This week’s blog is being presented by Prof Anthony Bryan, Senior Associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, DC and former Director of the Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies, St Augustine. He advises that while Guyana celebrated “First Oil” on 20 December 2019, the focus of this blog is on "first lift" scheduled by March 2020. He explains that “First lift is the technical term referring to the method that involves the use of artificial means to increase the flow of crude oil from a production well. That is when an abundant amount of crude is actually produced to meet the objectives of barrels daily”.
The Commonwealth has an estimated 232 billion barrels of oil reserves or about 17% of the world’s total. Reserves from 17 member countries contribute to this stock. Canada and Nigeria are the leaders. Guyana is about to join the team in a big way.
By the end of November 2019, the international oil companies (IOCs) Exxon-Mobil and Tullow Oil had made a record of 16 oil discoveries in the Stabroek Block of the deep water Guyana -Suriname Basin and ExxonMobil was preparing to begin oil production at the Liza Phase 1 well site. Production from that field should reach 120,000 barrels a day (b/d) in 2020.
Guyana’s first lift is expected by March 2020. By 2025 production could be 750,000 b/d and by the end of the decade, more than one million b/d of oil equivalent. Under the current Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) the IOCs have a 75% cost recovery with the remaining 25% profit oil equally split between the licensees and Guyana. The current royalty rate is 2%.
The impact on the Guyanese economy can be convulsive. In 2020 it will grow by 86%, and the per capita income could more than double to US$10,000. Rystad Energy estimates that national revenue will amount to more than US$117 billion over the lifetime of the projects.
With the windfall, and a population of less than 800,000 inhabitants, Guyana could become one of the world’s richest nations per capita. Obviously it will not happen overnight. The IOCs have to recover their investment and projected peak production is still some years away. The geology is right. But a national sense of euphoria is high and caution may be in short supply.
There are some harsh realities. Guyana is new to the game of oil and gas production. Four years ago it had no known oil reserves. Now it must race to provide the necessary legislation, institutional structures and management for first oil. Crafting oil legislation is a new experience for the Guyanese.
As a frontier oil province, the country is vulnerable to the many ‘above ground’ pitfalls that could accompany the boom. The explosion of money might be difficult to absorb and to manage. Inflation can rise stifling the development of other industries. The immediate danger is that any government will leverage now on future earnings taking on more debt.
The looming pitfall is the ‘resource curse’ or the ‘paradox of plenty’ where the destabilisation of traditional economic sectors occurs as the country becomes overly dependent on exports of a single commodity. Some cash-poor but resource-rich countries tend to be less developed precisely because of their resource wealth.
The government must ensure that the country has all the provisions in place to earn its fair share of the windfall. The population can become frustrated at the lack of any immediate tangible benefits that they may have expected from the oil revenues. Managing public expectations is critical. Regulations must be developed to protect against environmental degradation including oil spills. And finally there is the elephant in the room – namely leadership corruption – which is rampant in some emerging oil states. Maybe Guyana does not have such levels of corruption; but oversight institutions are crucial in order to combat this curse.
There are positive signs. In 2017, Guyana joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) that will monitor its resource governance. A sovereign wealth fund (SWF) has been established to invest and spend oil revenues in a manner that transcends political cycles and generations. Parliament has passed the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) that will strengthen revenue management. The government has also put forward a Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2040 (GSDS) that is the roadmap for an economy defined by sustainable, efficient, low-carbon and resilient development for successive generations. The hydrocarbon resource revenues are expected to be the catalyst for growth and funding of the GSDS.
The key to Guyana’s success is the effective management of the oil and gas sector. Unfortunately, the political impasse in 2019 has delayed the implementation of some institutional arrangements for the management of the sector. The best laid plans are useless unless they are implemented.
Since oil is a depleting asset, the primary question is how to convert the income flows into physical, human and financial capital that can benefit generations. To that end, should Guyana seek to keep the oil in the ground for longer periods or to extract it rapidly and diversify into a more sustainable economy in case the value of the resource diminishes?
The oil price fluctuates constantly. Drilling is going on worldwide. The planet is awash with oil. Hydrocarbons will be with us for some decades to come, but they will be replaced eventually by forms of renewable energy. Guyana will prosper if the massive revenue quickly transforms the economy and the quality of life for its citizens. I am cautiously optimistic.
The Nobel Prize in Economics 2019 was awarded in November to Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) jointly with Michael Kremer, professor at Harvard University. This trio has often worked together, and their joint research has been acclaimed to considerably improve our ability to fight global poverty. According to the citation “in just two decades their new experiment-based approach has transformed development economics which is now a flourishing field of research.” The book by Banerjee and Duflo, Good Economics in Bad Times is the focus of this blog. The authors are the sixth married couple to win the prize, with Dufflo being the youngest. Unlike previous winners, mostly older white males whose grand theories are built upon mathematics of dizzying complexities, they have made a name for themselves by studying the circumstances of the world’s poorest people. This Book is absorbing. It reads like a novel. It presents complex issues in simple concepts. It is, indeed, Good Economics.
The theme of this blog underscores the substance of the book, Good Economics in Bad Times by Banerjee and Duflo. In the introduction they expressed concerns about the superficial nature of public conversation on core economic issues such as immigration, trade, growth, inequality and the environment. They recognized the lack of awareness that problems facing the rich countries in the world were actually often eerily familiar to those they were studying in the developing world. In both, people are left behind by development, ballooning inequality, lack of faith in government, fractured societies and political systems and so on. The real world, they argue, is “sticky”, in contrast to the picture presented in textbooks. They write that “Economics imagines a world of irrepressible dynamism, in which rational actors respond quickly to incentives. Not so in practice."
The Book is a sequel to their 2011 book Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the way to fight Global Poverty. That study outlined how randomized controlled social policy trials, like clinical ones in medicine are cutting edge economic research. Their major objective is using research to fix thorny problems. And their philosophy is, rather than grand theorists, economists should see themselves as plumbers, practical ‘tinkerers’ interested above all in whether interventions actually work. “We wrote a book to hold on to hope, about where economic policy failed; where ideology has blinded us; where we have missed the obvious; about where and why good economics is useful especially in today’s world”
The authors' campaign is for vigilance against bad ideas. They elaborate the dynamics of “transitions”, meaning how people shift from job to job or from one region to another or how the unemployed, anxious about risk and attached to where they live, are much less likely to move far to seek work than economic theory suggests. Overcoming bad ideas are elaborated in various scenarios throughout the book. Takeaways that seem to diverge from traditional economics include:
A startling revelation based on actual surveys undertaken in various regions both in the developing and developed world is that people mistrust economists with only politicians ranked lower. Hence corrective action requires recognizing that the world is a sufficiently complicated and uncertain place and that the most valuable thing economists have to share is often not their conclusions, but the path they took to reach it. This means highlighting “the facts they knew, the way they interpreted those facts, the deductive steps they took, the remaining sources of their uncertainty.”
Economics, when done right, can help solve the thorniest social and political problems.
Banerjee and Duflo highlight the need for careful programme design to break through on some of the most intractable challenges. Drawing on the World Inequality data base between 2000 and 2018, they came to the amazingly bleak conclusion that “figuring the way out of this impasse [elimination of inequality] poses greater challenges than space travel, perhaps even the curing of cancer.” This is due to people’s distrust of government, the elite , NGOs, the private sector and different social groups. Yet they remain optimistic that "what we as economists have learned best to do, is to be hard headed about the facts, skeptical of slick answers and magic bullets, modest and honest about what we know and understand, and perhaps most importantly, willing to try ideas and solutions and be wrong, as long as it takes us toward the ultimate goal of building a more humane world".
Good Economics based on a wealth of community based research strongly suggests the high social value of, say, early childhood education, investing in human capital and gender equity. It also shows that immigration and inequality, globalization and technological disruption, slowing growth and accelerating climate change are sources of great anxiety across the world. The resources to address these challenges are there. Lacking, however, are ideas that will help jump the wall of disagreement and distrust that divides us. Hence the protection against bad ideas is to be vigilant, resist the obvious, be skeptical about promised miracles and resist quack remedies that replace policy analysis. To them the call for action is not just for academic economists, "it is for all of us who want a better, saner, more humane world. Economics is too important to be left to the economists"
The decade of 2020 has begun with St Vincent and the Grenadines and Guyana headlining the Caribbean at the helm of global leadership at the United Nations. On January 2, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) signified the magnitude of its international status, the smallest country ever to sit on the Security Council, the highest UN organ. It is one of 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council, which also comprises 5 permanent members. At the UWI Vice Chancellor’s Forum on November 7, 2019, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves aptly described this moment as “St. Vincent and the Grenadines representing the World but with geographic interests of the Caribbean civilization". It is important to note that St. Vincent and the Grenadines continues its year as Chair of the Caribbean ACP Forum (CARIFORUM) and will assume the Chair of CARICOM in July, 2020.
At the same time, Guyana succeeds Palestine as Chair of the Group of Group of 77 (G-77). A formal handover on January 15, is significant. G-77 is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations. It provides the means for advancing South-South Cooperation and for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues within the United Nations system.
For The Record
This is not the first time that Caribbean countries have held prestigious positions in the UN system. In 1993, H. E. Mr. Samuel R. Insanally, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations, had the distinction of being the first CARICOM representative to be elected to the Presidency of the General Assembly. At the 58th General Assembly, in 2003, Ambassador Julian Hunte of St Lucia assumed the Presidency. Previous CARCOM non-permanent members of the Security Council include Guyana (1976 and 1983 ); Jamaica (1980 and 2000); and Trinidad and Tobago (1986). In the case of Chairs of G-77 the record shows: Jamaica 1977 and 2005; Guyana 1999 and Antigua and Barbuda 2008 .
What is at Stake
At the start of the new Decade of 2020, the international arena is consumed by mandates to achieve the comprehensive targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Within this framework for action, the most prominent for both the Security Council and the G77 are peace and security, climate change, equality and inclusiveness and financing for development. In recent years, the Security Council has found the Syrian conflict particularly difficult to manage, with Russia using its veto powers to bloc resolutions aimed at making the Assad regime accountable for atrocities documented by UN sources. St.Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will no doubt be involved in the debates on (a) institutional change resulting from the outsized power of veto wielding member states; (b) the issue of aspirants to permanent status including Brazil, Germany and India; (c) the peace keeping mandates including the scope, cost and abuses of peacekeepers; and (d) the case of protection of civilians and migrants, especially grave violations against children in conflict situations. It is reasonable to assume that the Caribbean interests in the Security Council will, in addition, revolve around achieving the goals of the Paris agreement on Climate Change; the priorities of the Alliance of Small Island States(AOSIS), upholding international humanitarian law, UN reform, the Convention on land degradation and comprehensive agreement on biodiversity and deforestation.
Within the G-77, Guyana as Chair may have greater leverage than SVG as a non-permanent member of the Security council. This has more to do with the structure of the G-77 and the more flexible scope of its programme than with the competence of the diplomats involved. The First Ministerial meeting of the G-77 held in Algeria in October 1967, and the adoption of the Charter of Algiers, the Group of 77 laid down the institutional mechanisms and structures that have contributed to shaping the international development agenda and changing the landscape of the global South for the past five decades. Over the years, the Group has gained an increasing role in the determination and conduct of international relations through global negotiations on major North-South and development issues. Today, the G-77 remains the only viable and operational mechanism in multilateral economic diplomacy within the U.N system. The growing membership to 135 members is proof of its enduring strength. Based on a public opinion survey by the Pew Research Center among G-77 Leaders 2018-2019, the emerging priorities include global financial stability, global economic stability, climate change, energy and the environment, technological innovation and cybersecurity, trade and investment and women empowerment. In addition, the sectoral meetings of G-77 in areas such as food and agriculture, energy, trade and finance, science and technology, industrialization and sustainable development, allows for increased participation by and in a variety of member states.
Grasping Opportunities to enhance Profile and Influence
On the basis of lessons learned, success arising from leadership positions for the Caribbean depends on a number of factors. Among them: the international environment, whether stable or volatile; cooperation among developed and developing country partners; technical and negotiating capability required to broker patterns of conflict and conflict management; financial sustainability to support administration and diplomacy and the backing of CARICOM Member states.
There are other success factors that must be considered to enhance the roles of SVG and Guyana in the leadership structures of the UN. Among them are adherence to a coordinated regional foreign policy, one of the pillars of CARICOM; recognition that the purpose of foreign policy is to utilize sovereignty to engage in multilateral/bilateral arrangements; sustaining and promoting the Caribbean as a zone of peace; standing firm on the AOSIS agenda for Climate action and building coalitions of the willing.
As St Vincent and the Grenadines and Guyana embark on their respective journeys, it seems timely to refer Caribbean political leaders, diplomats, technicians, students and all citizens to the seminal works of Dr. Richard Bernal, The Influence of Small States on Superpowers and Hon. Camillo Gonsalves Globalized Climatized, Stigmatized. These two books inspire new thinking about small states exceptionalism: excelling in the international arena and the dynamics of the global reach of Caribbean leadership.
Richard Bernal, Influence of Small States on Superpowers, Lexington Books, 2015,
Camillo Gonsalves, Globalized, Climatized and Stigmatized, Independently published, 2019.
This blog is being written on New Year's Day 2020 when so many resolutions abound. As we reflected on the past Decade and in particular on the tenor and themes of our blogs during 2019, it became clear that activism for change was stimulated and dominated by the Youth across the regions of the World. We could only reference a few among the multitude that have had or could have a lasting impact. Their common denominators ranged from the fight for equality and social justice; demands to reduce poverty and violence, standing up against corrupt leadership; to articulating their active role in decision making, the need for greater civic participation and increasing access to health, sexual and reproductive rights, and educational facilities. Indeed, the sum total of most of the activism inspired by youth leadership covers the 17 Susutainable Development Goals (SDGs) on which hinge major targets of our universal resolutions: peace, security, happiness, and success. These are all targets that would make the World a better place in which to live.
Among a sample of youth activism, I reflect on four (4)
Resolutions are not enough: We need Action
Reflecting on these illustrations of Youth Activism, it is important to note that the Arab Springs despite the hope it brought for democracy, has witnessed a reversal toward even greater tyranny and violence in the Middle East. President Donald Trump has reversed the gains from the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest and the hopes of the Parkland 'March for our lives' has yet to yield substantive gun reform in the USA. Even the robust Gen Z movement admits to being ignored. However, by chance I came across an inspirational book by Marley Dias, a teenage wonder who started the #1000blackgirl books. Her mission for racial harmony is a campaign to inspire kids to make the world a better place and make their dreams come true. I have only read Marley Gets it Done and So can You, one of 4 books she has written. It is inspirational, creative, daring and fills the gap between hope and action. We plan to explore her other books and make them the subject of a review.
Given that GOFAD has spent several blogs illustrating the role of youth and Climate action, there is no other commentary that fully illustrates the title of this blog than the TED Talk by the 2019 Times Person of the Year, 16 year old Greta Thunberg, given one year ago. Let me let her tell you why meaningful New Year's resolutions must transcend hope with action. School strike for climate - save the world by changing the rules | Greta Thunberg | TEDxStockholm (Greta Thunberg | TEDxStockholm)
With every good wish for a New Year of bountiful happiness and success.
Notwithstanding the apprehensions of many observers noted in last week’s blog, we awaited the outcomes of COP 25 in Madrid with anticipation. The following statement from the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres aptly expresses the disappointing result: “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis". His assessment is fully endorsed by most of the reports that GOFAD was able to source. A final set of documents fell short on both the meeting’s main goals. They agreed on only weak and watered down commitments to the drastic cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases that had been promised. And a decision on regulations for new international carbon markets was deferred until next year in Glasgow at COP 26 (December 2020). Despite the disappointments, there are building blocks for future success in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement (2015). Because Madrid failed to clarify so many key issues, the onus now falls on the UK to resolve many of the most challenging questions. In Glasgow, the question of loss and damage, of carbon markets, transparency and many other technical issues will need to be solved. Most importantly, the countries will have to agree on a major boost in their carbon cutting if the world is to keep the rise in global temperatures under 1.5c this century.
Future success will depend on several factors. Chief among these, are a) reducing the disconnect among COP stakeholders, and b) pursuing collective leadership.
Reducing the Disconnect between the Larger polluters and the Smaller, Poorer, Less Polluting Countries
It was generally portrayed that major players including the larger polluters who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations. Yet, the presence and programmes highlighted by smaller, poorer, less polluting countries highlighted the worst impacts of climate change and reminded everyone what is at stake. So too were the expertise and dedication of the many hundreds of diplomats, researchers and policymakers who attended the summit alongside the politicians and the demonstrators who took to the streets for the past 18 months. This disconnect was the difference between the urgency underlined by the latest science, the demands for more ambitious climate targets from school strikers around the world, and the ‘torturous, convoluted nature of the talks’. Sriram Madhusoodanan from Corporate Accountability, a campaign group that monitors the presence of the oil and gas industry at COP said : “It's clear that civil society is at a boiling point, they are frustrated with the glacial pace and they are livid with the presence of polluters and their trade associations.” But for civil society and the persistence of the protestors progress would be even slower. Special reference also must be made to the progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American and Caribbean countries for achieving the best possible outcome against the will of big polluters. Laurence Tubiana from the European Climate Foundation, and an architect of the Paris agreement, described the result as "really a mixed bag, and a far cry from what science tells us is needed." See 'Never have I seen such a disconnect'.
The importance of Collective Leadership
An insightful BBC report reminds us that COP25 in Madrid only happened because the Chilean government, faced with mounting civil disorder, decided to cancel the meeting in Santiago and that Spain stepped in and in three weeks organised a well-resourced and well-run event. However, the fact that it was being run by one government, while hosted by another, gave rise to severe difficulties. The Report stated that “delegates were highly critical of the fact that when it came to the key text about ambition, the Chileans presented the lowest common denominator language first, resulting in a huge number of objections from countries eager to see more ambition on carbon cuts”. At the same time, experienced COP watchers said they should have started with high ambition and negotiated down to a compromise. It is therefore instructive that avoiding these anomalies should be an important outcome of the September 2020 in Liepzig encounter in preparation for the COP 26 Leadership in preparation for Glasgow. The hope is that by then the EU would have formalised its zero-carbon long term goal; updated its 2030 pledge to cut emissions by 55% of 1990 levels; and secure agreement from the Chinese to improve their nationally determined contribution (NDC). Back in 2014 the climate pact signed by President Obama and President Xi Jinping became the lynchpin of the Paris Agreement.
Rays of Hope from Latin America and the Caribbean
There is an opportunity for countries of the south acting in consort to make a difference especially in securing positive commitments to achieving zero carbon emissions, mitigating climate migration and stimulating positive provision for loss and damage in response to catastrophic damage.
Movement to Zero Carbon Emissions
The Zero Carbon Latin America and the Caribbean 2019 Report builds on the first Zero Carbon Report (2016), which called on the region to focus in the full decarbonization of four areas that produce 90 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions: power generation, transportation, land use and industry. It predicts that the transition to full decarbonization in these specific sectors will create further benefits, such as 7.7 million new permanent jobs and 28 million job-years in assignments related to green technologies, infrastructure deployment or transport electrification. The new edition was produced with the support of EUROCLIMA, a programme funded by the European Union, and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).
Prime Minster Mia Mottley’s Call to Action on Mitigating Climate Migration
The call by Prime Minister Mia Motley speaking on behalf of the Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) at the UN Climate action Summit is worth restating. It was for integrating human mobility in the COP and more generally in discussions on climate change as essential to prevent forced migration and support people who will be forced to leave their communities due to phenomena such as sea level rise, desertification, the melting of glaciers, the acidification of the ocean, droughts and hydrometeorological threats. By bringing together all parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the COPs represent the ideal platform to advance these discussions and achieve international consensus to address climate migration.
Caribbean Pavilion sponsored by CDB and the Case for a Pan Caribbean Partership for Climate Action
The Caribbean contributes negligibly to global carbon emissions, but still bears the brunt of climate change impacts. As a result the issue of loss and damage that was inconclusive at COP 25, must be in forefront of urgent decisions in light of recent catastrophic damage caused by Category 5 Hurricanes, Irma and Maria in 2017, and Dorian in 2019. The Caribbean pavilion at COP 25 represented a platform for several regional bodies, including CDB, the Caribbean Community and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) as well as extra-regional bodies, such as the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). This
strong presence with areas for debate and information sharing also represents a justification for a Pan Caribbean Partnership on Climate Action advocated in GOFAD’a Blog (October 10, 2019).
In preparing for COP 26 the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre which is responsible for coordinating the Region’s response to climate change, must press for financing a cooler planet, moving beyond business as usual and coming within striking distance of net-zero emissions by 2050. A long-term perspective that accounts for how spending on new technologies today may lower the cost of reducing emissions in the future is provided by Kenneth Gillingham wrestled with in a new 2100-word piece .
Youth Standing up for Human Rights: Demands resonating at COP 25 in Madrid With Apologies to our ChildrenRead Now
This blog is being written on World Human Rights Day (December 10, 2019). The theme, “Youth Standing up for Human Rights“ aptly describes their interventions at the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid, now in its second and final week. Reports highlight the involvement of young people in climate policy making, and demands that their rights be respected. By the time this blog is posted, the decisions from COP 25 should reveal if their demands have fallen on deaf ears. These twin events have triggered some random thoughts about the wide ranging scope of youth, human rights and the future.
Generally, Human Rights Day commemorates the day — December 10, 1948 - when the General Assembly of the UN adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This Declaration, one of UN’s major achievements, stipulates universal values and a shared standard of achievement for everyone in every country. While the Declaration is not a binding document, it inspired over 60 human rights instruments that today make a common standard of human rights. It is the most translated document around the globe, available in over 500 languages. More specifically, under the 2019 universal call to action "Stand Up for Human Rights," the aim is to celebrate the potential of youth as constructive agents of change, amplifying their voices, and engaging with a broad range of global audiences in the promotion and protection of rights.
Beyond the symbolism of World Human Rights Day, there are several examples of the power of youth in human rights initiatives that have multiplier effects by engaging wider communities. Amnesty International Kenya, for example, is a youth led inter-University Human Rights Debate. It was founded in 2012 to create a culture of human rights awareness and activism and influence knowledge, skills and capacity among young people. Human Rights Watch, that investigates and reports on human rights abuses around the world ranging from Syria's civil war, refugees in Europe, US Immigration and mass killings in the Philippines makes specific reference to the role of young people with political aspirations becoming involved in conflict resolution through participation in civic life. This is due to the fact that civic organizations tend to have lower access barriers, are less ideological, have greater “community focus” and are more “issue oriented” than political parties or other pressure groups.
More focused is Human Rights Day in South Africa that is historically linked with March 21, 1960, and the events of Sharpeville. Then, by coincidence or design, the digitization of the collection of Rosa Parks documents in the Library of Congress in New York was opened to the public on 2019 World Human Rights Day. Among the records highlighted at the launch were documents of Parks' affiliation with organizations and institutions including the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self- Development, an organization she founded with Elaine Eason Steele to promote youth development and civil rights education.
More far reaching in scope is the proclamation by United Nations General Assembly of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. It is to be noted that World Indigenous
Peoples Day, highlighting a population of 375-500 Million, occupying 22% of global land area, is celebrated on August 9th. However, the focus on indigenous languages aims at raising global attention on the critical risks to peoples representing the greater part of the world's diversity and speaking the major share of the world's 7000 languages. Most notable is that UNSECO has promoted the power of Language Technologies (LT) to make sure indigenous languages are preserved and promoted worldwide.
Sanguine reflections triggered by COP 25
Reflections on World AIDS Day and the remarkable efforts of Youth at COP 25 in Madrid have led to a search for the examples of the far reaching effects of human rights that defy the meaning of a one day celebration. The reports from Madrid so far signal the need for relentless all year round activism. Up to half a million people took part in a march in Madrid in support of rapid climate action, but according to observers, 'negotiators haven't got the message'.
This blog is being written when The Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid has commenced. Over the next 2 weeks leaders and technocrats from participating countries will be debating policies and programmes resulting from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Among the key alignments, are limiting carbon emissions, attaining green agendas, supporting geoscience, highlighting clean energy, rationalizing fossil fuel investments, implementing carbon taxes and expediting the Climate Investment Fund.
From COP 25 to GIPEX 2 in Guyana
While we await the decisions from COP 25, it is important to note that a most informative event, the 2nd Annual Guyana International Petroleum Business Summit and Exhibition (GIPEX 2019), was held at the Guyana Marriott, November 20-22 hosted by the Office of the Presidency, Department of Energy in collaboration with Exxon Mobile as a strategic Partner and several other events organizers, supporting partners and lead sponsors. The GIPEX 2019 Summit was complemented by an Exhibition that attracted a wide cross section of the Guyanese public, no doubt sensitizing them to the possibilities of opportunities in the new economy. The event was held against a backdrop of impressive developments with potential for rapid economic growth. Guyana is poised to achieve first oil (production) later this month. Its good fortune according to the Department of Energy is illustrated by 16 petroleum discoveries with an estimated recoverable barrels in excess of 6 billion, foreign direct investments of US500M, the creation of 1357 jobs and the establishment of 70 joint ventures and partnerships. The main focus of the Summit was on streamlining the operations within the oil and gas sector while paying particular attention to the Guyana’s commitment to the Green State as a foundation for its sustainable development.
While the depth of the presentations and richness of the discussions cannot be adequately captured in this brief sketch, it is important to note the wide array of experts that participated. They ranged from geologists, petroleum engineers and senior level managers in oil and gas to specialists in risks, assessment and insurance, digital transformation, economic diversity, and green development initiatives. Their presentations established the complexity of the challenges and prospects for achieving success in Guyana’s new venture. For example, Dr William Heins, Product Ambassador at GETECK, UK, renowned geologist, explained through the “mirror theory” that many more successful explorations are to be expected in Guyana. The experiences of other oil producing countries included officials from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mauritius, Nigeria, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Not only did they amplify the 'mirror theory' but also identified the business models, the new economics of deep water exploration, protection plans to ensure minimal environmental disruption, preparedness and appropriate responses to oil hazard substance and chemical pollution. These lessons to be learned will be of enormous financial benefits for Guyana and its potential to accelerate sustainable development. More specifically so, since Guyana's genetics and mineral heritage imply possible uptakes in gold, diamonds, bauxite and semi-precious stones also.
The Issue of Local Content
The time from exploration to production has been relatively short. Hence there is need to accelerate and put in place, laws, training and capacity building. A very useful set of discussions on enhancing local content, centered around how to use the “big boon” to benefit value chain opportunities for revenues obtained from natural resources to be diversified and invested in other sectors. This included a very interesting exchange of ideas among senior policy makers and innovators on strategies to protect eco-systems and biodiversity, as well as discussions on development of eco-tourism, infrastructure and towns along the river. But to establish a firm basis for these achievements require skilled negotiators, experts in energy law, provision for local companies to be given first consideration, certification and duty waivers for capacity building. In this regard, one outcome from GIPEX was the signing of an MOU between the University of Guyana and Halliburton, US oil and gas provider for US$2M to support the Faculty of Engineering and Technology for skills building.
There is also need for public education to manage expectations. Kwame Jantuah, Ghana’s Head of Africa’s Consortium Limited reflected on the lessons learned from his country on the issue of local content. There was a national outcry that oil companies were not interested in hiring their welders and fabricators, not understanding that these skills in the oil industry are much different from the normal industries and therefore required special training. Among the innovations he referred to were turning fisher folk into divers since they had no fear of the sea, teaching them new skills in underwater fabrication and maintenance of sub-sea infrastructure and training welders to maintain containerized cargo units. Of all the takeaways this one resonates most: “ Be very careful of the big word corruption … The oil and gas industry is big enough to take care of everyone if local content is practiced in favor of people and there must be trust, transparency and accountability and above all a long term development plan that will help invest the revenue equitably “
A critical factor to be further explored is optimizing wealth creation of the petroleum sector for emerging local producers to identify the opportunities, gaps and challenges that hinder citizens from actively participating in the sector. Allied to this are accelerating the growth of national capacity and strengthening the bonds of inclusivity in the context of a Green State.
“Communities are supported to exercise their powers to choose, know and demand that governments accelerate their efforts to achieve HIV, Health and Development goals” Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director UNAIDS.
World AIDS Day provides the ideal occasion to join scientists, activists, practitioners and people living with and affected by AIDS around the world in celebrating the successes that have been achieved. In the Caribbean 55 % of PLHIV are on treatment compared with less than 5% in 2001;deaths from AIDS are one quarter of what it was in 2001 because of access to treatment; seven (7) Caribbean countries out of 11 worldwide have achieved the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis and four others are in close range of this achievement. There is even the aspirations that AIDS, based on the 90-90-90 UNAIDS targets can be ended by 2030, if by next year, 90% of persons with HIV get tested, 90% that are tested positive are on treatment and 90% of those on treatment have viral suppression at a level that does not transmit the disease. Yet there are indications that at best only three Caribbean countries are on track to achieve these targets and the need for caution against complacency that will contribute to reversing these gains.
The Convergence of Community Led Organizations and Community Led Responses
This year it is appropriate that World AIDS Day focuses on communities. They make a difference. Whether as Community led organizations or as Community led responses, they represent the voices of the marginalized. They champion the causes for inclusiveness and equality that are fundamentals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Community led organizations comprise identifiable groups or networks that are determined by and respond to the needs and aspirations of their constituents. Community led responses provide strategies that seek to improve the health and human rights of constituencies. In the context of World AIDS day , “Community-led”, in principle, is an umbrella term that includes people living with HIV, key populations, women, youth, and all self-organized groups. In practice, it focuses on advocacy, campaigning and holding decision makers to account; promoting service delivery, capacity building, and funding of community-led organizations, groups, and networks. These activities may take place at the global, regional, national, subnational, and grassroots levels.
For the Caribbean, making a difference at the community level has always been driven by the regional response from the inception of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV in 2001. The four (4) iterations of the Caribbean Regional Strategic Plans (CRSF): 2002-2007, 2008-2013, 2014-2018 and 2019-2025 have provided the blueprint for the partnership that comprises governments, civil society , private sector representatives, development partners and a specific set of stakeholder groups. Chief among which are parliamentarians, faith leaders, key populations and youth. The CRSFs have consistently acted as guidelines for activities on the ground which include national and community engagements and through broad based consultations among its various stake holders
PANCAP was the first Regional entity to ever receive a grant from the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) in 2004, while sub regional partners such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States HIV Programme and the Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV (CRN+) were the first of their kind to also receive support for strengthening the reach of their programmes in the areas of prevention and treatment in 2004 and 2006 respectively. As the umbrella organization PANCAP’s modus operandum involves close engagements with the highest level regional decision making authorities: the Caribbean Heads of Government and the Council of Human and Social Development on which sits Ministers of Health, Education, Culture , Youth and Gender Affairs and which formulates policies that ensure implementation of CRSF’s priorities at country level. With the reduction in donor funding for HIV to the Caribbean based on the invidious classification of high and upper income countries, PANCAP’s advocacy has contributed in no small measure to the agreement at CARICOM Council of Ministers of Finance and Planning (July 2018) to make provision for funding the country integrated health priorities that contribute to SDG #3 including ending AIDS by 2030.
This is the context in which the vital role of CVC-C in community engagement can best be appreciated.
The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities -Coalition (CVC-C) and Community Engagement
Caribbean Vulnerable Communities initially pioneered by the late Dr Robert Carr in 2005 was a spinoff from and supported by PANCAP. It has evolved into the Caribbean Vulnerable Community Collective (CVC-C) with headquarters in Jamaica and joint operation with Centro de Orientacion e Investigacion Integral (COIN) in the Dominican Republic comprises approximately 40 grass roots civil society groups that work with marginalized populations. These populations are especially vulnerable to HIV due to socioeconomic exclusion, punitive laws and policies, high levels of violence against women and girls and stigma and discrimination across the Caribbean. CVC-C has developed a shared incident data base cataloguing human rights violations for 34 organizations in 11 countries and has provided pro bono legal assistance, community action and outreach in more than 200 cases. In addition, its media work, in some cases, in collaboration with the Caribbean Media Broadcasting Partnership against HIV has advanced the cause of human rights in more than 2000 cases. Among its most prominent roles in community education and media work are to advance human rights for key populations that in collaboration with URAP support activism, especially related to high profile cases in the courts of Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2013 -2014 the joint PANCAP-CVC submission to the 9th GFATM programme placed emphasis on delivery of health care especially in the implementation of primary health, including strong community participation. Community involvement in the Caribbean over the years, has transitioned from family and community led financial, social, and psychological support to the establishment of formal community based HIV support organizations and networks. It now focuses on testing , education and health promotion at the local level and linkages to health services. Community Systems Strengthening in the PANCAP Regional Strategic Framework focuses on supporting key populations networks, facilitating national programming and outreach to and conducting specifically to these populations and conducting in key populations specific monitoring and evaluation and research.
What is important to note that in the most recent GFATM grant, CVC-C and PANCAP made separate submissions and received separate grants. But notwithstanding these developments, they maintained complementarity in the thrust for PANCAP’s engagement with high level policy makers and CVC-C with its focus on community engagements. However, in the implementation of their respective mandates, it is clear that the overlap in the visions and missions is reflected in the PANCAP Justice for All Programme and Roadmap, supported by CVC-C.
There are no better illustrations of the value of this approach than in PANCAP’s consultations with parliamentarians, faith leaders, key populations and civil society with the support of CVC-C. The presentation of CVC-C to the PANCAP Parliamentary Forum in Jamaica In February, 2019 strongly advocated against the criminalization of willful transmission of HIV. CVC-C interventions in other PANCAP fora have helped to shape the policies for inclusion of access of migrant communities to medicines and services, of funding more specifically programmes to reduce the spread of AIDS among prisoners through prevention measures and highlighting the evidence of violence against the LGBTI populations and the need for equitable policies for sex workers.
What has emerged in the next steps of the PANCAP_CVC-C nexus is a project: Removing Barriers to accessing HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Key Populations in the Caribbean (The Global Fund Project) The barriers to be addressed by the Grant Program include:
1. The legal and policy environment that is at odds with a public health response.
2. Harmful societal norms and high levels of stigma and discrimination.
3. Limited capacity of national programs to integrate and implement rights-based approaches.
4. Limited capacity of national programs to provide innovative, evidence-based, high impact services that reach key populations, especially in the area of prevention.
5. Weaknesses in health systems, particularly in the areas of strategic information and l aboratory services.
6. Insufficient attention to sustainability planning and financing.
Building on the uniqueness of the Caribbean Partnership
These are mainly sketches of a vibrant Pan Caribbean Partnership in which CVC_C plays a critical, even defining role in community-led responses, protecting the civic space for the vulnerable and marginalized and promoting the growing importance of innovation in HIV response designed to end the AIDS epidemic. CVC-C’s collaboration with and supporting for PANCAP’s Knowledge for Health Programme, has enhanced the capacity of the partnership to produce baseline evaluations, treatment and adherence goals policies to prevent or reduce secondary transmission through the ground programmes that explore the unique history and reality of the marginalized and vulnerable groups.
This uniqueness has the potential of making community engagement and empowerment in the Caribbean a win-win scenario. In so many ways the Caribbean experience is fully responsive to the clarion call by the new Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima in launching her first UNAIDS Report, Power to the People "UNAIDS to take big steps in a new direction.. the first step is to address inequality and injustices that fuel the HIV epidemic . … it cannot be right that some people get treatment and live long lives while others cannot access health care and die.... We need to provide more services — education, health, social protection. That is how we will end AIDS “
This is an excerpt from the address by Professor Edward Greene at the Dual Ceremony of his Installation as 10th Chancellor and the Graduation Ceremony at the University of Guyana on Saturday, November 16, 2019
I was once told by an eminent Guyanese Historian, the late Professor Elsa Gouveia that “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.”
I see my task as putting this ceremony into a context by connecting the dots and capturing their meaning and purpose. On the one hand, we connect the dots by looking backwards, from whence we came – our achievements, our challenges and the lessons learnt. On the other hand, we aspire, propose priorities and look forward to dotting the future. But in so doing we have to be mindful of the need to give meaning and purpose of this ritual which, for me, is to facilitate the unleashing of our most ambitious imaginings and our profoundest commitments. Connecting the dots, and capturing the meaning and purpose of this ceremony are embedded in my understanding of a University.
My Understanding of a University is not novel nor new. It draws on a body of knowledge, expert assessments and evaluations that connect the dots overtime.
A University is not about results in the next quarter. It is not even about who a student has become by graduating. It is about learning that molds a lifetime, learning that transmits the heritage of millennia; learning that shapes the future. A University looks both backwards and forwards in ways that sometimes conflict with a public’s immediate concerns or demands. Universities make commitments that are timeless, yielding results we cannot predict and often cannot measure.
Universities are curious institutions with varied purposes that they have neither clearly articulated nor adequately justified. This results in public confusion especially at a time when higher education has come to seem as an indispensable social resource. It is therefore understandable that this situation produces a torrent of demands for greater “accountability” for institutions of higher learning.
The University of Guyana is a perfect example of an institution on a development trajectory. One indicator of this is the increasing enrollment from 164 students in 1963 to approximately 1000 in 1981 to over 8,000 in 2018. The graduating class in 1967 was 32 including 28 male and 4 female. This year the graduating class numbers 1918, including 610 male and 1308 female. Herein lies a vivid reminder that in terms of global numbers females are outperforming males. But it is also a reminder that both female and male in this 2019 graduating class, you have been blessed with far greater opportunities for access to higher education than that of your parents and guardians and the generations before. But these opportunities—the link between looking backward and forward—are accompanied by obligations.
As incoming Chancellor, I am still in the process of coming to grips with the steep learning curve. However, I know that as Chairman of the Board (Council as it is called) I must work in partnership with the Vice Chancellor as CEO and the Management Team, and with all stakeholders within and outside the University in building Accountability to the Future. This means:
Among the core values of a University, I highlight six (6)
Creating a New Geography of Learning
This graduation is taking place when the global arena is engaged in delivering the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which the Government of Guyana is one of the 192 signatories. Without going into detail, it is obvious that the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs are interrelated. What this signals is that in preparing students to truly tackle the essence of sustainable development, the University must give due consideration to a new geography of learning that breaks down the silos in designing course offerings: a new geography of learning and builds on the principles of free enquiry and life-long learning. There are useful models of higher education, burgeoning around the globe. Some are like our own experiences and others are unlike our own experiences. A common tendency is for narrowing distances between fields and disciplines, forging interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches, grasping at intertwining the arts and sciences, striving to produce development scientists and recognizing that increasingly, in this transnational and digitized world in which we live, knowledge itself is the most powerful connector. Hence the foresight of UG's administrators through the Academic Board and Council must be highly complemented for approving the introduction of the PhD degree in Biodiversity. Programmes like these truly fit the bill of "transformational", "cutting edge” and "preparing its graduates for a future" that must confront the challenges such as global warming and climate change.
But there is another dimension to the new geography of learning which I attribute to one of my mentors. It is his advice mainly about emotional intelligence. "Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, invite smarter people or find a different room". In academia, it is called collaborating. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships.
Making a Difference and Making the University Relevant
So how do we use our relationships to make a difference and make the University relevant? Our accountability to the future makes additional demands on the citizens of the University which is uniquely multivariate. It is a place of philosophers, artists, adventurists as well as analysts, scientists and activists. It provides the enabling environment for posing the questions of ethics, of discovering the truth and confronting the human, the social and the moral significance of our changing relationships with the natural world. As citizens of the university, we are accountable to one another and to shaping the institution that in turn defines our possibilities and that of future generations. This is so even after you leave this campus. Hence there are certain imperatives: your active roles as alumni, and contribution to the University's welfare must be seen as an investment in ensuring its international recognition and protecting the integrity of your qualifications. Accountability to the future encompasses special requirements: to give back to the University, bolster its development and promote its purpose. Class of 2019, this could be your collective legacy.
Yours is the good fortune to be armed with the knowledge. You had the opportunity. You seized it. But there is much more. You need to recognize your accountability to your community and the wider world. Your accountability to the future is to help to break down those barriers of divisiveness, inherited from generations that have left the scars of racial conflict and discord; of dismantling the coarseness that has crept into our social discourse and the rupturing incivility that has become ingrained into our political culture. As President Obama said in his Eulogy at the memorial service of the late Ranking Congressman Elijah Emmanuel Cummings last month 'being civil and honourable is a moral strength and not a weakness'. Hopefully during your years at UG interacting with a cross section of colleagues and friends—collaborating or competing or grappling with ideas and ideals or confronting a myriad of challenges — you have come to the view that sometimes the only thing that’s important really, is just letting each other know we’re here, reminding each other that we’re part of a larger self.
This is the time for bold measures inspired by this ritual today. It is not about individual egos. It is about collective leadership that must be put to the benefit of this country. Yours is the generation of graduates fortunate to emerge at the cusp of a projected buoyant economy in this dear land of Guyana. It is the Eldorado (and I don't mean Eldorado 15) of which your parents and their parents dreamed. Your reality is to recognize that the Degree or Certificate that you are about to receive is a blunt instrument unless you go forth and build something with it.
Voices for Transformation
How do you go forward to build something out of your degrees and certificates? For a start you can aspire to be voices for transformation. Recently at a Symposium of Youth from around the globe at the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings in October, a clarion call was sounded. That clarion call is most relevant to my appeal. As you take the next steps, you don’t need to wait for someone in power to give you permission or even listen to you to be an activist. You can begin by educating yourself on issues, educating others and organizing in your communities. You can generate momentum and consciousness and try to make advocates out of everyone you meet. You can say to your political leaders that they should have noticed by now that this generation is ready to speak out, write, lead, march, vote on issues important to them. Let them know that as activists you refuse to be ignored. Taking this kind of stand demonstrates an unfettered understanding of who you are, where you came from, where you are going and why.
For me, these are some important elements or dots toward the transformation of our civilization.
Professor Selwyn Ryan's Engagement with the World Ryan Recalls: Selwyn Ryan: His Memoirs (Book Review)Read Now
This review by Professor Compton Bourne was delivered at the Launching ceremony at UWI St Augustine on October 30, 2019. It is the most recent of Professor Selwyn Ryan's 27 Books. He has been prolific. His academic achievements have been outstanding at York University Canada, the Universities of Ghana and Uganda and then at UWI as Director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research, St Augustine. He contributed a weekly column in the Trinidad and Tobago Sunday Express for over 2 decades and presided over many prestigious Boards and Commissions.
See Ryan Recalls Paria Publishers, Trinidad ISBN 978-976-8244-40-6 Pages XV + 446 can be purchased through Paper base Book Store: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel 868- 625-3197 and Nigel Khan: email@example.com Tel: 868-235-3276
“Ryan Recalls” is a uniquely constructed massive book, 460 pages long. It combines in varying proportions the reflections and current comments of Professor Ryan on his childhood years in Princess Town [Trinidad]; his periods of residence in Canada, the USA and Africa and travel to many other countries; his adult life in Trinidad; excerpts from several of his major scholarly publications, newspaper articles, reviews of some of his scholarly publications by eminent scholars; letters exchanged with political leaders such as Ugandan President Milton Obote and the eminent global African Ali Mazrui; tributes from colleagues at the time of his retirement from the University of the West Indies; and numerous photographs of himself, his past and present family and friends. The book is a representation of the total man, as he evolved from childhood into the joyously multi-faceted individual that many persons in his native Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean, and the wider world were able to know and appreciate.
As is the norm for memoirs, Selwyn Ryan begins with the circumstances of his childhood, providing various snippets of life, including the coping mechanisms for families of modest economic means, in South Trinidad beset by inadequate infrastructure in the 1940s and 1950s. The reader learns of a happy childhood in which mother and father played different influential supportive roles. During those early years, he developed a love for dancing which he never lost as his accounts of later life and many of the photographs attest. His love for dancing was so great that in his own words, he couldn’t understand how people could waste good music.
Selwyn entered Naparima College in 1951 and stayed until 1954. It is useful to learn from his memoirs that his life of academic excellence started there. More instructive for most readers would be his observations about the college and South Trinidad. He recalls that Naparima College, despite being mainly Indian, was “ethnically and religiously inclusive”. Race was not an issue. Ryan concluded that “there is a qualitative difference between the people of the North and those of the South.” He believes that “the people of San Fernando are kinder, gentler and a more tolerant tribe and thus are well positioned to play an important role” … in the resolution of ”ethnic asperities and insecurities”. Many Naps alumni might demur at his additional assertion that the invention of doubles on the Hill is perhaps the College’s greatest contribution to national wellbeing despite the firm place of this food item in the daily diet of Trinis.
According to Ryan, the years 1955 and 1956 made him politically and socially conscious. Pivotal events were the development of the petroleum industry, immigration from the southern Caribbean islands which in his opinion “changed the character of Trinidad and Tobago”, and the emergence of political leaders like Uriah Butler, Roy Joseph, John Rojas, Ashford and Mitra Sinanan, and Gerard Montano. The most profound influence was Eric Williams with his “rousing political evangelism” and his indirect educational role in political philosophy. Readers of later sections of the memoir will be able to trace the lasting influence of Eric Williams’ politics and political ideas on Ryan’s professional life and writings.
The memoirs deal briefly with Ryan’s life as a student at the University of Toronto and Cornell University and as a professor at York University between 1956 and 1971.
From York, he moved to Ghana and Uganda. The material on the African experience is very informative, helping to shed light on the history of Uganda especially in the time of Milton Obote and Idi Amin. On 9 January 1971, President Milton Obote wrote Ryan a remarkably frank and full letter in which he sets out his views, some of which had evidently not crystallized, on the appropriate mechanisms for elections, including the position of President, in a one-party State; his own preference for not deciding on “each and every public policy”; his expectations of assistance from Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Malawi as the early leaders in the African one-Party State experiment; his commitment to the Common Man’s Charter adopted by Uganda on 9 October 1962; and his rather startling conviction that President Mobutu was overwhelmingly elected even though “either through enthusiasm or inefficiency some of the electoral officers in some areas filed returns which gave the President more than 100% votes.” Ryan’s reply on 20 January 1971 was diplomatic: “I am fully convinced that if led by the right people with the right ideology, the one-party system is the only answer to some of the problems which face African states at the present time.”
Pages 44-46 of Ryan’s memoirs present an interesting account of the expulsion of Asians from Uganda by President Idi Amin. His interpretation is that the root of Amin’s actions was the re-Africanisation policy of Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and Milton Obote. Ryan claims that Asians initially welcomed Amin’s coup against Obote in the expectation that he would reverse Obote’s Re-Africanisation policy but the initially close relationship was ruptured by accusations of profiteering, denied by the Asians, but presumably on which Amin acted. Ryan notes Amin’s later unsuccessful attempts to woo back the Asians in an effort to end the economic collapse precipitated by the mass exodus of Asian enterprise, know-how and financial capital. As Ryan observed during a much later visit, the Ugandan economic and political tragedy continued for many years.
Ryan in an influential paper titled “Civil Conflict and External Involvement in East Africa” published in the inaugural edition of The African Review in 1972 and referenced on page 106 of the memoirs discussed extensively and perceptively various causative elements such as religious diversity, tribal rivalries and antagonisms, geography and racial mixture and foreign economic and military involvement in the spread of civil conflicts in the Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
Ryan returned to Trinidad and Tobago in 1973 and took up a Senior Lectureship at the UWI which he found “seething with ideological racial rage”.
Dealing with national politics and governance in Chapter 6, he found that in Trinidad and Tobago, the independence movement was in crisis or verging towards crisis. He discerned “serious challenges by powerful internal and external forces”, “near fatal systemic collapse”, efforts by “radical out-elites” to delegitimize incumbent political elites, vocal concerns about the appropriateness of the economic strategies being pursued, and the Black Power movement and its denouement into an unsuccessful miniscule guerrilla battle with the State. He comments on the emergence of political parties, leadership squabbles, his scepticism about the appropriateness of replacement of the first-past-the post electoral system by proportional representation which he saw as a concern for representation rather than democracy, and the disintegration of the National Alliance for Reconstruction in which “democracy ran riot.” There is a valuable discussion of the role democratic political parties are traditionally expected to perform and an assessment of those in Trinidad and Tobago against the standards. He concluded that the parties have performed satisfactorily with respect to the recruitment aspect but poorly in respect of providing opportunities for debate and discussion by members whose role has been limited to amplifying decisions made by the leader, official cadres or financial advisers.
The memoirs return to these issues and some related ones in Section 4 entitled Governance, Constitutional Reform and the State. The Section leads off with a short account of the circumstances of George Chambers’ seemingly reluctant ascension to the post of political leader of the PNM and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the risk-averse nature of the man, his fear of Eric Williams, and his perception that antagonistic powerful vested interests constrained his administration. Chapter 12 deals with proposals for an Executive Presidency associated with Prime Minister Patrick Manning, the related Draft Constitution Report prepared in 2006 by Sir Ellis Clark and others, the views articulated by The Principles of Fairness Committee, Professor John Spence and Lloyd Best, and the concept of constitutional consultation between President/Governor-General and Prime Minister which Ryan describes as a “dark hole” because it lacks precise meaning. The Executive Presidency issue is discussed in detail in a Ryan column reproduced in the memoirs.
Ryan had of course served between 1971 and 1974 on a previous Constitution Commission chaired by Chief Justice Hugh Wooding. His memoirs contain a letter to the Commission from John S. Donaldson, a senior member of the government, which has a radical proposal not known to the general public but worth highlighting here. Donaldson proposed that parliamentary privilege should not be granted in respect of parliamentarians’ abuse of private citizens or public servants. Evidently, the proposal got no traction but behaviour in many sessions of Parliament since then makes it still relevant.
In Section 4, Professor Ryan deals at length with contemporary challenges to Caribbean democracy. Some of the major ones are political clientelism and the perversion of democratic institutions and systems, economic collapse, international drug trafficking and emigration. In the excerpt from a Caribbean Affairs publication in 1990 which dealt with the Caribbean State in the 21st Century, he contrasts the onset of structural adjustment policies with the importance post-Independence leaders had attached to social welfare public policies and the consequential marginalisation of the State and rise in political disaffection. Ryan also notes the progressive deterioration of human capital, declining standards of nutrition and social polarization, all of which to his mind weakens the interest of the populace in competitive politics, undermines the integrity of public servants and law enforcement officers and diminishes the quality of elected representatives.
Referencing his 2002 journal article, Ryan provides on pages 212-216 of the memoirs a summary of his views on political power sharing. The summary serves as an introduction to the topic of electoral reform in which he itemises the arrangements for ensuring integrity in elections administration, campaign finances, diaspora voting and representativeness of electoral systems illustrated by the experiences of the Caribbean, Latin America and several other foreign countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Nigeria.
Section 6 of the memoirs reveals a growing unease about the social stability of Trinidad and Tobago. Influenced by the acute social problems of “peoples of African descent, but males in particular”, he appeals in 1998 for them to be “the prime source of affirmative action” for the future. Perhaps realising that his plea fell on deaf ears, Ryan between 2010 and 2013 published six articles dealing with the problem of gangs which were manifest in urban areas in North and West Trinidad and chaired two committees which analysed the modern gang phenomenon and made recommendations for reducing its incidence among young males.
I have selected just a few of the many matters of interest in Ryan’s memoirs. There is much more to read beneficially: the evolution of his professional career and the manner in which he became the quintessential public academic bringing to bear his scholarly skills and aptitudes with unfailing objectivity to many highly important issues affecting politics, governance and society in Trinidad and Tobago; his success in transforming the material explored in his public engagements into well-regarded scholarly publications; his pioneering of electoral polls in the country, first in collaboration with his colleague and good friend, Professor J. Edward (Eddie) Greene and then on his own, with the usual accompaniment of critical comments from whichever political party was disconcerted by the particular results; and his accounts of personal life, love, marriage, children and dear friends which together with numerous photographs admirably complement the material and recollections on his professional life.
Ryan Recalls (Selwyn Ryan: His Memoirs) is a remarkable book well worth reading thoroughly and well worth adding to one’s personal library.
Professor Emeritus (UWI)
October 30, 2019