Letters & Opinion

CARICOM needs brand-new approaches to old regional problems

Image of Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

The Caribbean, once unseen on world maps, used to be treated in the immediate post-World War II era as just another-world-away from the rest of the world.

But not anymore, the seven decades since the last world war resulting in a series of tumultuous changes affecting the Caribbean and its people, reflecting political, social and economic realities through explosions of resistance to racial inequalities and demands for more and better — from the Black Power movement in the 70s, through the revolutionary turbulences of the 80s, to the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The world also saw widening of the income gaps amid deepening of the interconnectedness of global economies in the first two decades of the 21st Century, deeper concentration of wealth and wider expansion of poverty, unending migrant and refugee crises, worsening destructive weather patterns, extreme Climate Change, successive global pandemics, food and fuel crises – and all the rest…

The past 70 years have also left a host of maps and blueprints, formulae and instruments reflecting similar and different realities with common lessons of why things went wrong where — and innu-merable samples of what can be done to make the world a better place for everyone.

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In 2022, progress and regress continue to slide alongside income and earnings growths and de-clines, the world’s richest one percent accumulating more wealth faster than ever during the COVID crisis and the poorest 100% dying faster from hunger and health crises exacerbated by the same realities that propel both wealth and poverty.

COVID-19, Climate Change, the Supply Chain crisis and the war in Ukraine have ensured that Car-ibbean nations and people are today facing a more-than-virtual existential crisis of unprecedented proportions, exacerbated by food and fuel prices also most-likely to worsen.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Governments have since the turn of the century had to adjust to the new norms that came with the old story of having to tend to national concerns against a background of a hostile international economic environment and increasing evidence that interpre-tations of and commitments to regional unity, as always, continues to depend on how the issues relate to national interests and concerns.

But while the region is forced to adjust to living with inequalities while fighting to redress them, they only get worse with every new global crisis – and this is the worst it’s got, in the shortest time.

While preparing to varyingly observe and explore new and old lessons from the 188th anniversary of Britain’s so-called ‘Emancipation’ that followed supposed ‘Abolition of Slavery’, CARICOM leaders last week attended the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda, where some raised issues relating to Slavery, Reparations and expressing concern about the club of mainly former British colonies continuing to be treated as a global extension of The Royal Family.

But the British press was more interested in embarrassing Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his domestic political troubles (his ruling Conservative Party losing two bye-elections while he was in Kigali), embarrassing Prince Charles over a million-dollar suitcase of cash (that he’d accepted long before the CHOGM) and new Chair and host President Paul Kagame, over the UK-Rwanda refugee scheme.

CARICOM had survived its second successive internal fight over the top post of Commonwealth Secretary General, with incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland overcoming an embarrassing and failed last-minute bid by Jamaica’s Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith, seen as having lost because she came across and was presented as a UK proxy in a second bid to oust Scotland, a for-mer UK Attorney General due for a second term.

The CHOGM over and Caribbean leaders returning home to prepare for their July 4-5 43rd CARICOM Summit in Surinam, the focus of the world’s press moved to the G7 meeting in Germa-ny’s Bavarian Alps, ahead of a NATO Summit in Spain, both held earlier this week.

But, as expected, the CHOGM, G7 and NATO summits were simply totally consumed by the world’s richest countries’ preoccupation with continuing to promise Ukraine more military support to try to win a war it continues to lose – and forget about the rest…

Just before the CHOGM, two major earthquakes struck already-beleaguered Afghanistan, taking over 1,000 lives in one night; between the CHOGM and G7, chilling videos emerged from Melilla, Europe’s only border in Africa (shared by Spain and Morocco) showing the worst possible exam-ples of racist police brutality that led to dozens of deaths among African migrants trying to get to Europe; and between the G7 and NATO Summits, an abandoned container truck was discovered in San Antonio, Texas with over 50 dead bodies of migrants from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, who’d successfully crossed the border into the US, but abandoned the container in sweltering heat, without water or care.

But none of the leaders’ meetings seemed to care enough about any of the above in any great de-tail, G7 nations only pledging much-less than they’ve done for Ukraine, to help those facing world hunger.

CARICOM Leaders will meet in Paramaribo, Surinam next week for their annual July Summit, where, once again, they will have to take note of all the above while seeking to find the solutions that will help guide the region through the maze of fog that will again cloud the regional and nation-al agendas.

But, as the Caribbean is learning with, through and after every global crisis of whatever nature, the leaders will again be forced to view and review the region’s problems alongside the accompanying challenges and opportunities, through prisms that clearly show, as always, that the region and the world’s problems are never solved on the basis of the sympathies or concerns of rich nations for poor ones.

In that sense, as always, CARICOM leaders will face the facts — and factor them into today’s re-gional reality with new approaches to the same old problems that return to summit agendas every year, only exacerbated by latest global trends.

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