Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), has asserted that the Caribbean region is amid a moment of convergence, in which international crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the global economic downturn are driving a level of intimacy between CARICOM states that holds tremendous potential for the future.
Vice-Chancellor Beckles made these remarks during a virtual media engagement session called “CARICOM, The UWI, Biden, and the Future of our Voice”, held in November.
He observed that Caribbean states such as Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica are soon to attain 60 years of independence, and Barbados and Guyana are looking forward to celebrating their 55th. In addition, The UWI will also be celebrating its diamond anniversary in 2023: 75 years since its inception.
The Caribbean region has thus attained a certain maturity, and is entering Phase 2 of nation-building. This follows the first phase, which centred on our collective bid to convert disenfranchised former colonies into nation states.
Sir Hilary stated, “The UWI is stimulated by the thought of being a serious partner in the development of what could be a new social contract of nation building.” This commitment is in alignment with the university’s Triple A Strategy, which stands on the pillars of access, alignment, and agility, and is predicated upon the University’s primary purpose, which is to serve in the advancement of the Caribbean community and sustain its development.
He says that the priorities of Phase 2 will include education; affordable housing; food security; and deeper integration in the form of one Caribbean lifestyle and culture that “cascades into regional citizenship”. He looks forward to the coordination of the regional states’ foreign policies, enabling the region to speak of its interests with one voice.
The UWI has been taking note of recent developments which threaten the interests of the region; for example, the impediments to Caribbean-European trade, finance, and cultural industries initiatives following Brexit, given that these have traditionally taken place via the portal of Britain.
“That bridge is now broken,” Vice-Chancellor Beckles explained. “We need to go directly from CARICOM to the EU.” To protect and enhance CARICOM’s interests, The UWI has established a partnership with the European University Institute, located in Florence, Italy.
Much of the development taking place within the region has also been influenced by the circumstances caused by COVID-19. The regional problems brought on by this pandemic have spurred on greater and more intimate collaboration among the heads of government. Regional strategies to mitigate the fallout from this crisis are guided by the solid recommendations put forward by The UWI’s world-class cadre of scientific and related subject-matter experts.
Sir Hilary applauds the enhanced sense of Caribbean oneness, and anticipates a positive outcome from this greater consciousness that is permeating all levels of regional government.