During the past couple of weeks several events of note were celebrated. First, the commemoration of Caribbean-American Heritage Month which was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 to recognize the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the United States. The resolution passed the Senate in February, 2006 following which, President George H.W. Bush issued the proclamation in June 2006. Since the Declaration, the White House has issued an annual proclamation recognizing June as Caribbean-American Heritage Month. Second, the celebration of Pride Month which according to the release from the Washington National Cathedral “is a time to recall the trials of what the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community has endured and to rejoice in the triumphs of trailblazing individuals who have bravely fought — and continue to fight — for full equality”. Pride therefore is both a jubilant communal celebration of visibility and a personal celebration of self-worth and dignity. Third is Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation Day, celebrated annually on June 19. It was on June 19th 1865, Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This news came two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. Most noteworthy is that spurred on by the advocates and the Congressional Black Caucus, on June 15, 2021, the US Senate unanimously passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing Juneteenth as a Federal holiday. It subsequently passed through the House of Representatives by a 415–14 vote on June 16.
Each of these events deserves special treatment for their significance to achieving the pervasive Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #10, "Reducing inequalities". The goal embraces targets that include empowering and promoting the social, economic and political inclusion for all irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic status.
Highlighting Pride Month
GOFAD has chosen to highlight Pride Month in this Blog because it helps to recognize the valuable contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals across the world. Consequently it leads to reaffirming our commitment to standing in solidarity with them. The celebration of Pride Month in June each year honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan which was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States that spread throughout the World. Initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the Commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.
A series recent studies and reports signal the tensions that exist in the global struggle for reducing inequalities and increasing the inclusiveness of the LGBTQ+. Discriminatory laws and socio-cultural norms continue to marginalize and exclude LGBTQ+ from education, health care, housing, employment and occupation and other sectors with negative impacts on individuals, their families, groups and communities.
Perspective from the Caribbean
Although Caribbean Governments have supported the UN global declaration to end discrimination, the pattern persists. Although the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS
(PANCAP) has played a significant role in advocating for eliminating inequalities, stigma and discrimination, progress toward these ends remains slothful. The PANCAP Model Anti-Discrimination Legislation for example, endorsed by CARICOM Attorneys’ Generals in 2012 is still to be implemented at the national level despite Parliamentary Sensitization Forums convened by PANCAP (2016-2019). But there are also other major illustrations of unfulfilled pledges. Among them, the commitments of PANCAP Stakeholder groups — Faith Leaders, Parliamentarians, Civil Society, Youth — to the Caribbean Justice for All Roadmap and the unprecedented Caribbean Faith Leaders Declaration to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The greatest barriers being the persistence of stigma and discrimination.
Among major segments of the faith community there is resistance to removing the barriers and redressing the balance from inequality to inclusiveness of LGBTQ which pivot around:
♣ The legal and policy environment that is at odds with a public health response.
♣ Harmful societal norms and high levels of stigma and discrimination.
♣ Limited capacity of national programs to integrate and implement rights-based
♣ Limited capacity of national programs to provide innovative, evidence-based, high
impact services that reach key populations, especially in the area of access to
services and prevention.
♣ Frailties in political will of governments to move forward with implementing
♣ Insufficient attention to sustainability planning and financing.
Removing these barriers raise other questions such as: Why is there resistance in recognizing access to economic, social and cultural rights of LGBTQ+? How are they hampered by discriminatory laws that have negative impacts on individuals, their families, groups and communities? The evidence illustrates how these discriminatory social norms result in poverty and exclusion, lower socioeconomic status, and limited access to assets that are essential to the enjoyment of the full range of human rights. In the final analysis the resolution may revolve around the tortious route of litigations in the courts of law.
At the same time there are some positive developments arising from global interventions. Among them are:
Why abolition of Sodomy Laws Matter: Where are we positioned in the arc of Social Justice?
This is the big issue. Homosexuality is a part of the human experience. It is not relegated to one race or ethnicity. It is perhaps the strongest obstacle to embracing full equality for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. Originally, sodomy laws were part of a larger body of law - derived from church law - designed to prevent non-procreative sexuality anywhere, and any sexuality outside of marriage. As the gay rights movement began to make headway, especially in the last 15-20 years and the social condemnation of being gay began to weaken, social conservatives increasingly invoke sodomy laws as a justification for discrimination. Yet UNAIDS 2019 Report reveals that more than 65 countries criminalize same sex relations, of which 12 are CARICOM States. The same report shows that eight states (none in the Caribbean) impose the death penalty.
Nowhere has unmasking the ambiguity to social justice materialize more forcibly than during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations in the USA with ripple effects worldwide. This was an acknowledgement that everybody deserves to be treated fairly, to have equal protection under the law, and to have equal access to all the services and conveniences, benefits, protections, and even responsibilities that go along with living in a civil society.
Denial of these rights especially as it relates to sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular, derives from a very conservative interpretation of the Bible. Yet there is nothing in even conservative Evangelistic theology which would say homosexuality should be criminalized while adultery and fornication are not. In the Old Testament they are all capital offences like breaking the Sabbath.
In our families, on our jobs, in our schools and neighborhoods, and of course in our churches, LGBTQ+ people are all around us. We have adopted a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy instead of allowing our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters to affirm who they are and support them. It is puzzling that some who can speak out so strongly for Racial justice cannot speak as strongly for LGBTQ+ justice. Very often our appeal for LGBTQ+ justice is met with the refrain “But the Bible says…” Such a refrain can be understood in the context of differences in theological positions. But it becomes repulsive as a shield for animosity, venom, and hatred. Let us therefore strive in this Pride Month 2021 to make Diversity and Inclusion mean reducing the vicious cycle of inequality for the LGBTQ+ Community.
The Caribbean Studies Association raises the Question: Could Guyana be a Catalyst for Advancing Oil and Gas and achieving a Green Economy?Read Now
So many recent events have converged to jolt us all into the realization of the serious regional and global efforts to achieve climate resilience. On June 5, Pakistan acted as the global host of World Environment Day 2021 whose theme was “Reimagine Recreate Restore”. It also launched the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. In essence it means “bringing back plants and animals from the brink of extinction, from the peaks of mountains to the depths of the sea”. But it also includes the many small actions everyone can take, every day: growing trees, greening our cities, rewilding our gardens or cleaning up trash alongside rivers and coasts. In his address on this occasion Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General affirmed that “restoring ecosystems carries substantial benefits for people. For every dollar invested in restoration, at least seven to thirty dollars in returns for society can be expected. Restoration also creates jobs in rural areas where they are most needed”.
Another global event, on June 6 was World Oceans Day which featured launching the 43-country strong Global Oceans Alliance, led by the UK and including Guyana. Its aim is to protect at least 30 percent of the global ocean in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and other affected area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs) by 2030. This is known as the “30 by 30” target.
In the preceding week, May31 - June 4, over 1000 scholars, policy makers and activists convened virtually at the 45th Annual Conference of the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) to engage in discussions on a variety of themes concerned with the environmental challenges facing the Caribbean and the international system. The range of themes listed fully illustrate the scope of the challenges to be resolved. It resulted in the establishment of the CSA Environment and Resilience Working Group to follow up on the recommendations from the panels that covered the following:
♣ Challenges and Opportunities: Caribbean and Climate Change
♣ Towards a Caribbean, Environmentally
♣ Responding to Climate Emergency
♣ Climate Change Caribbean Resistance and Resilience
♣ Emerging Research in Environmental Science
♣ Guyana Low Carbon/Green Economy and Oil Production
♣ Cuba: Living Between the Hurricanes
♣ Engaging for Climate Change in the Caribbean
Glimpses of the Main Issues
The CSA panels highlighted the problem that ecosystem loss is depriving the region of its carbon sinks, like forests and peatlands, at a time when humanity can least afford it. One of the presentations placed into stark relief how global greenhouse gas emissions, have grown for three consecutive years and the planet is on pace for potentially catastrophic climate change. Yet the Caribbean countries together with those of the South Pacific which comprise Small Island Development States (SIDS) contribute minimally, but are most severely affected and afflicted by Climate change. The current floods in Guyana, where the CSA 2021 was supposed to be held, were it not for the COVID-19 restrictions, have severely affected more than 7,000 homes and additional rains will undoubtedly intensify the woes across an unprecedented wide span of the country.
The CSA panel presentations revealed a fascinating body of research from the Caribbean and among Caribbean agencies in collaboration with external partners. The major thrust of these studies included the preservation, restoration and the management of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves that contribute toward reducing the negative impacts of climate. There was a strong view that while solar energy holds the most promise for the Caribbean region, except for Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean economies are almost entirely dependent on diesel fuel and natural gas. And with sun and wind in abundance, geothermal and hydro power could free the islands almost entirely from fossil fuels. The need to explore the increasing opportunities for renewable energy technologies was a recurring theme and so were the examples of using biofuels on energetic crops to provide electricity throughout the Caribbean .
A significant contribution from the cross section of panels on climate change was made by Dr. Ulric Trotz, recognized as 'a guru' whose vast experience and creative ideas provided a useful range of future prospects for the Region. These include the need for regional collaboration in submitting proposals to the Global Environment Fund (GEF) and from the World Bank (IBRD and IDA). Among the areas in urgent need of attention is finding the formula for resilient building efforts such as flood mitigation and hazard mitigation grants, important to confront the continuous plague of hurricanes in the region.
One of the sessions raised an interesting set of prospects on the horizon as the Caribbean prepares for the Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow in November-December 2021. It is essential to reinvigorate the concerted Caribbean refrain coordinated by the 5Cs "1.5C to stay alive" that now resonates on the global agenda. Dire warnings reverberated from the CSA panels that to avoid catastrophic climate change, the highest priority must be to reduce CO2 pollution to zero at the earliest possible date. They echo the sombre results of the Zero Carbon Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Change Report.
Focus on Guyana
However from the session, Guyana Low Carbon/Green Economy and Oil Production chaired by Prof. Maya Trotz and headlined by Dr. Ulric Trotz, emerged the recommendation for the establishment of a CSA Environment and Resilience Group, which convened its first consultation on the penultimate day of the Conference, chaired by Dr. Nicholas Watts, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Studies. It agreed that the group would act as a focal point to explore the challenges raised at the climate change sessions, exchange good practices based on research and policy initiatives, create active platforms for collaboration in sourcing funding for Caribbean climate action projects, promote strategies for sharing information, increasing private-public stakeholders and involving NGOs and youth leaders in advocacy for the ‘1.5C to stay alive’ agenda
An interesting discussion ensued on the status of the Oil and Gas Industry in Guyana and its contribution to climate change. Is it ethical to prime the pump as an essential feature of economic growth or should the oil deposits be left below the seabed? There was overwhelming support for a CSA-UG Forum on the theme “Could Guyana be a Model for Climate Change: Aligning Oil and Gas with a Green Economy. Guyana - A model for Climate Change. In its December 2019 blog GOFAD raised the same question but left it generally unanswered: https://www.globalonefrontier.org/blog/guyana-could-be-a-model-for-climate-changealigning-oil-and-gas-with-a-green-economy
The idea of a Forum on this issue is timely and relevant for the Caribbean as a whole. Among the base line information that exists is a 2016 Report resulting from wide scale consultations with experts Climate Resilience Strategy and Action Plan for Guyana. It illustrates that the country has already started to take action to build resilience to change impacts and to enhance capacities to adapt. Indeed, the thinking of the commitment of the then Government of Guyana (GoG) seemed to have been sustained. According to Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, the commitment is to a green economy to sustain economic prosperity, environmental security and social well being. Therefore policies which support this vision enunciated in the 2016 report include the Low Carbon Development Strategy, the Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the National Integrated Disaster Risk Management Plan, and the National Adaptation Strategy to Address Climate Change in the Agricultural Sector. It is also of interest that Guyana has made progress in implementing adaptation and resilience building actions principally through interventions to the drainage, irrigation and sea defense systems to reduce the risks of flooding. But obviously, as recent events have demonstrated these are insufficient to stem the tide of natural disasters. The need to accelerate access to external finance to support the implementation of these actions include the reactivating of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Norway, the European Union and Multilateral Arrangements. These are paralleled by a recommendation to establish Irworkrama in Guyana as an international center of excellence for biodiversity research, attracting experts, researchers, and graduate students. That the University of Guyana has an active University of Guyana Green Institute (UGGI) and a newly established Institute of Energy Diplomacy provides a useful anchor in collaboration with the leading CARICOM Institution, 5Cs.
World Environment Day has amplified the big challenging picture. It comes at a time when the emergence of COVID-19 has shown just how disastrous the consequences of ecosystem loss can be; how by shrinking the area of natural habitat for animals for example, ideal conditions have been created for pathogens – including coronaviruses – to spread. It also coincides with the release of the Report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which states that every three seconds, the world loses enough forest to cover a football pitch; over the last century we have destroyed half of our wetlands; much as 50 per cent of our coral reefs have already been lost’; and up to 90 per cent of coral reefs could be lost by 2050. In addition, the annual peak of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air has hit another milestone. It is 50% higher than when the industrial age began. The average rate of the increase is faster than ever. The World is in trouble. Yet from the vantage point of those who gathered at the CSA Conference to discuss climate action there is a trace of optimism in one of the questions posed Could Guyana be a catalyst for advancing Oil and Gas and achieving a Green Economy? Let the discussions commence!
Over 1,000 scholars, policy makers and activists assembled virtually this week (May 31-June 4, 2021 ) to brain storm and share visions about the future of Caribbean Studies, the role of the Caribbean Diaspora and prospects of Caribbean Development. The theme of the Conference, Identity Politics, Industry, Ecology and the Intelligent Economy in Caribbean Societies illustrates the expansive scope of the discourse that yielded recommendations that were innovative, futuristic and realistic. The Conference originally scheduled to be held in Guyana this time last year was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even after an intervening year, the persistence of COVID-19 meant that for the first time in 45 years, the gears had to be shifted to a totally online event. Both the CSA Conference Committee led by Professor Travis Jules, President and Dr. Kristina Hinds Conference Chair and the Local Organizing Committee led by Dr. Melissa Ifill, UG's Deputy Vice Chancellor, International Engagement deserve the highest commendations for pulling off a highly successful event.
CSA Presidents Present
The auspicious opening ceremony that was spiced with a panorama of Guyana's culture signaled the high quality of the Conference. So did the Special Plenaries spread over the five days of the Conference. In his provocative address entitled "The Caribbean in Turbulent Times" at the Opening Ceremony, Professor Travis Jules, a Guyanese- American from Loyola University, Chicago and President of CSA pointed to:
He charged the Conference to confront the future with a series of the questions, most of which were dealt with in numerous concurrent sessions that followed. They include:
A special plenary at the end of Day 1 with five past CSA Presidents* engaged the audience on "reflecting on the future of the CSA through the lenses of the past". The takeaways included:
In Tribute to Professor Simon Jones Hendrickson and the Late Professor Wendell Bell
This special Presidential Plenary was dedicated to Professor Simon Jones Hendrickson, founding member and CSA President 1983-84 who edited a volume Caribbean Vision (Eastern Caribbean Institute 1991) with 10 Presidential lectures in the 1980s and the late Professor Wendell Bell, Yale University who introduced the Presidential lectures during his tenure. "This book is one of the features of the CSA historiography and should be so recorded in its annals".
University of Guyana’s Vice Chancellor, Women and Leadership
In her keynote address to the Special Plenary on Day 2, Professor Paloma Mohamed Martin, UG’s Vice Chancellor offered a tour de force titled "Cougars Will Rise Re-collecting Resilience in the Caribbean". She connected the dots between a readily changing ecosystem, the demands on intellectual products and the importance of intellectual leadership in charting policies to achieve sustainable development. The important parallels that the audience is left to draw are rooted in the characteristics of the cougar: agility, mastery of communication and extensive geographic range. In addition, the reproductive characteristic of the cougar is relevant in the sense of the evolution of independent thought and the replenishment of intellectual leadership. In this regard, the UG Strategic Blueprint 2040, advances the ambitious outcome of one graduate per household and generating student and citizen successes as a critical contribution of academia to the community, the national, regional and international systems.
A Plenary on Women and Leadership on Day 3, while this blog was being written had on display two women who have broken the glass ceiling: Dr. Carla Barnett, a Belizean, recently appointed as the first female Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in its 48 year history and before her, Professor Paloma Mohamed Martin, the first female Vice Chancellor in University of Guyana’s 58 years and the first female VC in the English Speaking Caribbean. The Panel also included USA Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah Lynch, Lady Ananda Trotman Joseph, woman activist and Chairperson of the Grenada National Coalition on the Rights of the Child, and Ms. Sonia Noel, Guyanese International Fashion Designer who holds an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the Global Oved Dei Seminary and University (GODSU) in the USA. The main takeaways from this Panel included:
The focus on the Plenary sessions helped to set the tone of the CSA @45 Conference. They provided the context for following up on the questions raised, challenges to overcome, proposals for organizational restructuring and the meaningful contribution of the Association to Caribbean Visions. These elements were amplified in the 180 sessions organized to run concurrently. Among the stand outs for follow up are those clusters of panels on the Environment and Resilience, Gender Equity and Digitization.
*Notes on Participants in Presidential Panel
Compton Bourne President (1985-86), Former President CDB, (CSA Venezuela 1986)
Carole Boyce Davies, President (2015-16), Professor Africana Studies, Cornell University,
(CSA Haiti 2016)
Jacqui Braveboy-Wagner, President (1992-93), Professor, (CSA Jamaica 1993), Professor,
Political Science-International Relations, City University of New York
Edward Greene, President ( 1989-90), Chancellor, UG (CSA Barbados 1989)
Jorge Heine, President (1990-91), Professor, Pardee School Global Studies, Boston Univ. (Cuba,1991)
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.