So much has happened during the past week on the contagion of COVID 19. Among the most sensational are the slowing down of the spread in Northern Italy; the surge in the USA, especially in New York; the record US$ 2Trillion stimulus package in USA; and the decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to 2021. There are however signs of health emergencies in other areas of the world like in South Africa for example. In other smaller countries like those in the Caribbean, there are gradual increases in numbers especially the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. What has emerged as a vital outcome is that the coronavirus is not only a health crisis of immense proportions, but also requires an imminent restructuring of the global economic order.
The Need for a Global Humanitarian Plan
Mr. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General in a statement issued on March 25 captures the enormity of the challenges. “COVID is menacing the whole of humanity and so the whole humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough. Wealthy countries with strong health systems are buckling under the pressure. Now, the virus is arriving in countries already in the midst of humanitarian crises caused by conflicts, natural disasters and climate change.” He called for a Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID 19.
Implicit in the UN Secretary General (UN SG)’s plea is that traditional metrics and assumptions are being rendered irrelevant. More starkly Christine Amanpour, Chief International Anchor for CNN, in the interview with the UN SG (BBC March 25), pronounced : “it’s our turn to answer a question that many of us once asked of our grandparents: What did you do during the war?”
Wall Street Journal editorial “Rethinking the Coronavirus Shutdown” (March 19) proclaimed that no country can safe guard public health for long at the cost of its economic health.“ if government shut down continues ... the human cost of job losses and bankruptcies will exceed what most imagine". What it advises for USA applies elsewhere: “unless federal and state officials start adjusting their antivirus strategy now to avoid an economic recession, [the outcome] will dwarf the harm from 2008-2009". In other words, the dilemma we may soon face is the terrible choice to either severely damage our livelihoods through extended lockdowns, or to sacrifice the lives of thousands, if not millions, to a fast-spreading virus. It is with this realization that the call for a global humanitarian response to militate against inequalities, is a feasible solution.
The Next Normal or What Next
Nowhere else have I seen more viable solutions than in an article by Mc Kinsey Analysis in collaboration with Oxford University (March 25) which poses 5 scenarios for the new normal that will emerge in the post-viral era: the “next normal.”
It is increasingly clear that this new Decade will be defined by an unprecedented new reality. Even before a solution to COVID 19 is conceivable, we are witnessing the beginning of discussion and debate about what the next normal could entail and how sharply its contours will diverge from those that previously shaped our lives. The question to be answered urgently is, how to begin navigating to what’s next ?
As we write, governments around the world are scrambling to deal with the spread of the coronavirus, which has sickened at least 176,500 people worldwide and contributed to more than 7,350 deaths. These figures are likely to increase exponentially without the enforcement of stringent and effective measures. Canada shut its borders to anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident, while the European Union ordered a halt to all non-essential travel. The USA has declared a national emergency, restricted airline flights into the country, ordered restaurants, schools and businesses except grocery stores, pharmacies and banks closed and recommended limiting social gatherings to 10. In France, President Emmanuel Macron banned all social and family gatherings, placing the country in an unprecedented lockdown. A number of African countries —Kenya , Senegal , Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia have declared cases while others like Zimbabwe, Chad, Tanzania, Somalia , Ghana, Ivory Coast have instituted restrictions. South Africa has declared a state of disaster and so has The Philippines. These actions together with those in China, Italy, and Spain among others provide lessons learned and portray examples of epic struggles against an invisible enemy. All these jurisdictions have imposed restrictions of between 2-8 weeks duration. Cancellation of sports activities over the world, now threatens next Summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
COVID -19 and the Distinction between Global effects and Globalization
Prof Ian Goldin, at Oxford Centre of Globalization, likened the COVID-19 pandemic to a virulent form of globalization, even more so than the 2008 financial crisis that slowed down the world economy. In 2008, the world appeared much more unified, hence global models for stimulus packages were variably applied to reduce respective economies from total collapse. Yet it magnified the inequality among and within countries. While the financial crisis may have been due to globalization, the current pandemic is a global one. Deregulation was the source of the former crisis, mainly instigated in the developed countries, but with severe impact on developing countries, with least access to effective social safety nets. The slow down on the world economy in 2008 mostly affected the vulnerable and exacerbated inequality within and among countries. Persistent inequalities were fanned by the arteries of globalization. The projected effects of the coronavirus is much more devastating with domino effects across the globe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed COVID 19 a Pandemic. Its virulence as illustrated by the number of deaths and impending social and economic consequences, is compounded by the fact that it is both a public health and an economic emergency. It exposes the need for strengthening public health, better science, national unity, regional coordination, international solidarity and social support. These elements are required to ensure economic resilience during and after the passing of the Pandemic, whose timeline remains unpredictable.
Already England has announced a COVID Bill guaranteeing £300Bn of government assistance or 15% of GDP, to provide liquidity through support packages, business interruptions loan schemes and loan guarantees, especially for small businesses and the service sector including the airlines. It also includes mortgage holidays, employment support and cash grants to support the vulnerable groups. The USA has advocated US $850bn stimulus package to give relief to small businesses and affected industries like airlines and to support those in need.
"This enemy can be Deadly but not Unbeatable"
Prevalence of the infection is different in different states. The responses are in turn based on these differences. Enforcement of China’s draconian measures to quarantine whole cities for example, has resulted in a massive slowing down of the Coronavirus. Scientists around the world are proclaiming that from an epidemiological perspective, the earlier the action taken, the better the results. But the race to contain the virus is constrained by lack of a vaccine. While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has initiated trials this week, indications are that it will take at least a year to produce an immunological safe vaccine. Hence preventing the spread will be dependent on information based on the science and building the bonds of trust to manage the risks and achieve mitigation and containment. There is need for coherent policies as a Nudge to slow the trajectory of the virus.
Acknowledging Cuba's Effort and the role of CARPHA
What has emerged is an illustration of the ill effects to human development caused by the ideological divide. According to reports, Cuba produces a drug known as Interferon Alpha 2B, that could save thousands of lives in the COVID-19 pandemic. The drug has been produced in China since January 25 and, according to data from China, has managed to effectively cure more than 1,500 patients from the coronavirus. It is one of 30 drugs chosen by the Chinese National Health Commission to combat the respiratory disease and is currently been prescribed in Italy. The drug was first developed in 1986 by a team of researchers from the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) and has benefited thousands of Cuban patients since its introduction into the national health system. It has been used as a treatment for HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, Herpes zoster or Shingles, Dengue and different types of cancers. The medication is said to increase the natural production of interferon in the human body and strengthens the immune system of patients, thus, is effective in treating the coronavirus disease. https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Cubas-Interferon-Alpha-2B-Successful-in-Treating-COVID-19-20200317-0015.html
Small island states in the Caribbean, most of which depend on tourism and other service industries, have commenced putting in place programs to prevent the spread of the virus. Chief among these are strengthening health systems, enacting policies based on scientific information, widespread public education and establishing mechanisms for enforcement. They are also considering sourcing supplies of Interferon Alpha 2B from Cuba as part of an overall strategy.
A regional approach is essential for identifying resources, sharing expertise, resisting the temptation for bilateral negotiations that distort regional efforts. It is to the benefit of CARICOM, that the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has become a lead institution in the implementation of the Caribbean Cooperation in Health. in collaboration with the Pan American Health Agency(PAHO). CARPHA has the capability to conduct the necessary tests on behalf of the entre Caribbean but in particular for those smaller islands without local laboratories and test kits. It therefore must be one of the priority institutions in which to invest as a cost effective measure for the Caribbean.
In fighting the contagion of COVID -19, the world is engaged in a war of a different kind. It is most likely to revolutionize the way we live, work and play. It may well be referred to as 'social distance-together'
2020 World Women’s Day Prompts Reflections and Recollections on Women and Development in the CaribbeanRead Now
I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women's Rights. This is the theme of International Women’s Day (March 8), 2020. It is a significant reminder that an equal world is an enabled world. It is one to which we must strive. Individuals and leaders of institutions around the globe have issued statements to this effect. Many countries and regions have identified the champions that have brought the struggles for women's rights and gender equity to the forefront of the global agenda. They ensured inclusion of measurable targets in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. GOFAD, reaching into its library, found an amazing contribution to this global movement emanating in the Caribbean that is worthy of highlighting. This Caribbean movement is portrayed in an informative book, The UWI Gender Journey: Recollections and Reflections coedited by three of the Caribbean's foremost scholars, Professors Jocelyn Massiah, Elsa Leo Rhynie and Barbara Bailey. It is a must read for scholars, students, advocates and all those interested in issues of social justice, equality and inclusion. .
The focus of this book is on the evolution and growth of gender studies at the University of the West Indies. It illustrates how the leaders of this enterprise forged ahead to open new areas of academic investigations; how they impressively disseminated results of their studies; and how these results laid the basis for formidable policies, advocacy and actions at community, national, regional and international levels. The three editors are of course among the original pioneers of this movement which began as a modest venture under the banner Woman and Development (WAND). But others include Peggy Antrobus, Dame Neita Barrow, Lucille Mair, Kathleen Drayton, Magna Pollard, Rhoda Reddock, Eudine Barriteau, Patricia Mohamed, Verene Sheppard and Lieth Dunn. Together and at different times, they and many others referenced in the book contributed to institutionalizing an internationally reputable Institute of Gender Studies with focal points at all three campuses (in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago) of the University of the West Indies (UWI). As Sir Hilary Beckles, UWI’s Vice Chancellor so aptly describes in his testimonial, the Institute of Gender Studies which emerged out of WAND has blossomed into “a fastidious custodian of the commitment to gender liberalization, intellectual engagement --- and effective leadership in the interactive fields of teaching, research, policy formulation and institutional refashioning”
In setting the scene, Joycelin Massiah connected the mission of Women and Development with a colonial past and a developmental future. It referred to the identification of discrimination of women in the Caribbean by the Moyne Commission in 1946, the blue print for women’s rights established in the UN Declaration on Human Rights, 1948, and the stimuli of the first World Conference on Women in Mexico City, 1975. They all created a firm basis on which to move to the next level of women’s development. This dynamic triggered the establishment of the Caribbean Women’s Association (CARIWA) and the inauguration of the Woman and Development (WAND) Unit within UWI in 1978. They were, however, just “the first tentative steps toward the introduction of women and development studies into the regional academy.“
Among the highlights of this book that readers will find enlightening are:
The book goes on to illustrate how the period of Consolidation 1996-2010, following the landmark Beijing Platform for Action in 1995, witnessed the roll out of graduate programmes, accelerated capacity building in research, the establishment of a robust data base to sustain analysis and policy making, the emergence of new programme areas such as gender and sexuality, construction of masculinities, the making of feminisms, and the blossoming of outreach activities within and beyond the academy. Such outreaches include national-level initiatives on gender policies, gender awareness and training women in leadership. In addition, the visibility of WAND soared through the increasing number of its leadership serving in regional and international bodies. Joycelin Massiah assumed the position as Caribbean Regional Director of United Nations Development Fund for Women, (now UN Women). Eudine Barriteau, became Prinicpal , UWI Cave; Elsie Leo Rynie, Deputy Principal UWI Mona; and Rodda Reddock, Deputy Principal, UWI St Augustine. Others were engaged in leadership roles in the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination (CEDAW) and Development Alternatives with Women in the New Era (DAWN]. Verne Shephard emerged as a highly respected spokesperson on reparations and gender equity at the UN and other international theatres. Barbara Bailey became a foremost advisor to the Caribbean Community on Gender and Education. Rosina Wiltshire served as Gender Justice Advocate to CARICOM. Yet there are so many others who gained professorships and have taken primary roles within the public and private sectors and in NGOs both nationally and regionally.
This book covers a journey of approximately 30 years. It is based on archival material and sturdy analysis. Reflections, recollections and spontaneous testimonials of the major players over the years formed an innovative methodology. It is a holistic assessment of the origins, evolution, challenges and triumphs of woman and development in the Caribbean.
In reflecting on the future, it is quite clear that the pioneers of the Caribbean women and development programme marshalled the intellectual fabric, ushered in an era that has placed women and gender as cross cutting elements of academic significance, and have given substance to the claims of ordinary women for greater attention to the social and economic challenges they face. It is to their credit that increasingly, policy, advocacy and militancy are backed by evidence; that there is a seismic shift in the understanding of women in the workplace, in entrepreneurial ventures, in politics , in the law and, in particular, in struggles to overcome the discrimination and disadvantages they encounter in the value chain, resistant to change. Increasingly this includes attention to issues such as sexual harrasment and violence against women and girls.
Let us therefore take the opportunity of 2020 World Women's Day to hail the contribution and inspiration of these Caribbean Champions that set the stage for Generation Equality- Realizing Women's Rights.
As we write this blog, the official results the 2020 Guyana general elections are still pending. All Observer Missions offered commendations to the Guyana Electoral Commission (GECOM) for the scrupulous manner in which it handled the process and to the people of Guyana for their participation in a peaceful democratic process. This Election has attracted attention worldwide and especially in this age of active social media has stimulated much discussion among the Guyanese people at home and abroad. It is the view of GOFAD that whatever the outcome, which ever group emerges as the Government, there will be a need to pay great attention to equality and inclusion. This blog draws of some eclectic remarks made at the University of Guyana’s Pre Conference on the Diaspora (February 28,2020). It was intended to launch an International Diaspora Engagement in late May, 2020 on the theme, "investing in Guyana's emerging business, indigenous women and youth leaders". It coincides with the celebration of its 54th anniversary of Guyana's Independence and provides an opportunity to examine the reality of the Diaspora in Guyana’s development.
The Diaspora at its Core
The word Diaspora comes from the Greek verb 'to sow' and by extension to disperse. More contemporary references illustrate examples of recent initiatives by governments around the world to reach out to “their” diasporas. The primary aims are to include those who have migrated in the national outreach or embrace; to establish new networks of commerce and culture; to tap into the enormous financial, technical and political resources that they can contribute to the national development; and in most cases, fly the national flag and achievements abroad. In this sense we can refer to the UG Diaspora over the past 57 years of its existence, as embracing those graduates and friends in and outside Guyana , amounting to over 40,000. The UG alumni, in particular, must have a vested interest in sustaining the credibility of their certification and therefore must be encouraged to contribute tangibly to this end. And I am glad to note that the University of Guyana’s Division of Philanthropy Alumni and Civic Engagement (PACE) has been at the forefront of coordinating and accelerating alumni affiliates in the England, Canada, and the USA. But the broader catchment of the Guyanese Diaspora that is the focus, is estimated to be over 1.8 Million, double the size of the Guyana population.at home. These are sources of goodwill whose encouraged commitment to the country’s development can make a difference.
The historical molding of our Diaspora
Recall, that one reason for the proliferation of the Guyana/Caribbean Diaspora was decolonization. As countries gained their independent status, it became necessary to forge transnational bonds of solidarity among their scattered populations, globally. For Guyana as for the rest of the Caribbean, many of its citizens, for example, migrated to Britain and have stood astride the colonial experience that produced Windrush, or the stigma of ‘’shit hole” countries rained on us by the current President of the USA.
Especially as Guyana is on the cusp of a new and rapidly developing economy, its good prospects as part of a Pan Caribbean integration movement is attracting worldwide attention. What a time of elevated pride and promise to foster an environment for a dialogue focused on the inter connection with a Diaspora of Guyana in CARICOM. This is indeed a vibrant context for a Diaspora conference that could inspire internationally respected advocates of global solidarity, equity and social justice.
What has Migration got to do with It
In May 2017 I was privileged to witness a memorable exhibition at The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) in New York by 16 Guyanese artists living in the USA, including Stanley Greaves, former lecturer at UG. Under the theme, Liminal Space, the artists working in various medium illustrated vividly how decades of migration have defined Guyana’s space. The content of that masterful exhibition is relevant to this conversation. It pointed out the relationship between migration and the idea of the “liminal” — from the Latin, ‘limens’, which means “threshold,” a place of transition, waiting, and unknowing. Fully etched in my memory is how that exhibition of creative arts testifies ‘to what drives one from a homeland and simultaneously keeps one tethered to it’.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the massive scale of contemporary international migration estimated at 217 million which has led some commentators to proclaim the last decade as the ‘Age of Diaspora’. So much so, that the UN designated 18th of December as international Migrants Day is conflated with a new configuration of diaspora strands that have proliferated to an extraordinary extent.
The 2020 World Migration Report produced by the international Organization on Migration (IOM), provides concrete evidence showing how the application of the principles of humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and the societies from which they come and those in which they reside. For Guyana and the Caribbean this is a lived experience. The ‘barrels ‘and ‘remittances’ are only one side of the coin. The other more ‘heads up’ side, comprises the contribution of our teachers, nurses, doctors, artists and other distinguished professionals, many of whom were groomed at UG.
Our writers have provided the context
George Lamming, in his 1950’s book, In the Castle of my Skin vividly portrays the colonial entanglement that made for a complex relation between colony and metropole. It is a psychic entanglement that is often beyond the understanding of a third-generation of British citizens of West Indian ancestry. Their relation to England is experienced as a racial assault that allows little space for a dialogue that would humanize the conflicts arising from a perception of ‘the other's’ difference. In another book The Emigrants Lamming explores the alienation and displacement caused by colonialism. It is out of this displacement and alienation, that the late Edward Kamu Braithwaite in his magnificent trilogy, The Arrvants, helps us to understand the amazing reach of our plantation system and culture that enriched the civilizations of the metropole . This is not to mention our music, athletics and (used to be) cricket. But it also makes us aware of the strength of the case for reparation by The CARICOM Commission spearheaded by Sri Hilary Beckles, Chancellor of the University of the West Indies. These vestiges of slavery, colonization and imperialism that disadvantaged our Caribbean societies provide major items for the Diaspora engagement to address
The Diaspora in the future of our development
Our Guyanese or Caribbean Diaspora is connected to these experiences and streams of migration, that manifested themselves in both opportunities and exploitation . Therefore UG’s engagement of migrants and now the children and grandchildren of those who left to better their circumstances in the international communities, must be placed in this context. It is a context that must counter an unfortunate but emerging views of ‘Diaspora fools ‘ in reference to those perceived to have left their homeland in the bad times, now returning to exploit rather than to contribute’. More meaningfully, the context should be interpreted as an attempt to recognize the operational challenges of migration; advance the understanding of migration issues; and encourage social, cultural and economic integration of our migrants in the development of the country and the Region.
Guyana’s new opportunity with continued exploration and recently-started production and export of oil and gas must be seen as bringing a number of wonderful possibilities but also some risks. The dominant perspective in Guyana’s discourse with the Diaspora must be viewed as being one that calls for using its windfall gains to consolidate Guyana’s long-term development goals. The achievements are bountiful. They depend on ensuring good governance and management of all Guyana’s resources. It requires working to stave off the well-known perils of some oil economies. But most of all it means seeking to enhance local content and, equally important, tap the required expertise , investments and collaboration of the members of the Diaspora.
The reality of the Diaspora in Guyana’s development beckons. Let us grasp the opportunity of engagement.