2020 Tokyo Olympics: Simone Biles, the Drive to win and Mental Health — Random Thoughts
The World is witnessing the remarkable feats at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics amidst the raging COVID -19 “Delta” variant and the most vivid disruption of mental health. This is amplified by the dramatic withdrawal of its ‘most celebrated star’ gymnast, Simone Biles from the competition . The opening ceremony with dazzling digital technology fully demonstrated the awe-inspiring ingenuity of the human spirit to deliver excellence in the face of adversity. So too are the performances of athletes across all 34 disciplines, so far, breaking records, delivering breath-taking performances or just competing. Yet these games are haunted by the growing importance of mental health in sport.
GOFAD in several of its blogs has pointed out how the past 18 months of lockdowns and other constraints caused by the coronavirus have contributed to the growing need to pay attention to the pervasiveness of mental health issues. In the USA for example, approximately 46.6 million or 1 in 5 adults are living with a mental health condition at some point in their lives. What however is of specific concern is a recognition that playing sports does not make athletes immune to mental health challenges. The pressures to perform in the game, as well as coping with the rest of their public lives, can be incredibly challenging for their mental health.
In recent years, sports psychology researchers have exhibited an almost explosive growth in interest in the investigation of mental health among elite athletes. In a scoping review, Kuettel and Larsen (2020) found that 81% of mental health studies focusing on athletes between 2013 and 2018 highlighted concerns about the high prevalence of mental health issues among elite athletes and that stigma in the elite sports culture that tend to decrease help-seeking behaviors and lead sports organizations to depreciate mental health issues as unwelcome. The authors noted that a majority of these studies focused on the assessment of risk factors or various psychological health symptoms possibly related to common mental wellbeing. See link to Risk and protective factors for mental health in elite athletes: a scoping review: International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology: Vol 13, No 1
There is so much to be explored. As a result, GOFAD combed reports of mental issues across a range of sporting activities and provides a sample:
Issues in Cricket and Soccer
In Cricket, Brian Lara former captain of the West Indies, holder of the record for the highest score in a test innings (400 not out ) and highest score in first class cricket (501 not out) expressed experiencing a feeling of despair due to pressures to achieve world records. Also, the so-called mental toughness that has long been a part of cricket in Australia, where sledging - often nasty banter between players - a fundamental part of the game, has been changing over the last decade. Cricket Australia has had a full-time sports psychologist working with national teams. Then there has been “life in the bubble “ during the COVID-19 era that has been recognized as affecting players of all nationalities. Most country teams now include sports psychologists as part of their respective squads. Leading English fast bowler Christopher Broad views, shared by many, is that performing in an empty stadium is a challenging task that tests the mental strength of the athletes who have to be in the right frame of mind.
International soccer is another arena that has introduced variation into the equation such as harassment and racial abuse as compounding factors. After England’s lost in the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship to Italy earlier this month, online abuse was targeted at three Black players, Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho. This incident reveals a larger societal problem of racism in sports. In a poignant comment found in an Instagram post, by Sir Lewis Hamilton, the influential Black sporting figure and Formula 1's seven-time world champion voiced his condemnation of the attack and the underlying issues faced by minorities in sport: "We must work towards a society that doesn't require Black players to prove their value or place in society only through victory.”
Michael Holding, one of the West Indies cricket outstanding fast bowlers has raised the issue in the wider context of institutionalized racism in his recent book ‘Why We Kneel, How We Rise'. While I have not yet read it, I learned of its content during Holding's interview on BBC’s Hard Talk on July 26, 2021. Holding supports the global Black Lives Movement (BLM) of which he advocates that 'taking a knee' by sportspersons is an enlightened endeavor. His, is the provocative view that the persistence of racism in sport is a product of the wider society and is largely due to the fact that black history is airbrushed. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct1n5z
Perspectives for Remedial Policies
A new World Economic Forum report on digital safety outlines the Human rights dimensions for addressing such instances of online harassment and racism in sport. It argues that unabridged speech without regard to harm caused can actually contribute to suppressed mental health issues that could ultimately flair into serious outcomes particularly for vulnerable groups. The policy being advocated is that athletes should not feel pressured into masking the problem by what is referred to as the “gladiator barrier”. This remains the primary hindrance to seeking treatment. There is also the idea that seeking help for mental health problems makes the athlete appear ‘weak’ which needs to be addressed from both a general media perspective and from the perspective of the athlete.
Michael Phelps as an NBC announcer at the Tokyo games is of great value and has helped viewers to comprehend the challenges of mental health generally and the specific challenges faced by Simone Biles. Phelps is arguably the greatest Olympian of all time. His 28 medals spanning five Games is unrivaled, and no other Olympic athlete comes close to his 23 gold medals. He has been open about his mental health challenges, including depression and suicidal thoughts, before. To cope, Phelps disclosed that his exercise routine is a way of focusing on what he can control. "It's just taking a little step forward, taking a deep breath from time to time."
The International Olympic Committee to its credit is making mental health services available in Tokyo. It has engaged mental health officers to assist athletes and coaches and established a 24/7 help line for them. In addition, there are psychiatrists and psychologists on call at the Olympic Village. This is an example of a good practice for adoption by other global games such Soccer World Cup and International Cricket Council competitions.
Using wider Lenses: Beyond Sports
While we have so far been concerned with sports and in particularly elite athletes, the Lancet Commission 2020 Report on Stigma and Discrimination in Mental Health provides a reality check. It is a call to reframe mental health in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It maps opportunities for broadening the global mental health agenda to include entire populations. It also highlights implementing a population approach to this issue that requires a coordinated multi-sectoral approach. This includes four pillars which recognize mental health as: (a) a global good; (b) part of a continuum of mild, time limited distress to chronic, progressive and severely disabling conditions; (c) a product of social and environmental conditions, especially in early years; and (d) a fundamental human right.
A population approach to mental health focuses attention on the range of social and economic factors that influence mental health. A particularly effective way of addressing the social determinants is to invest in mental health and well-being from childhood .
Simone Biles and the Tokyo Moment
Simone Biles drive to win was dashed. But ironically she emerged as the star of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She placed in perspective an indescribable feature of knowing what's best for her wellbeing; and of establishing a template of what's best for the team and for country. In so doing as idol and leader of the Fighting Four she demonstrated unadulterated confidence in the abilities of her team mates. She gave them the opportunity to shine, to step up to the plate and deliver. And deliver they did. At the time of writing, the USA gymnastics women's team has won a silver medal and Suni Lee , its youngest member has won gold in the individual event inspired by a gentle giant sidelined by Twisties" a mental block which puts gymnasts at serious risk. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jul/28/simone-biles-twisties-the-mental-block-which-puts-gymnasts-at-serious-risk Hers is a demonstration of prevention, but also of profound leadership and good sense. As a result, Mental Health has triumphed and for me the Tokyo Moment belongs to this outstanding athlete and phenomenal person Simone Biles.
Navigating the Opportunities and Imperatives in Guyana’s Oil & Gas Economy: Report of Queens College Alumni Symposium by Dr. Terrence BlackmanRead Now
GOFAD is grateful to Dr. Terrence Blackman for permitting us to reproduce this blog which also appears on the Oil Now July 18, 2021. Many like me who were unable to participate in the weekend Queens College Symposium in part due to technical difficulties with the virtual platform will find this installment useful. The issues it raises provide a context and are linked to those that appeared in the GOFAD Blog (6/10/2021) The Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) raises the question: Could Guyana be a Catalyst for Advancing Oil and Gas and Achieving an Green Economy. See link https://www.globalonefrontier.org/blog/the-caribbean-studies-association-raises-the-question-could-guyana-be-a-catalyst-for-advancing-oil-and-gas-and-achieving-a-green-economy
Dr. Blackman will be following up with another installment on the symposium which we hope to feature. In addition, as a member of the Board of the University of Guyana Green Institute, I expect that he would be an essential contributor to the conversation that will fashion a response to the question raised by the CSA.
In June 09, 2021, ExxonMobil announced newly identified, high-quality hydrocarbon-bearing reservoirs below the original Longtail-1 at Longtail-3 offshore Guyana. The well, located approximately two miles (3.5 kilometers) south of the Longtail-1 well, was drilled in more than 6,100 feet (1860 meters) of water. This announcement has brought into sharper focus the ideas emerging from the recently concluded Memorial Day Weekend symposium on, presented by the Queen’s College of Guyana Alumni Association, NY Chapter (QCAANY).
QCAANY, the New York Chapter of the Queens College of Guyana alumni association, is a registered non-profit corporation incorporated for thirty (30) years. Its mission is to further Queen’s College, Guyana’s interests, and ensure its continued high contribution to education in Guyana. QCAANY has done this by way of scholarships to high-performing students and scholarships to financially challenged students. In addition, the group has conducted programs such as summer math camps and student conferences aimed at better preparing Queen’s College students for the world after graduation.
QCAANY’s President, Mr. John Campbell, in his opening remarks, noted that the organization is also engaged in fostering constructive civic engagement on matters of public interest throughout the Guyanese diaspora and that Guyana’s emergence as a major oil-producing nation and the potential positive transformative impact on the lives of Guyanese in education, healthcare, infrastructure, and much more that this development portends necessitated the presentation of the symposium. He noted that Guyanese are concerned by the numerous unanswered questions surrounding the exploitation of this resource and the possible challenges that the nation will encounter along this developmental path and that the symposium was a forum in which Guyanese nationals and other interested parties of all backgrounds could participate in a forward-looking conversation to position Guyanese at home and in the diaspora to take advantage of the emerging oil and gas opportunities. The symposium, he noted, would outline strategies for mitigating the potential challenges for private investment and business opportunities, workforce development and training, local content imperatives, diasporic engagement, and environmental health and safety.
The first panel focused on opportunities. The panelists were Dr. Dennis Pieters and Mr. Fareed Amin, and the moderator was Mr. Aftab Karimullah. The second panel focused on the imperatives consisted of Mr. Edwin Callender and Ms. Abbigale Loncke. Ms. Rosalind McClymont moderated the discussion.
In Part I of my Report from the symposium, I will speak to the contributions of Dr. Dennis Pieters, an international Reservoir Engineering consultant, professor, and author who currently serves as a Director of Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas Inc., in Georgetown, Guyana. Dr. Pieters obtained his Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and is a Queens College of Guyana alumnus. Over the past forty (40) years, he has held a series of staff engineering, consultant, and management positions in the United States and internationally with Amoco, Saudi Aramco, Shell Oil, and Halliburton. In addition, he has managed horizontal well engineering teams in Siberia and served as a Subject Matter Expert for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on location in Iraq. Dr. Pieters has taught reservoir engineering and economics in Saudi Arabia and the United States. He is the author of numerous scientific papers and a book on oil and gas decision-making.
Dr. Pieters began his presentation by sharing a Guyana Basin Regional shelf to basin geologic cross-section with the audience. This innovative framing for the presentation provided the audience a geographic perspective of the seafloor, the layout of the various blocks, and an overview of Guyana’s opportunity. This overview also highlighted many of the obvious environmental risks.
To better understand the context of oil and gas exploration in Guyana, imagine yourself starting at the Seawall and walking into the Atlantic Ocean. For the first 50 to 100 miles, the water is relatively shallow with depths no more than 300m, after which there is a steep drop, and we encounter depths that exceed 1000m. Along this walk, we first encounter, in the shallow waters, Total’s Arapaima I, drilled in 1990. Unfortunately, the offshore Arapaima-1 well proved to be non-commercially viable. A little further on, we come upon Tenneco’s Guyana Offshore II. The first company to drill a well was Tenneco, which spudded the Guyana Offshore #1 and #2 wells in 1967, the year after Guyana achieved independence. Further along, we arrive at Shell’s Mahaica I and II, drilled in 1974 and 1976. Unfortunately, they were both abandoned dry. We next find Shell’s Abary I, unsuccessfully drilled in 1975, and Shell’s Berbice I and II drilled in 1971 before encountering Exxon’s Liza 1, successfully operating in waters of depths of close to 2700m!
Dr. Pieters noted for the audience that, in its basic structure, the historical and geographic imperatives made the Guyana opportunity a high-risk, capital, and tech-intensive endeavor. To amplify this point, Dr. Pieters outlined the various formations that make up the seafloor, i.e., The Corentyne, Pomeroon, Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Canje, Potoco, and Stabroek formations, which descend to a depth of more than 5000m from the seafloor. He noted that the oilfields being exploited in Liza 1 operation are in the Maastrichtian Campanian New Amsterdam formation more than 2500m below the seafloor! These reservoirs were deposited as deepwater turbidites from sediment brought from onshore by the Berbice and Essequibo rivers to the slope and basin offshore Guyana and charged with oil that migrated from the Canje source rock. It is the mud that has given us the Oil today. Thus, Deepwater Oil and Gas exploration can reasonably be said to approach the complexity of space exploration in terms of its economic and technical challenges. Implicit in the geographical understandings are the environmental and ecological challenges that the region faces from an oil or gas leak from an underwater pipeline in the Atlantic, as has recently occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to a raging fire on the ocean’s surface.
Dr. Pieters then delineated for the audience the division of the Oil and Gas industry into three major areas: upstream, midstream, and downstream operations. The upstream aspects of the industry refer to opportunities related to exploration, drilling, and producing, i.e., bringing crude oil and natural gas to the surface. Midstream Oil and Gas opportunities are those related to the transportation of crude oil and the liquefaction and transportation of natural gas, and downstream options are those which accompany the processing of crude in a refinery. Dr. Pieters noted that Oil and Gas activities in Guyana currently consist primarily of upstream activities. He delineated five (5) significant upstream areas: Exploration, Appraisal, Development, Production, and Abandonment and noted that Guyana’s Oil and Gas efforts currently center on the first four areas. He opined that local efforts to engage the industry should focus on drilling and production opportunities. He noted the need for drill crews, seismic crews, and the expertise for building ground structures. In support of local content efforts, Dr. Pieters remarked: “Don’t confuse local content with just filling a percentage workforce with Guyanese. This is not about numbers; this is about investing in assets, investing in people, the long-term benefit for Guyana and the Guyanese people”, as he noted the need for Engineers and other Service Technicians to support the Exploration, Appraisal, Development, and Production efforts. One notes that while there is currently a heavy focus on highly specialized jobs like petroleum engineers, the reality is that there will be significant, and longer lasting more demand for other less specialized jobs like accountants, lawyers, structural engineers, and welders to support the emerging Oil and Gas industry.
One of the highlights of Dr. Pieters’ presentation was his discussion of the Liza Destiny FPSO. Liza Destiny is the floating production system that receives fluids (crude oil, water, and a host of other things) from a subsea reservoir through risers, which then separate fluids into crude oil, natural gas, water, and impurities within the topsides production facilities onboard. Liza Destiny, built in Singapore, requires five support vessels, and its attendant shore base operations require a significant number of support personnel. As an example, for the Lisa 1 Development, the FPSO is the control center for the seventeen wells drilled (of which eight are producers), six water injectors, three gas injectors, and various flowlines, pumps, and compressors that make up the operation. Liza Destiny can produce up to 120,000 barrels of oil per day. In addition, it has an associated gas treatment capacity of approximately 170 million cubic feet per day and a water injection capacity of nearly 200,000 barrels per day. The FPSO is moored in a water depth of 1,525 meters and can store 1.6 million barrels of crude oil. Liza Destiny is 334 m long, 58 m wide, and 31 m deep, i.e., the size of three football fields that can hold 20,000 mini-buses! Around 80 people work on the vessel during operation, and the FPSO can accommodate 120 workers.
Dr. Pieters reiterated the need for Guyanese to focus on the workings and function of the FPSO as an entry point for engagement with the industry. He closed his presentation by addressing the opportunities protecting the environment and promoting the sustainable use of Guyana’s Oil and Gas resources. He reminded the audience that Guyana is unique in that 85% of the land is virgin rainforest and called for economic policies that support a stable and diverse economy. Dr. Pieters articulated the critical importance of Guyanese developing the infrastructure to protect and enhance the quality of the air, water, land, native vegetation habitat areas, fish and wildlife, and other natural resources. He noted the need for local skills to monitor the industry and a baseline local flora and fauna database. Finally, he amplified the need to build communities around environmental and resource stewardship that enhanced the social benefits of the Oil and Gas industry for all Guyanese.
In keeping with this theme, In Part II of the Report from the Symposium, I will discuss the presentation of Edwin M. Callender, Attorney & Energy consultant of the Callender Law Firm in Houston, Texas. Attorney Callender’s presentation focused on optimizing the exploitation of Guyana’s Oil & Gas resources for the maximum sustainable benefit of the Guyanese People. We will explore these strategies in my next Report from the Symposium: Navigating the Opportunities and Imperatives in Guyana’s Oil and Gas Economy, presented by the Queen’s College of Guyana Alumni Association, NY Chapter (QCAANY).
About the Author
Dr. Terrence Richard Blackman is a member of the Guyanese diaspora. He is an Associate Professor of Mathematics, and a founding member of the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics at Medgar Evers College. He is a former Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor at MIT and a Member of The School of Mathematics at The Institute for Advanced Study. He previously served as Chair of the Mathematics Department and Dean of the School of Science Health and Technology at Medgar Evers College, where he has worked for more than twenty-five years. He’s a graduate of Queen’s College, Guyana, Brooklyn College, CUNY, and the City University of New York Graduate School.
In last week's Blog, the main purpose was to illustrate the role of CARICOM, its leaders and professionals in trying to resolve political conflicts and natural disasters that have continuously disrupted and destabilized the country since its accession to membership of the Caribbean Community in 1997. Several readers who commented on the Blog were of the view that the OAS, the United Nations, the US and even CARICOM have repeatedly failed the Haitian people, not helping them to establish a system of governance worthy of a modern democratic society. Especially in the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7, 2021 , too many imponderables have emerged to permit a definitive assessment: Who is actually in control of the state? Are any of the state’s institutions working? Will early elections provide a solution? Which regional and/or international institutions or states are deemed sufficiently legitimate by the Haitian population? The spontaneous if pessimistic response to all these issues is ‘none’.
What are the Issues?
Urgently required are strategies for breaking the political paralysis; controlling gang violence that has impeded delivery of food, medical supplies and other assistance; and viable coordinated economic resilience programmes.
There is a lack of clarity about Haiti’s political leadership. Since President Moise ruled by decree for over a year, all constitutional institutions — parliament, senate and the judiciary — are essentially ineffectual or defunct. The Constitution provides for the Chief Justice to assume the Presidency under circumstances like these, but Supreme Court Judge Rene Sylvester who tested positive for COVID-19 died on June 23, 2021. In the meantime, there are three claimants to the Presidency, among others. Ariel Henry, the Prime Minister designated by President Moise the day before he was murdered; self-styled Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, fired by Moise, apparently ruling Haiti with the backing of lean police and military forces; and Joseph Lambert former Head of Haiti’s dismantled Senate, who was recently chosen by a group of well-known politicians to be provisional President.
History shows that there is no real accountability for any political leader in Haiti deviating from democratic norms and abusing the powers of office to suppress basic freedoms. Möise has governed Haiti by decree for over a year without an elected parliament and was accountable to no one. According to prominent scholars and others who have intimate knowledge of the Haitian predicament, U.S. helped create the situation by its continued support of President Moïse, who had become despised by many Haitians of all sectors of the population because of alleged corruption scandals. The U.S. also called for national elections to be held by the end of the year,(2021) as scheduled – as if “democracy” means only elections. Then the disclosure that some of the assassination suspects received U.S. training, which has not been previously reported complicates understanding of how the plot to kill Moïse took shape, and who was involved. This is another blotch on US credibility as a trusted ally of Haiti’s rehabilitation.
Some Snap Shots of Regional and International Interventions
Reflections from CARICOM
As early as 2002, the CARICOM Mission to Haiti led by H.E. Julian Hunte, Minister of Foreign Affairs, St Lucia (of which I had an opportunity to be a member) made an observation which remains valid. Its draft report presented to the Intersessional meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in Belize (February 2002) stated that fundamental social, legal and political reforms must take into account that 95% of Haitians speak creole not French, but the schools overwhelmingly teach in French and [until recently] the courts and the legislature conducted all their business in French. This means the people don’t know what’s going on in their country. Hence “If the state institutions do not reflect the country’s culture, then a country can never be democratic'” That 2002 mission fully justified this observation as demonstrated by the huge audiences at several town hall meetings with invited speakers from leading NGOs conducted in creole with French translations. Ambassador Hunte, as Chair was fluent in the creole language.
Apart from this culture shift, greater emphasis has to be placed on accelerating Haiti’s economic development. The establishment of a CARICOM Office in Haiti in 2003 and again in 2007 together with a policy of internships to the CARICOM Secretariat for several young Haitian public servants initiated during the tenure of Secretary General, Sir Edwin Carrington were attempts to integrate the country meaningfully into the CSME process much the same as the establishment of a CDB office in Haiti in 2018, aimed at strengthening the fiduciary, monetary policies and financial accountability systems within the Governmental structure. That CARICOM also approved the removal of barriers to free movement of capital, goods and services for Haitians within the Community in 2019 with Barbados being the first to remove visa restrictions, were also hailed as significant attempts to accord the Haitian business community, professionals, workers and others, the rights and entitlements of being a CARICOM citizen. Unfortunately with issues directly related to security and utilizing CARICOM States as transit points for trafficking in drugs and humans, CARICOM countries have withdrawn the free movement concessions to Haitians. Speaking at a news conference at the end of a summit of regional leaders on Haiti (July 8, 2021), CARICOM Chairman, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne agreed that nationals of member states that are part of the regional single market are entitled to move freely. However, he says CARICOM member states can take steps to prevent mass and illegal migration of Haitians to prevent the violation of immigration rules.
USA: Seizing a New Opportunity
USA has a role to play in Haiti’s redemption. In this regard, the Biden administration would be most effective if it offers better trade relations between the U.S and Haiti and establishes an economic stimulus plan for Haiti within the CARICOM framework and the Dominican Republic, which not only shares the Island space of Hispaniola with Haiti, but is a member of CARIFORUM along with CARICOM Member states. This would involve engaging the international business community to invest in the sustainable development of the Haiti including in agriculture, infrastructure , tourism, gold mining the arts and entertainment industries including film making for which its multilingual and industrious workforce are capable of being productive resources.
UN on the Ground
The United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) had simultaneously been providing material and technical assistance for the constitutional referendum proposed by President Moise. According to informed reports, the head of BINUH, Helen La Lime, while expressing concern with the obvious “ever-growing polarization of Haitian politics, has for months been enthusiastically pushing ahead—even though the process toward the referendum has taken so many political and institutional shortcuts since last fall that have fatally undermined its credibility.” Like the United States under Biden and other international actors, the UN has more recently been distancing itself from Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s push for a constitutional referendum.
OAS and the Shifting Sands
A major omission in last week’s Blog was the important role played by H.E. Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda's Ambassador to the USA and Permanent Representative to OAS. He was Chief of the OAS Mission to Haiti in 2016 which ended the political impasse at the time by brokering an agreement between President Michel Martelly and opposition parties in the National Assembly that persuaded Martelly to demit office peacefully and agree to an interim government that ran the country for almost 2 years and oversaw elections that brought Moise to power. Moise gained 53% of the vote from a paltry 21 % of the electorate. This was itself an omen that he was not a President with popular acclaim. His election was in direct contrast to Aristide's whose two stints as President (October 1994- February 1996 and February 2001-February 2004) were based on widespread support from the grassroots, farmers, peasants and other marginalized groups.
In December 2020, the OAS indicated that it would support Moïse’s plans for elections but in 2021 it retracted owing to differences among its membership over the scope of OAS commitments for the Moïse government’s referendum and electoral calendar. The OAS “Good Offices Mission” visited Haiti in early June, with representatives from Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the United States. Its general mandate to facilitate a dialogue between the government and key political actors that would lead to free and fair elections, which achieved limited progress is now a relevant item on the agenda for Haiti’s redemption.
Elections in Haiti by themselves are not sufficient for strengthening its democratic process. What is required are more robust institutional structures of government to avoid recurring dysfunctionality. Important too is designing processes of engagement that respect and place emphasis on Haiti's creole culture and the creative talents of its people. There is need to ensure that constitutional reform incorporates these dominant cultural streams and place emphasis on human development, enhancing the competencies of youth , and streamlining a productive economy by constructive investment. In this respect former President Aristide's call for reparations from France seems justifiable. But a more immediate response is necessary. It should include special appeals to G7 Countries in the Americas (USA and Canada) and in the EU to bolster its economic development priorities and security. It requires the UN through its major institutions, the Security Council, G77, ECOSOC, its sector agencies including WHO and multilateral agencies like the World Bank to ensure that Haiti benefits from global solidity in achieving positive results from the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the financing for a development agenda. It requires the supports from the OAS as the wider regional political construction. Most important is its being anchored in CARICOM where it benefits from trust and camaraderie in a "Community for All". While much of these aspirations are happening, they are sporadic or uncoordinated, but they represent planks of cooperation to be further explored from this preliminary survey of the landscape for Haiti's redemption.
GOFAD joins in expressions of sadness and dismay at the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Our deepest sympathy is extended to First Lady Martine Moise with wishes for a speedy recovery from injuries she sustained during the dastardly attack by gunmen at the President's private residence caused by the assassins.
President Moise's death comes as the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince faced extreme violence. Notwithstanding that independent Haiti's first ruler was assassinated in 1806, this level of violence is a new phenomenon in modern Haitian politics. GOFAD’s major concern is how and what can the Caribbean Community do to salvage this low point in Haiti’s modern history. It is Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the black Haitian revolutionary who defeated the French to free Haiti from colonial rule in 1804. It is ironically the memory of Dessalines, that the Haitian protesters summoned to implicitly contrast the achievements of that revolution – freedom, universal citizenship and racial equality with their grievances against the regime of President Moise Dessalines wrote a radical constitution that eliminated racial hierarchy, established equality before the law and instituted freedom of religion in Haiti.
It is heartening to note that the statement issued by Hon. Gaston Browne Prime Minister, Antigua and Barbuda, Chair of the Caribbean Community highlighted “Haiti’s Membership of CARICOM and the family ties that bind the people of Haiti and CARICOM together". He expressed CARICOM’s willingness to "play a lead role in facilitating a process of national dialogue and negotiation to help the Haitian people and their institutions to craft an indigenous solution to the crisis”. This provides the hope that CARICOM is intent on preempting the long history of intervention of the USA there: It occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. It sent marines twice in the past three decades to restore order, under President Bill Clinton and then again under President George W. Bush.
CARICOM has a credible basis for depending on the support of the UN system. On July 1, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement expressing "deep concern regarding deteriorating political, security and humanitarian conditions in Haiti." Following the assassination of President Moise on July 7, it affirmed the determination of its members to monitor the ongoing situation in Haiti, the essential need to respect the rule of law and continued security of and solidarity with the people of Haiti.
CARICOM in Haiti
When in 1997, CARICOM announced that Haiti would be admitted as a member of the Community, it was clear this was a more a political than economic decision. Haiti's population, at over 7 million, is greater than the combined population of all the CARICOM countries; its environment has been devastated by the sustained economic crisis; and its French- and Creole-speaking population has a political and socioeconomic history very different from the rest of the CARICOM membership. Yet the decision to embrace Haiti as a partner in CARICOM, despite the political and socioeconomic differences, implies that the region has taken an important step in the direction of greater regional cooperation.
Some Lesson about CARICOM Realities of Haiti
CARICOM has had to deal with this reality on several occasions since Haiti’s accession into the regional organization.
CARICOM, whose Member States, deeply affected by the Haitian political crisis during the Presidency of Rene Preval, dispatched a Special Mission to Haiti, which took place January 28-31, 2002 under the leadership of the Hon. Julian R. Hunte, Minister of External Affairs of St. Lucia. The purpose of the visit was to assess the situation and report to the Thirteenth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government, in Belize, February 4-5, 2002. The following recommendations by the Special Mission were adopted:
In January 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Adviser on Haiti, Reginald Dumas, engaged in trying to reconcile conflict that preceded the 200th anniversary of the independence of Haiti in December 2021. Dumas’ intervention was instrumental in guiding the 15-member CARICOM, of which Haiti is a member, to work out a compromise between then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his opponents. A CARICOM plan was established with commitments by both America and Canada to providing resources to strengthen the policy capacity of the OAS special Mission in Haiti. According to an insightful commentary in his biography My Political Journey, P.J. Patterson then Chair of CARICOM revealed that with American troops stretched to the limit with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, France offered to help. This he concluded was when everything changed. “The French never forgot their grudge against Haiti and saw it as an opportunity to pay back Haiti for its audacity in successfully challenging French dominance 200 years earlier". That Aristide rubbed salt into the wounds by declaring that it was France that owed Haiti reparations, changed the whole picture and the resolution on the CARICOM plan which would have otherwise passed in the security Council, did not. Contrary to the expectations of CARICOM, Mr. Aristide eventually left Haiti apparently under duress from the Americans for the Central African Republic. P.J. Patterson’s outrage was not disguised “We had been meticulous in keeping the United States informed every step of the way and we were outraged that it should remove a democratically elected leader in this way".
Some high level interventions led by CARICOM nationals.
There are many Caribbean nationals in the contemporary period who played important roles.
Ambassador Colin Granderson assumed the position of Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations at the CARICOM Secretariat on 1 May 2002. His experience proved to be vital to the discussions about integration of Haiti into CARICOM. He was Ambassador at Large of Trinidad and Tobago in 1993, Executive Director of the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH), a human rights observation mission, February 1993 to March 2000; and served as Coordinator of the Organization of American States Civilian Presence in Haiti during the period October 1992 to February 1993. He was also designated head of mission of the OAS election observation mission for the December 1995 presidential elections and also for the partial legislative and local government elections of April 1997 in Haiti.
In 2007, Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite, in collaboration with Ambassador Granderson was pivotal to the reopening of the CARICOM Representational Office (CRO) with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), three years after it was closed following the interruption of democratic governance in 2004. The office was then located in the Embassy of The Bahamasand had been established at that time with the support of the government of the Kingdom of Norway, Ambassador Earl Huntley, a diplomat and administrator with wide experience including St Lucia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador to the Caribbean Community and head of Saint Lucia’s Foreign Service. The CRO was established to facilitate more speedily the integration of Haiti into CARICOM, with particular emphasis on the Single Market and Economy; identify and mobilize domestic, financial and other resources; promote relations with the media; and undertake public education programmes.
Secretary-General Edwin Carrington in expressing his pleasure at the re-opening of the office said: “The ratification by the Haitian Parliament of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas including the Single Market and the Economy and the re-opening of the Representational Office within two weeks of each other, augur well for the quickening of the pace of the fuller integration of Haiti into CARICOM.”
Among the goals of the project financed by CIDA was to assist Haiti to prepare itself for full participation in the CSME. This was to be done within the context of the wider goal to provide more and better opportunities for the people of CARICOM to participate in and benefit from the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). It also should enable all CARICOM citizens to understand, participate and actively engage in economic activities,”
MINUSTAH and the CARICOM Input
Sandra Honoré Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago who served as the United Nations Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH’s) from May 2013 until its mandate expired on October 15, 2017. She reported optimistically on the result of the successful holding of elections on 20 November 2016 and 29 January 2017, and the significant political outlook the opening of a crucial window of opportunity to address the root causes of the political crisis that preceded the polls. The elections provided for the installation of all directly-elected officials at all levels of Haiti’s governance structure for the first time since 2006, including the peaceful transfer of power to the third democratically-elected President since MINUSTAH’s deployment to Haiti in 2004.
By 2020 , the situation had all but deteriorated. According to reports, lacking the trust of the Haitian people, President Moïse relied on hard power, ruling by decree to remain in office. He created a kind of police state in Haiti, reviving the national army two decades after it was disbanded. He created a domestic intelligence agency with surveillance powers. He effectively shuttered the Haitian legislature by refusing to hold parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2020 and summarily dismissed all of the country’s elected mayors in July 2020, when their terms expired.
In 2018, CDB established a country office in Haiti. In collaboration with the Government it developed a country strategy plan for the period 2017 to 2021, with an indicative resource envelope of USD100 million to help Haiti meet its development priorities. The strategy focuses on three main themes: agriculture and community development, sustainable energy development and education and training. According to the IDB Caribbean Regional Coordinator, Ms. Therese Turner Jones, "we expect that this will lead to the development of closer relationships with the Government and the people of this country, enabling CDB to be a more proactive, responsive development partner,” she said.
CARICOM was involved and abreast with the outpouring of international support for the country in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake. Many Haitian Americans, optimistic that political and social unrest in the country would improve, moved back. CARICOM was also a broker in the subsequent U.N. apologies for its role in the cholera outbreak in 2016. Still people were not compensated for the loss of their family members.
Meanwhile, despite the interventions of PAHO and CARPHA, the coronavirus pandemic has been worsening in Haiti. According to a recent report from UNICEF (July 1), Haiti was the only country in the Western Hemisphere to not have received a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Last month, the Pan American Health Organization warned that the response in the country must be scaled up dramatically to cope with sharply escalating cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Haiti has reported more than 19,000 Covid-19 cases and 467 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. UNICEF also reported that more than 1.5 million children are currently in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Haiti: acute childhood malnutrition among children under five increased by 61% last year and admissions of severely malnourished children in health facilities across Haiti jumped by 26% in the first three months of this year, it added.
At the same time, the country is facing a dire economic situation. Its economy had been contracting even before the pandemic and shrunk further 3.8% in 2020, with about 60% of the population now living in poverty, according to the World Bank.
Throughout this Blog, GOFAD has highlighted a series of lessons learned and CARICOM professionals who have been engaged in the Haiti imbroglio. Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community seem resolved to assert the Region's role in fashioning meaningful integration of Haiti into CARICOM. A well-structured engagement must include these experts with actual experience in its trials, tribulations and prospects. It would focus on identifying what worked? Why or Why not? How to revamp the basic ingredients of change to achieve social and political development? What kinds of partnerships are required to generate sustainable development? To what extent is civil society a viable resource for building a cohesive esprit de corps? Answers to these issues may yet provide some modicum of hope to restore the virtues of the Black Jacobinsto which the Caribbean political historian, CLR James so elegantly extolled in his epic book. Both CARICOM and Haiti stand to gain.
Several notable events in June brought the curtains down on 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 was passed in the Senate in February, 2006 following which, President George H.W. Bush issued the proclamation in June 2006. Since then, the White House has issued an annual Proclamation recognizing June as Caribbean-American Heritage Month. The Proclamation issued by President Biden for 2021, has been a catalyst for Caribbean action.
Public Diplomacy Engagement Programme (PDEP)
The Washington DC based Caucus of CARICOM Ambassadors to the USA and OAS under chairperson, H.E Anthony Phillip-Spencer, Trinidad and Tobago Ambassador spearheaded an exciting initiative on International Day of the Tropics (June 29th). Under the theme, Public Diplomacy Engagement Programme (PDEP) , the Caucus established programme tracks for advancing US-Caribbean cooperation in an iterative process that takes advantage of the Biden’s administration stated commitments to the Region. This initiative is a direct response to the mandate from the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in February 2021. In this regard, the CARICOM Region is accustomed to establishing these partnerships with the US over the years with variable results and sometimes disappointments about the under-achievements of their aspirational goals. What is unique about the PDEP is that the 5 engagement tracks evolved out of consultations between the Caucus and the Caribbean Diaspora. Its objectives for success are therefore based on the reality that they converge with the stated priorities of the new US administration.
Among the more specific tracks are those that advocate for the following:
Fostering a Dynamic US/Caribbean Strategic Agenda
There is another initiative that is worthy of note. The Institute of Caribbean Studies, whose founding President is Dr. Claire Nelson of Jamaican origin has presented a multi-year strategy for US-Caribbean relations. Its programmes cover the same areas as the PDEP. Under the theme Fostering a Dynamic US/Caribbean Strategic Agenda Green Paper April 2021, the draft document provides some concrete recommendations for partnerships that include the private sector and civil society in both US and the Caribbean. It builds out a multi-year strategy based on the recommendations of US Public Law No 114-291 (HR 493) passed in 2016 intended to foster US policy to increase engagement between the US and Caribbean.
The The ICS Green Paper is most interesting from the view point that it identifies how COVID has dramatized the need for diversification of Caribbean economies and the role that agencies such as the Private Investment Corporation, the Inter American Foundation EXEM Bank, National Science Foundation and the Wilson Center can play. It acknowledges the role of the CARICOM Consular corps in deepening multilateral diplomacy and partnerships with agencies such as the Inter American Human Rights to achieve what it refers to as citizen security. The interesting point of departure from the PDEP is the emphasis on Citizen Diplomats at the grass roots, advocating among their Congressional, Senate and wide range of state representatives for the value of the Caribbean Sea and to champion the calls for vaccine equity and reducing violent crime. The draft report also places emphasis on the role of multilateral diplomacy of which the CARICOM Consular corps are pivotal to linking the Caribbean Diaspora through agencies like the Inter American Human Rights to address common issue of equity and justice.
That the ICS draft includes some base line information helps to make its case more poignantly.
In relation to trade and Investment it places the Caribbean Basin Recovery Act and the Caribbean Trade Partnership in context. It illustrates that the US enjoys a trade surplus with CARICOM ranging from US$ 3.24b and US$ 4.17b; the Caribbean purchases 75% of food and beverages from US while US purchases 25 % of the produce and services from the Caribbean; and the Tax information Exchange Agreement with all Caribbean countries and migration of skilled labour from Caribbean to US provide the US with immeasurable advantages. ICS recommends the need for more balanced trading relations including access of Caribbean farmers and service producers to US markets that arguably would reduce migration from the Caribbean to US.
Building a Bridge of Hope
Like the PDEP, ICS highlights the need to promote equity due in opposition to the US’ impositions of constraints on financial services and corresponding banking which are the second largest contributor to the GDP in Caribbean countries. The common call is for financial deregulation and digitization for agro-business and enhancing food security. But ICS is bolder in its advocacy for maintaining levels of H1 and H2 visas to Caribbean citizens and for the US offering Diaspora bonds as tax breaks for remittances that contribute to social investment programmes and social safety nets for the Caribbean.
The two initiatives in this blog offer opportunities for a new beginning in US-Caribbean relationship. What is required is a formula for sustained dialogue among the Caribbean Diaspora and the Caucus of Ambassadors; a concerted effort for the initiatives of the Caucus and ICS to be fully discussed and reconciled; and most importantly, for CARICOM leadership, despite commitments to national sovereignty to demonstrate its collective commitment to a common platform of engagement with the Caribbean Diaspora. Both the Caucus of Ambassadors and the ICS have offered some hope. The question is can we marshall these initiatives to ensure that Caribbean-American Heritage Month truly unfolds as a bridge for sustainable US – Caribbean partnership.
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.