how sexual and reproductive health and rights are highlighted in the global programme of the organization. The Chair of SCLAN , Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow also underscored the emphasis that CARICOM First Ladies place on these issues and in particular on engaging men and boys in reducing violence against women and girls.
4. The Lancet journal published HIV, Health, and Wellness is a first of its kind review and meta-analysis that found that HIV continues to disproportionately affect gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men throughout Africa. This general conclusion may equally apply to the Caribbean as a whole. The authors evaluated 75 independent studies conducted across 28 countries. They found that HIV awareness, ART coverage, and viral suppression remain too low to reach UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020. Additionally, levels of testing were significantly lower in countries with severe anti-LGBT legislation
Making Rebranding a Reality: The Health and Youth of the Region are the Wealth of the Region
While this is intended theme of the follow up blog next week, It is significant that this conclusion is influenced by an event at the Annual IMF- World Bank Meeting in Washington yesterday (October 15) IMF inspired Generation Z: Finding its Voice . The leading voice at that session was Natasha Wang Mwansa an 18 year old dynamo from Zambia. Her pedigree is fully illustrated in a video clip under the issues and videos section on the GOFAD website. It stimulated me to reflect on the aspirational goal advocated by Ambassador Irwin Larocque who gave the keynote address at CCAYH. He called for amending the 2000 Nassau Declaration of CARICOM Heads of Government from "the Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region" to that of "the Health and Youth of the Region are the Wealth of the Region". I could not help thinking about a fitting way to mark the 10th anniversary of the presentation to CARICOM Heads of Government in Suriname in January 2010, the seminal Report of The CARICOM Commission of Youth Development , The Eye on the Future: Investing in Youth Now for Tomorrows Community. The Commission was co-chaired by Hon Yldiz Pollock Beighle , now Foreign Minister Suriname, and a former CARICOM Youth Ambassador with the late Professor Barry Chevannes. I therefore pose the questions: How about making this 10th anniversary celebration in January/February 2020 an exercise in visioning the rebranding of Youth leadership at the CARICOM (perhaps at CARICOM's intercessional meeting of Heads of Government)? . How about aligning its mission around the theme : The Health and Youth of the Region are the Wealth of the Region.
Formulating a Pan Caribbean Partnership for Climate Action: An exercise in Functional Cooperation - Why Not ?Read Now
“The Caribbean experience makes abundantly clear that we must urgently reduce global emissions and work collectively to ensure that global temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels ... cut greenhouse emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and get to carbon neutrality by 2050.” [Antonio Gutteres UN Secretary General at the 40th Regular meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in St Lucia July 2019]
Setting the Scene
The UN Secretary General's message became even more potent in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian that literally devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands in The Bahamas. It was reinforced at the UN Climate Action Summit with its refrain that Climate Change poses an existential threat to many Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries and undermines sustainable development prospects for most. However, nowhere were these issues more dramatically illustrated as in the presentation to the UN Summit by Prime Minister Mia Mottley on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). This presentation carried in last week's blog post, highlighted the need to:
Making the Case for a Pan Caribbean Partnership
These takeaways apply as much to advocacy for the AOSIS objectives within the global arena as to a Pan Caribbean Partnership for Climate Action. Previous instalments preceding this blog show that: the building blocks for a Pan Caribbean Partnership are already in place; Caribbean countries are among the most climate-vulnerable countries; their climate scientists led by researchers at UWI are in the forefront of developing science-based strategies for climate adaptation and mitigation through their participation in the IPCCC processes; they lack access to climate finance; and their interests are not fully represented at the international level. Hence, involvement in global cross cutting-multifaceted initiatives such as climate impacts research can strengthen the connections between the scientific assessments of climate change, vulnerability and adaptation, enable access to finance and help implement concrete projects.
The Vision and Mission
The Blog Innovation and Climate Resilience (9-19-19) established the building blocks for a Climate Action Partnership. It identified leading actors, institutions and priorities. It highlighted the vision and mission of the Partnership as defined by the Three (3) Ones Principle, One Regional Plan, One Coordinating Unit and One M&E implementation instrument. This principle provides the guidelines of a plan proposed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) and endorsed by the CARICOM Heads of Government. See Delivering transformational change 2011-21: Implementing the CARICOM `Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change`
Using the Regional Framework as a backdrop, we are proposing an outline for consideration. It hinges on four (4) pillars: (i) Knowledge for Climate Action; (ii) Clusters for Climate Resilience; (iii) Institutional Strengthening for Climate Adaptation and Mitigation; (iv) and Sustainable Financing for Climate Change
Knowledge for Climate Action
This pillar comprises four (4) components:
Clusters for building Climate Resilience
This is intended to pursue the aspirational goal of making the Caribbean the first Climate resilient region in the World. It involves developing regional and interregional partnerships to facilitate:
Institutional Strengthening for Climate Change Responses
This requires establishing clusters for climate action to foster the multidisplinary and multisectoral whole of government approaches with designated focal points:
Sustainable Financing for Climate Change
This should be based on the development of a Regional Climate Action Plan. Access to finance remains one of the most important barriers to climate action. Going forward, financial instruments and innovative financing mechanisms must be leveraged to mobilize adequate climate finance. An enabling environment for private sector engagement and public-private collaborations must also be further enhanced to ensure the required pace and scale of Nationally Determined Conditions (NDC) for climate action. These require strong advocacy, political will and global solidarity:
These are preliminary thoughts on the movement toward a Pan Caribbean Partnership for Climate Action. Is it necessary? Is it cost effective? Is there the climate leadership for this approach ? -- Why Not?