How are Parliamentarians handling their Roles as Advocates for Human Rights, Equality and Justice. The Caribbean Experience.Read Now
Research supports the view that “if people living with HIV feel empowered to be open about their status, they can access the right medical treatment and social support and protect their partners’’. So how do Caribbean Parliamentarians intend to deal with these issues of human rights, equality and justice?
The response will focus on three (3) major issues that have attracted the attention of Caribbean parliamentarians: (a) Implementing the PANCAP Model Anti-discrimination legislation and amending the Sexual Offenses against the Persons Act; (b) Advocating against criminalizing HIV and (c) Resolving the stalemate on Comprehensive Sexual Education (a fourth issue, violence against women, girls and adolescents will be the focus of a subsequent blog).
Adopt the CARICOM Model Anti-discrimination Legislation and amending the Sexual Offenses against the Persons Act
This model Legislation initiated by PANCAP and adopted by the CARICOM Legal Advisory Committee, including the Attorneys Generals of the Region (May 2012) was drafted by some of the best legal minds in the Caribbean. https://caricom.org/.../pancap-model-anti-discrimination-legislation-interface-between-...
It addresses issues impacting people living with HIV and AIDS which are also issues of human rights. Because of the implications of denial of these rights, the Model Legislation promotes an inclusive approach to ending discrimination, not just on the basis of HIV status but on wider grounds, including gender, disability and sexual orientation. A snapshot of the HIV related legal environment in the Caribbean in 2012 remains almost the same today:
Resulting from the current round of Parliamentarian Sensitization Forums coordinated by PANCAP, all countries have agreed to advance the process for implementing the Model as an aspirational goal for eliminating stigma and discrimination, while translating its clauses into legislation to reflect national consensus. The adoption of the model will also respond to many of the outstanding legal gaps that fall under the Offences Against the Persons Act, sections of the Criminal Code, The Immigration Act and laws that support child marriage. These currently engage parliamentarians throughout the Caribbean.
Reconsider Attempts at Criminalizing HIV
The issue of criminalizing HIV has long been under consideration throughout the world. Recently in Jamaica, The Joint Select Committee of Parliament made a recommendation to introduce a law to criminalize willfully knowingly and recklessly transmitting HIV and other STIs. This issue was an item on the agenda of the Jamaica Parliamentarian Sensitization Forum in February 2019. The arguments presented by Jamaica Network of Seropositives supported by findings of behavioral research of LANCET, UNAIDS and others, led to a recommendation for Jamaica to reconsider its position. The reasons include the following negative effects of the proposed law:
In addition, the Sexual Offenses Act (Section 22) in Jamaica and elsewhere, already deals with clear cases of knowingly and willfully transmitting harmful infections. Hence no new specific HIV law is necessary.
It is important to note that on June 20, 2019, four (4) months after the advocacy of the Jamaica Network of Seropositives to the PANCAP/Jamaica Parliamentarian Sensitization Forum, The Canadian Federal Justice Commission supported its arguments in a comprehensive report on Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure https://www.halco.org › news › crim...Response to Federal Justice Committee Report on Criminalization of People Living With HIV | HALCO - HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario
Resolve the stalemate on Comprehensive Sexual Education
For some time and since 2000 in particular, the CARICOM Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) Program has been used as a regional tool for public awareness for in and out of school youth on matters relating to sex and healthy lifestyles. There has always been cynicism about the appropriateness of its content for various ages and the widespread reticence or lack of competence of teachers and most community leaders in delivering HFLE curriculum. More recently, UNESCO in collaboration with other UN agencies and widespread engagement of stakeholders in countries around the world has produced a Model for Comprehensive Sexual Education. It is intended as an evidenced informed approach and a curriculum based process of teaching and learning about cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. It is aimed at young people before they become sexually active and those most vulnerable to misinformation. CSE is also intended to be delivered by well trained teachers complemented by parents and guardians and youth friendly services. Its evidence based benefits include:
However, there is disquiet and in some instance strong objections from certain segments of the religious community on the content and intent of CSE. This is notwithstanding that CSE like the PANCAP Model Anti-discrimination Legislation offers a template that makes provision for modifications by countries based on their cultural norms, religious belifs and adherence to findings of biomedical and behavioral research.
Here is where the representational and oversight roles of parliamentarians become important. There is consensus that public education is an essential function of prevention. Therefore, among the actions that the parliamentary system can pioneer is convening national multi sectoral commissions to review the CSE curriculum to ensure that it is age appropriate. Such a Commission based on diversity can carve out principles that place emphasis on equipping young people with the knowledge, skills attitudes and values that will empower them to realize their health, well-being and dignity; inculcate greater appreciation for family relations, a better understanding of friendship, love and romantic relations, the value of tolerance, inclusion and respect and long term commitment to parenting.
The “How “ requires Parliamentarians Taking Bold steps
Parliamentarians in the Caribbean have formidable illustrations of the value of pursuing their collective legislative, representative and oversight roles. It was the CARICOM Heads of Governments that issued the Nassau Declaration: The health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region In its salutation, CARICOM Heads stated “cognizant of the critical role of health in the economic development of our people and overawed by the prospect that our current health problems, especially HIV/AIDS, may impede such development through the devastation of our human capital” https://caricom.org/.../nassau-declaration-on-health-2001-the-health-of-the-region-is-t.
In the 2007 Port of Spain Declaration, Uniting to Fight the Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs), CARICOM Heads of Government stated that they were ‘conscious of the collective actions which have in the past fueled regional integration, the goal of which is to enhance the well-being of the citizens of our countries’ http://caricom.org/media-center/communications/statements-from-caricom-meetings/declaration-of-port-of-spain-uniting-to-stop-the-epidemic-of-chronic-ncds
While the Nassau Declaration offered a template for action based on two pillars - the Caribbean Cooperation in Health and the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS, the Port of Spain Declaration triggered the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs that escalated into an international movement for health and wellness. At the heart of both Declarations, are implementable recommendations that depend on public education and national, regional and international solidarity. In both, the quintessential examples of functional cooperation are prominent features. And in both, there is a clear understanding that the health and well-being of societies are intricately linked to human capital development
GOFAD is pleased to post this special blog by Ms. Myrna Bernard, one of its Advisors. The piece was submitted as a comment on the June 6 blog, "CARICOM HRD Strategy as Investing in Human Capital". The Strategy was endorsed at the 38th Conference of Heads of Government Meeting in Grenada in July 2017. A CARICOM Commission on HRD was established in March 2018 to shape the Regional Educational and Human Resource Development Strategy. This blog will hopefully keep the issues of Human Capital Development alive. Its targets are aligned with the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goal #4 "Quality Education" and are compatible with those of the World Bank Human Capital Project (See GOFAD Blog: "Placing Human Capital at the Center of the Sustainable Development Goals" May 9, 2019). Ms. Bernard was until recently Director in Directorate of Human and Social Development at CARICOM Secretariat and one of the architects of CARICOM HRD Strategy. The Strategy may be viewed via this link 2 HRD Strategy (2.96 MB)
The GOFAD blog of June 6, 2019 provided a useful overview of the main purpose and elements of the CARICOM HRD 2030 Strategy, and also highlighted antecedent efforts by the Caribbean Community to work together on streamlining efforts for cooperation in Human Capital/ Human Resource Development. This contribution highlights some areas which are already the specific focus of preliminary implementation efforts and which provide useful tools for co-ordination and successful implementation at both regional and national levels.
The Vision of the HRD 2030 Strategy, ‘Unlocking Human Potential’ recognizes the need for deliberate action in several spheres and at several levels, to ensure that Caribbean citizens, especially children and youth, but also inclusive of older adults, are provided opportunities for development of the skills and attitudes needed for success in their personal as well as professional lives. This is of specific importance in the current environment, given the rapid changes in skill sets needed to take advantage of opportunities in a world now driven by technological change and resultant changes in requirements for success. These changes have resulted, for example, in a reordering of the importance of crucial skills for success in both personal and working life. The World Economic Forum (WEF) hierarchy of 10 most important skills and competencies needed in employment by 2020, and cited in the HRD Strategy, lists complex problem solving as #1 followed by critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; judgement and decision making; service orientation; and cognitive flexibility. If the Caribbean is to become globally competitive, its systems for HRD must take cognizance of trends such as these.
For each of the Strategic Priorities outlined in the HRD 2030 Strategy, viz. Access and Participation, Equity, Quality and Relevance, important strategies have been targeted for each level of education. Member States, through the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) have agreed on specific strategies for priority attention at the regional level. A close look at projections such as those of the WEF will certainly call into question, whether the current systems for policy development and management of the education systems in the Region are suitably oriented and equipped in this regard. It is for this reason, that the Strategy pays close attention, not only to outlining actions directly linked to the Strategic Priorities, but also pays focused specific attention to what is referred to in the Strategy as ‘Enablers’. The focus on enablers highlights the importance of concomitant effort at streamlining HRD Sector planning, management and delivery. This no doubt aims to avoid the negative consequences of the proverbial ‘pouring of new wine into old wineskins’.
As the Strategy is implemented across the Region, it is important to recognize and address the seeming ‘disruptions’ which will result at all levels. Systems which have hitherto been merely tinkered with to accommodate previous reform efforts will need to be fundamentally reoriented to shape the citizens and workers of the future. These changes will require specific attention, orientation and capacity building at several levels/tiers, including in particular, central policy making and management systems; education institutions at all levels, and in particular those charged with the preparation of educators; students and parents; local communities and the society as a whole.
At the level of the schools and other institutions of learning, the major requirement is for a switch from traditional practices, several of which still focus in large part, for example, on traditional media, acquisition of knowledge, individual achievement, competence in large part limited to the mental, to addressing development of competencies required for successful participation in the socio-digital world. Important shifts in emphasis include the expert use of digital media; multi-tasking; knowledge creation, including through collaborative effort; emotional intelligence and critical thinking. These issues have important implications for the assigning of value to specific competencies and for assessing and rewarding our students at all levels. This calls to mind pertinent words of caution I read some while ago, with regard to not valuing what we can easily measure, but ensuring that we measure what we truly value.
The Implementation Plan for the HRD2030 Strategy, developed in collaboration with Member States, institutions and other partners to address the HRD 2030 Strategy recognizes the importance of reorientation at several levels of the system in order to enable and drive the change required. Work has already begun in important areas to facilitate regional and national action. In this regard, Technical Working Groups (TWGs) established by the CARICOM Secretariat worked alongside the Strategy Development process to focus on design and development of specific educational policies, systems and models to accompany the implementation of the Strategy. The Groups focused on Early Childhood Development, External Quality Assurance, Open and Distance Learning, Teaching Innovations and Educational Leadership and Tertiary Education. The TWGs have produced Reports in the following areas for the consideration of COHSOD.
CARICOM HRD 2030 Strategy has highlighted the importance of adopting new school models which play a crucial role fostering important 21st Century skills. The following link relates to a recent NBC NEWS article entitled ‘Wobbly Chairs and rolling Desks: Schools are rethinking classroom design to encourage creativity. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/.../wobbly-chairs-rolling-desks-schools-are-rethinking...
Successful Implementation of the CARICOM HRD 2030 Strategy is crucial to the empowerment of Caribbean Citizens at all levels to grasp opportunities for their own empowerment, and for the unleashing of the potential of the region to compete in the global arena.
27 June, 2019
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.