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By U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
During my first week as the United States' Secretary of State, I had the honor of meeting with a group of courageous women from Burma. Two were former political prisoners, and although they had all endured incredible hardship in their lives, each of them was committed to moving forward - providing education and training to girls, finding jobs for the unemployed and advocating for greater participation in civil society. I have no doubt that they will continue to be powerful agents of change, bringing progress to their communities and their country in the years to come.
It's opportunities like this that remind us why it is so vital that the United States continues to work with governments, organizations and individuals around the world to protect and advance the rights of women and girls. After all, just like in our own country, the world's most pressing economic, social and political problems simply cannot be solved without the full participation of women.
According to the World Economic Forum, countries where men and women are closer to enjoying equal rights are far more economically competitive than those where the gender gap has left women and girls with limited or no access to medical care, education, elected office, and the marketplace. Similarly, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women farmers had the same access to seeds, fertilizer, and technology as men do, they could reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by 100 million to 150 million.
o On 26 February, Sir Ronald Sanders was invited to launch "In the Ring", a Commonwealth memoir written by Sir Donald McKinnon former secretary-general of the Commonwealth (2000-2008), at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. This article is adapted from Sanders' remarks.
No secretary-general of the Commonwealth has an easy time. Building consensus among countries large and small, rich and poor, black and white is extremely challenging, and, in the course of it, secretaries-general are not only referees, sometimes they become the punching bag. In this context, Sir Don McKinnon's Commonwealth memoir is appropriately titled: "In the Ring".The book is remarkable for its frank account of the events that led up to Robert Mugabe's withdrawal of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth in 2003. Mugabe took that action when it was evident that Commonwealth heads of government would make the decision to suspend Zimbabwe following seriously flawed elections. Inevitably, the secretary-general was made the villain of the peace.However, as Don relates in the book, his own reflection over Zimbabwe was more "in sorrow than in anger". No secretary-general relishes the suspension, expulsion or withdrawal of a member-state under his watch. And, Don bent over backwards to encourage President Mugabe to remain faithful to the Commonwealth's Harare Principles - principles that were agreed by all Commonwealth heads at a meeting chaired by Mugabe himself.No one is the more accountable custodian of the Commonwealth's collective values than the secretary-general. His primary touchstone is the values and principles to which all Commonwealth governments subscribe not only as a condition of their entry to the organization but as a sine qua non for keeping such membership. As Don rightly observes in his book, "The Commonwealth and its institutions had to be protected."Don's account of his efforts to engage Mugabe even after he had withdrawn Zimbabwe is an untold story which deserves to be known. And, Don has told it with clarity but also with a sense of disappointment and frustration. He has also not deprived his readers of an appreciation of the tensions that develop among heads of government in their decision-making on thorny issues.That tension makes the secretary-general's job a lot harder, particularly when it occurs among the Troika - the three heads of government - the past chair, the present chair and the incoming chair. The secretary-general has to look to them for guidance over how to deal with another head of government such as Mugabe who rode roughshod over Commonwealth values in pursuit of his own narrow political agenda. This memoir gives a full account of the tensions, the differences and even the vexations that occurred within the Troika. It is a frank insight into the contest between efforts to preserve the Commonwealth's shared values and the desire by a small number of heads of government to protect a fellow head of government who had thrown those values to the wind.Of particular interest is Don's account of the remarkable role played by P.J. Patterson, the prime minister of Jamaica, a small Commonwealth state, in the heads of government reaching a unanimous decision to continue the suspension of Zimbabwe. Don describes Patterson's intervention as a "tour de force". "We are dealing with two almost irreconcilable positions and we have a consensus," Don reports Patterson as saying. "Certainly not everybody is happy, but we must not now show a split." Patterson's legal and political skills impressed the room and Commonwealth agreement was preserved. So was its commitment to its declared values. If Don's candid account of the tribulations that surrounded Zimbabwe is not a sufficiently compelling story of the secretary-general's challenging role in the Commonwealth ring, then his experience over suspended Pakistan under President Musharraf completes the tale.As secretary-general he was invited by the British government to the Lord Chancellor's dinner for President Musharraf who was visiting Britain officially. This was in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities in the United States when Pakistan had overnight become the new "best friend" of the governments of Britain and the United States.But, at the time, Pakistan was suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth over very doubtful democratic institutions. Don did not regard Musharraf's visit to London as a good thing. As he said in his well-known forthright manner, it would not have happened to Fiji, Nigeria or Zimbabwe while they were suspended. It was, as he said, an example of one policy for the Commonwealth and another policy for bilateral relations. He was then promptly "uninvited" from the dinner, before being "re-invited" by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but placed at a table out of sight. Quite rightly Don declined the re-invitation. He had "no intention of being a pawn in their game".This was not the only occasion when a government expected the secretary-general to act in its interest. But, as he pointed out to another government, the secretary-general "has to work for the collective Commonwealth good, not just advance the view of one country".
Indeed, every secretary-general, however deeply involved he was in the affairs of his own country and its interests in the Commonwealth and the international community, has to leave that baggage at the entrance door of Marlborough House. He must become de-nationalized, color blind, non-aligned religiously and re-constructed as a Commonwealth being - whole and entire. Don McKinnon became that body as every secretary-general has had to do.When a senior British Foreign Office official, who insisted that Britain, as the biggest contributor to the secretariat's funding, should always hold the post of deputy secretary-general, Don told him that not only was Britain not getting the post, it also would not permanently be on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.Thirty-two of the Commonwealth's 54 members are small states with problems and challenges that are peculiar to their vulnerabilities and lack of capacity to stand-up to powerful organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).When Commonwealth small states were being pummelled by the OECD over "harmful tax competition", Don in his full Commonwealth regalia - his OECD membership card as former foreign minister of New Zealand firmly put away - championed the cause of the Commonwealth's constituency of small states and curtailed bullying and an uneven playing field. As a chronicle that is as frank in its content as it is wide in its telling of the inner workings of life in the ring of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon's memoir is compulsory reading.
Note: "In the Ring" by Don McKinnon is published by Elliott and Thompson, London.
o Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and visiting fellow, London University. Send responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
I am a proud graduate of St. Augustine's College, class of 2002. After high school, I obtained a bachelor's degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University. I then worked in New York for a few years before returning to school to get my law degree from Northwestern University in Chicago. In January, I will move to New York to work at a large corporate law firm practicing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, capital markets and financing. I am a young Bahamian living aboard, full of energy and optimism for our country, and I would like to believe that I can return home in a few years to a bright future, professionally, socially and personally. However, in conversing with young Bahamian professionals, at home and abroad, many of them have a feeling of disconnection and frustration with our economic system as it relates to career development and advancement.
Young Bahamians are frustrated because of: The failure of successive governments to diversify our economy from tourism and off-shore banking; the inability to adequately promote Bahamian ownership and expertise in our economy; the failure to sufficiently imbue our young people with the belief that they can achieve their full potential in The Bahamas; and a paucity of established mentorship programs designed to guide young Bahamians in their career advancement. This article will examine the aforementioned factors that contribute to the brain drain in our country and offer some solutions to reduce the number of Bahamians that leave or fail to return to The Bahamas due to frustration, disappointment and hopelessness.
Graduates who obtained degrees in traditional and well-defined fields have all too often been faced with the reality that the number of suitable positions available, if any, are greatly outnumbered by the number of persons seeking a job in areas such as law, finance, business, accounting and the civil service. Furthermore, young people with expertise in disciplines with little presence in The Bahamas are often left jobless and hopeless. While a smaller economy such as ours may not have as diverse a complement of career paths as exists in larger economies, our governmental and private sector actors must seize the opportunity to look at feasible opportunities for us to diversify our economy using and harnessing the special talents of our nation's most valuable resource - its people.
One possible way to employ the diverse skills of young Bahamians would be to finance and encourage alternative energy programs and sustainable development related projects. Also, established industries such as farming, fisheries and offshore financing must be bolstered. All interested stakeholders must take a step back and develop innovative ideas to improve the international competitiveness of these industries while also increasing Bahamian ownership in these areas, especially with respect to the offshore finance industry. Increasing the number and visibility of Bahamian owners in hotels, banks and similar businesses provides hope and inspiration for young Bahamians to believe that they too can become owners in our largest industries if they work hard and make smart business decisions.
To facilitate and develop sustained youth empowerment in this country, the government must take seriously the business of Bahamians acquiring a more significant ownership interest in the economy. Young people have to feel that there is a realistic possibility of prosperity in The Bahamas beyond simply securing a job, especially for high-achieving young Bahamians who have access to opportunities around the world. It is interesting that although the incumbent government in Singapore won the recent general election, it lost a number of parliamentary seats and the former foreign minister, who was highly regarded internationally, lost his seat. One of the main grievances young Singaporeans articulated during the electoral season was the belief that expats are receiving many of the high paying jobs. In other words, many Singaporean youths are disheartened, like many young Bahamians, because they do not believe they have a realistic chance to truly flourish in their domestic economic market.
It is not sustainable for a nation's economic development and advancement to have such a high level of disaffected youth, particularly highly educated youth, as this exacerbates the brain drain The Bahamas is currently experiencing. Creating awareness programs designed to inform Bahamians living abroad about lucrative and challenging opportunities at home can also reduce our brain drain challenges. There are already a number of Bahamians who previously lived abroad and have returned home to rewarding careers. To the extent that these success stories can be promoted and disseminated locally and internationally through the Bahamian diaspora, it can go a long way in giving young Bahamians hope that they can achieve professional success beyond their wildest dreams in The Bahamas. At the same time, public-private partnerships designed to broaden our economic expertise, facilitate entrepreneurship and attract global companies to set up shop in The Bahamas will go a long way to lure highly educated Bahamians back home.
The government along with the private sector, churches and other relevant stakeholders must address the lingering nihilism and hopelessness that afflicts many of our young people. In my short time at home, in conversations on social media platforms and elsewhere, many young Bahamians, regardless of political affiliation, have said to me that they feel advancement in this country is gained primarily based on familial pedigree rather than competency. Furthermore, many Bahamians feel that successive governments are selling our "birthright" to foreigners and that foreigners seem to be the only ones really reaping the financial rewards here in The Bahamas. Whether or not these claims are well substantiated, it is clear that leaders in the public and private sectors must do a better job of inspiring young people and informing them that there is still opportunity in The Bahamas regardless of parentage. They must convince young people that if they work hard and are fair in their dealings with co-workers and community members, they will one day enjoy the benefits of their dedication and delayed gratification. This effort to address this pernicious and persistent nihilism among your young people must start with strong public policy geared towards facilitating strong Bahamian entrepreneurial and corporate success.
Developing a culture of mentorship will also promote youth empowerment over the long-term in The Bahamas. Connecting young Bahamians with established business people, scholars and other accomplished individuals can help young people navigate their way up the corporate ladder in an environment that is perceived to be plagued with cronyism, nepotism, despotism and even political victimization. All interested persons must accept that a vibrant, effective mentor relationship cannot be forced or bureaucratized. It must be organic and genuine. Having said that, prominent business, political and civic leaders publicly coming forward and stating their willingness to mentor young Bahamians can go a long way in helping young people feel accepted and a part of our political, social and economic landscape. Also, young people must understand the importance of excellence and hard work. Successful individuals often have very tight schedules. Any time they make available for mentorship must be treasured and effectively used. We must be respectful of their time and also offer to assist them as well because young people often have valuable insights into trends and ideas popular among their contemporaries that older Bahamians could find useful.
The "Occupy Protests" that have rocked cities from New York to Rome underscore the pain and suffering young people feel the world over. Unfortunately, and for a variety of reasons, countless nations around the world have failed to provide their young people with affordable, practical educations and jobs that allow young people to live in a dignified manner. Going forward, governments will have to prioritize empowering young people if they wish to maintain any semblance of peace, prosperity and normalcy in their countries. Our Bahamian government and private sector leaders must act quickly, decisively and creatively to encourage and promote youth empowerment in our country or else we could see our own "Occupy Rawson Square" movements in the not too distant future.
A few weekends ago, I went to Arawak Cay to catch up with some old friends and to enjoy succulent Bahamians delicacies such as conch salad and guava duff. It truly feels good to be home and I love my country, but unless our government and other social organizations take significant steps to making our country more attractive to talented, ambitious young Bahamians, I do not believe that I and other young Bahamians will be returning home to this country that I love.
- Rishard P. O. Cooper
Voters will never know what the new political candidates are offering until they get those candidates to sit down and talk to them. But, many of the candidates are not prepared to talk, or have nothing to say unless that 'talk' takes a particular line. The ability to communicate is very important and some of the fresh blood who want to talk are finding out stuff that they did not know about their political organizations, their opponents or themselves.
Communication that goes beyond the stupidity that you hear coming out of the mouths of the many foot soldiers is very necessary as prospective, would-be leaders attempt to sway the many constituents in the nation to their side and away from the other political suitors. However, there is some misinformation going around or being put out for public consideration. If you listen closely to what is being propagated, the upcoming election is set against the backdrop of the 1970s and we as a nation are just coming of age.
More than 40 years of social, economic and political advancement is being pushed to the side and it is being proposed that the present administration has done nothing for the Bahamian electorate, and this is a lie. But, here is a truth: the greed, need and prejudices of the Bahamian are being politicized and the baser negatives of the human psyche are being played upon by those who are educated enough to know better - but in the name political expediency they push forward.
This may be a shocking year. This could be the year when the Bahamian voter sends the message that our national identity will not be defined by any political ideology, no matter how much they lie to us about their opponents. It must be noted that an unusual number of these persons that we see in public as adversaries are also partners in business, godparents for each others children, sit down to eat at the same table, attend the same parties and at times get drunk together.
I will not get into the part about how a significant percentage of the real estate and property that is being rented by the government is owned by politicians or former politicians on all sides of the political divide. Have you observed that politics has more sides than you can count?
When the fellows show up on your porch this year, take some time to get your questions in order and make the questions relevant to what you perceive their motives to be; especially if their offerings point an accusing finger at the fellow they are up against. You may be accused of being judgemental, but remind them that with few exceptions most politicians have sounded just like them - starting out.
If you are not prepared for them and you foresee difficulties, get some black pepper or a couple of wasp nests for your potcake. With so much on the national table, the plea to "give someone else a chance" has a very hollow ring to it. It is time to articulate in very clear terms what we want, what is needed and where we want to go; and those who want to lead must have some relevant answers.
- Edward Hutcheson
During my first week
as the United States' Secretary of State, I had the honor of meeting
with a group of courageous women from Burma. Two were former political
prisoners, and although they had all endured incredible hardship in
their lives, each of them was committed to moving forward - providing
education and training to girls, finding jobs for the unemployed and
advocating for greater participation in civil society. I have no doubt
that they will continue to be powerful agents of change, bringing
progress to their communities and their country in the years to come.
opportunities like this that remind us why it is so vital that the
United States continues to work with governments, organizations and
The most important reason for the selection of a country as the host-venue for a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is that it serves the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole.
If this reason were a consideration, President Mahinda Rajapaksa would already have withdrawn Sri Lanka from hosting the CHOGM in November. The president has not done so. Instead, he has insisted that the Commonwealth Summit must be held in Sri Lanka even as his government is mired in intense controversy over violations of human rights and disregard for the rule of law.
By this insistence, the Sri Lanka president demonstrates only an ambition to claim honor and respectability through hosting the meeting and representing the Commonwealth for the next two years as its chair. This self-serving position of the Sri Lanka government is injuring the Commonwealth.
Every member state of the Commonwealth - particularly its small and weak ones - needs the organization to be strong and credible. A discredited Commonwealth, that cannot stand-up for its own declared values, would have no moral authority or convincing status to advocate effectively for the welfare of its member countries in the international community.
Rajapaksa's dismissal of the country's chief justice, Shirani Bandaranayake, after an unfair impeachment process that was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, and the appointment of his former attorney-general to the post, is "serious" and it comes amid evidence of "persistent" human rights abuses of journalists, and other groups within Sri Lanka.
These developments follow the government's refusal to allow an independent inquiry, as requested by the United Nations, into the deaths of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians in 2009 towards the end of a conflict between government forces and the Tamil Tigers.
The unsuitability of Sri Lanka at this time to host the CHOGM is drawn into stark clarity by the Charter of the Commonwealth that was signed on March 11 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as head of the Commonwealth after the complete concurrence of 53 of the Commonwealth's 54 heads of government. The fifty-fourth member state, Fiji whose military government seized power in 2006, is currently suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth.
The charter was one of the important recommendations for reform of the Commonwealth made by an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of which I was privileged to be a member. The recommendation was accepted by all Commonwealth heads of government at their meeting in Australia in October 2011.
An important clause in the charter reads: "We are committed to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights including the right to development, for all without discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies." Unless the Sri Lanka government demonstrates that it upholds that commitment through actions that have been urged upon it by the UN, many Commonwealth governments, and a myriad number of international legal and judicial organizations, it is not qualified to host the CHOGM. Attendance by other heads of government would sully the Commonwealth by validating the Rajapaksa government.
This is not the first time that the Commonwealth has had to deal with violations of its values and principles by a member state. It did so in 1977 in relation to Idi Amin, whose brutal regime in Uganda engaged in massive violation of human rights and sustained disregard for the sanctity of life.
At that time, the Commonwealth secretary-general, Shridath Ramphal, said to Commonwealth leaders: "There has been in the Commonwealth, of course, as in the international community, a long and necessary tradition of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. No Commonwealth country (indeed, who anywhere in the world?) is above reproach in some respect or other. If these traditions were not to be respected there would be no end to recrimination and censoriousness. How to strike a balance of political judgement between the two extremes of declamation and silence is sometimes difficult - but it would be entirely illusory to believe that such a judgment could, or indeed should, be avoided altogether. There will be times in the affairs of the Commonwealth when one member's conduct will provoke the wrath of others beyond the limits of silence... although the line may be indefinable, all the world will know when it has been crossed."
It had been crossed in Uganda and, at their meeting in 1977, Commonwealth leaders stated that it was their "overwhelming view" that the excesses of Amin's regime "were so gross as to warrant the world's concern and to evoke condemnation by heads of government in strong and unequivocal terms".
In those days, there was no Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) as there is now, tasked with dealing with states where the Commonwealth's declared values have been violated. Nonetheless, heads of government themselves made it clear that the excesses of Idi Amin were unacceptable, as they did later with the white minority government of Ian Smith in Southern Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) and the apartheid regime in South Africa.
As CMAG has since suspended other member states - Fiji, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Pakistan - after addressing their violations of Commonwealth values, it should do so now with Sri Lanka, or the freshly minted Commonwealth Charter will simply become another set of words, not worth the paper on which they are inscribed in the name of the people of the Commonwealth.
There is also precedent for moving a Commonwealth meeting if the host government has breached Commonwealth agreed principles and values. In 1981, the New Zealand prime minister, Robert Muldoon, ignored the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement that banned sporting contact with apartheid South Africa. Muldoon strongly supported the South African Springbok rugby team's tour to New Zealand. Commonwealth governments, feeling that Muldoon had violated agreed Commonwealth principles and values, moved a finance ministers meeting from New Zealand to The Bahamas as a mark of their displeasure.
The Sri Lanka government should withdraw from hosting the CHOGM in November, or the other Commonwealth countries should withdraw themselves from attending. Either action would strengthen the Commonwealth and enhance its authority. But on no account should the CHOGM be held in Sri Lanka.
o Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and visiting fellow, London University. Send responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com.
I thank God for my wife, mother, grandmother, daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts, stepmothers, surrogate mothers and all the women who have done almost magic to keep families, the church and, by extension, the country, organized. As a matter of fact, many major organizations are led by women.
I know that there are a few men who sincerely believe that they are grooming their daughters to be all that they could be. Why not to lead a political party? Who said that only men should lead? Why not a woman and why not right now?
Conniving, influential men will use women with low self esteem, causing them to fight amongst themselves as the men achieve the ultimate prize.
The argument about women being "temperamental" is lame, especially because as time goes by, we are seeing more and more strange behavior from men.
But do we really, honestly believe in and trust women to lead? Does the male chauvinist really feel like women are equal or do they just pay lip service in front of the camera? They laugh when they hear of women being beaten, on the one hand, then they pretend to embrace women outside. Amazing!
Which leads me to this: Do the FNM, PLP and DNA think so little of women, believing they are not good enough, wise enough, compassionate enough, do not possess enough courage and are not stable enough to lead a political party and, by extension, the country?
Are our women so insecure that they would not want a woman leading unless it is them? Are we honestly impressed with the men who have led us so far? You mean no one can do it better than what we've had?
So who are Ivy Dumont, Janet Bostwick, Italia Johnson, Wendy Craig, Sharon Wilson and the many women who have led and are still leading corporate Bahamas from behind the scenes?
For the petty-minded Bahamians, and those who think little of Bahamian women, I guarantee that Hilary Clinton, a woman, will be the next and first female president of the United States.
Maybe they in America respect women more than we do in The Bahamas because Bahamian women will only be allowed to 'fry the fritters'!
Lord knows we need to pave a different road. The previous roads are obsolete.
- Ivoine W. Ingraham
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The leaders and top representatives of more than 20 groups and organizations were in among the crowd at Wednesday's Freedom of Information Rally in Rawson Square, collectively representing more than 35,000 people according to veteran educator Joseph Darville.
Darville, one of the directors of fast-growing social and environmental advocacy group Save The Bays, lead organizer of the rally, said the combined membership of political parties, trade unions and citizen activist groups represented constitute a formidable social force that politicians ignore at their own risk.
"It seems like every entity in The Bahamas was represented besides the PLP," he said, asking why the governing party seems to be "afraid" to engage with those calling for the rapid enactment of a Freedom of Information Act.
Among the many speakers at the event were the leaders of the other two major political parties in The Bahamas, as well as the secretary general of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), an umbrella entity representing more than 10,000 workers.
Free National Movement leader Dr. Hubert Minnis connected the lack of an FOIA to the degradation of the country's precious natural resources through unregulated development, which has been given the green light by successive governments behind a veil of secrecy.
Using the example of the massive dredging operation currently going on in Bimini, which experts say will destroy one of the most pristine and ecologically significant reef systems in the region, Minnis said renowned visitors Martin Luther King, Jr. and Earnest Hemingway must be "turning over in their graves" over what is taking place in that island.
Last week, in response to what he described as an intolerable level of crime and "the most pressing issue in our nation", Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham addressed the country. It may be one of the more important addresses of his political career, and not for the reason some may suspect.
Though critical for various reasons including politically, the prime minister did something even more compelling and far-sighted. In tone and text, he demonstrated that he understood the national mood and deep worry at the level of crime and the need to address its root causes.
He addressed the soul of crime, speaking to the fears and hopes of Bahamians.
Only the most churlish and the inveterate Ingraham-haters would deny that he spoke from the heart, the latter point noted by a woman who lost a family member to murder.
Moreover, the prime minister elevated the national conversation on crime and violence from finger-pointing to shared responsibility.
And he did something even more compelling: He seized the national imagination by urging a new era of national volunteerism, inclusive of enhanced community service programs for thousands of students in the government school system.
Ingraham also called for a renewed civic compact to address the desire not only for safety and security, but more broadly for community and social peace. His call to action was issued to parents and teachers, civil society and the business community, as well as to the nation's youth.
In the lead up and the immediate response to the half-hour address, the prime minister's critics stumbled badly, misreading the deep concern over crime as a moment for political posturing, pandering and gamesmanship.
DNA Leader Branville McCartney, in typical publicity stunt mode, showed up for a press conference with a gimmick graph in the background. Unconvincingly, it showed the level of crime, long in the making and with multiple causes, falling precipitously under the DNA.
Also unconvincing was McCartney's tough guy performance after the address.
He shot down the idea of a gun amnesty as if it was the only proposed measure on guns, and bemoaned that the prime minister's ideas appeared not to have any teeth.
His assertion was at stark variance with that of the Police Staff Association, which praised the address and whose members are actually on the frontline, battling crime.
One measure with additional teeth is the expansion of CCTV monitoring in New Providence, a measure advocated and applauded by the high command of the police force.
So predictable was the post-address press release issued by the PLP that it easily could have been written before the prime minister spoke. Using the hackneyed phrase, "too little, too late", too liberally, too quickly, the Opposition misjudged the public's mood and overwhelmingly positive reaction to the speech.
In all likelihood, though few Bahamians may remember what the Leader of the Opposition said in his crime address just a few months ago, many may recall a general impression with which they were left. It was the suspicion that they were hearing familiar promises, few of which they remember being fulfilled.
There was also the suspicion that the Leader of the Opposition was offering a jumble of slogans. In an editorial the day after the prime minister spoke, The Nassau Guardian opined in reference to recent pronouncements by the Opposition:
"Coherent and plausible plans on crime and the economy actually do not need quirky names. They simply need to work and have the will of a competent government behind them.
"When a party announces multiple named programs at every speaking engagement, and it does not explain how they would be paid for, who would lead them and if they have been fully planned out, that party could come across as less than serious."
Two days after the crime address, tech-revolutionary and Apple Founder, Steve Jobs died. Jobs leapfrogged his competitors with devices and software which went beyond tinkering with existing operating systems and gadgets.
In his own way, Prime Minister Ingraham has essentially done the same by proposing significant innovations in social policy. The Opposition proposed Urban Renewal 2.0 if returned to office. The ambitious and impressive range of social intervention measures offered by Ingraham is more like Community and Urban Renewal 10.0.
With the prime minister superceding the Opposition's proposal by a wide magnitude, it looked foolish by calling his proposals "reasonable". This is akin to the Sony Corporation calling the iPad a "reasonable" improvement on its Walkman introduced in 1979. The next generation of social intervention innovations proposed by the Ingraham administration offers a variety of key features.
They include: the development of an Outward Bound-type program; a National Volunteers Register; the expansion of community service-learning in government schools; support for additional initiatives in urban areas geared towards young men; greater support for alternative sentencing programs like that offered by groups such as the Peace and Justice Institute of the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church, among others.
Ingraham was clear that it takes more than government action to address the roots of crime and anti-social behavior. To support his administration's initiatives, he proposed the expansion of public-private partnerships and collaboration calling on faith-based groups, NGOs, corporate citizens and philanthropists to help craft, manage and fund such initiatives.
His call for a new era of volunteerism recognizes the critical need for citizen-volunteers to help to bring about social change while addressing crime and violence. In essence, his was a message of "we the people". One of the more novel initiatives proposed is for an Outward Bound-type program.
Outward Bound is an experiential outdoor learning program with great success in youth development, including for at-risk youth. Its well-tested model has helped transform the lives of thousands, inclusive of practical and customized courses "developed for struggling teens [and] groups with specific health, social or educational needs".
Outward Bound or a similar program has the extraordinary potential to re-socialize and effectively intervene into the lives of young men and women, replacing destructive mindsets and behavior with healthier lifestyles and attitudes.
Its potential may extend to young people involved in gang activity, as well as residents of "the Simpson Penn and Willamae Pratt facilities with a view to improving the results being achieved in preparing these young people for reintegration into the community with skills to pursue productive lives." It may also involve students enrolled in the Ministry of Education's SURE program.
The National Volunteer Register "will enable Bahamians to sign up to be available to volunteer their time for mentoring our young men and women; assisting in community centers with afterschool programs; outreaches to urban neighborhoods to encourage parental and child involvement in school activities; to work with existing youth organizations in their programs; and a host of social activities that can positively impact upon our society."
The revamping of community service programs in government schools with an emphasis on ethics, service learning and character development holds considerable promise. The Prime Minister noted that implementation of a more comprehensive community service model is intended to help, "more young people develop a sense of belonging in our community, and [a] deeper sense of responsibility for its well-being, while better respecting themselves and others."
With the National Volunteers Register and a new community service-learning model, Prime Minister Ingraham has launched a new era of volunteerism redefining national service and fulfilling a dream long-held by various leaders.
Sir Lynden Pindling often spoke of a version of national service that was more paramilitary in nature and mandatory for youth between certain ages. Mr. Ingraham's version is voluntary, more practical and extends to every age group.
It holds the promise of becoming a singular accomplishment of national development and one of Mr. Ingraham's greater achievements, as well as a milestone of progressive governance.
"Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean" explores how the understanding and formation of sustainable community for the Caribbean and its global diaspora may be supported by art practice, curating and museums. The project was a collaboration between The Open University and the University of Leiden, in partnership with the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam and the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva), London, and was led by Dr. Leon Wainwright.
Participants in the second conference in this series, which took place December 3-4, 2013, included Alessio Antoniolli (UK), Marielle Barrow (Trinidad and Tobago), Charles Campbell (Jamaica/UK), Annalee Davis (Barbados), Joy Gregory (UK), Therese Hadchity (Barbados), Glenda Heyliger (Aruba), Rosemarijn Hoefte (the Netherlands), Yudhishthir Raj Isar (France/India), Tessa Jackson (UK), Nancy Jouwe (the Netherlands), Charl Landvreugd (the Netherlands), Wayne Modest (the Netherlands), Petrona Morrison (Jamaica), Jynell Osborne (Guyana), Marcel Pinas (Suriname), Dhiradj Ramsamoedj (Suriname), Leon Wainwright (UK) and Kitty Zijlmans (Netherlands).
As the conference on Sustainable Art Communities started, we immediately encountered one of the problems relating to sustainability across the diaspora - first speaker Marcel Pinas could not be there because of visa issues, thus highlighting a key obstacle in the transnational dialogue. Meeting in person builds community, as all who attended can attest to, and nothing beats a face to face discussion. Raj Isar used the German word "gemeinshaft", which basically refers to living, breathing and eating together; for a few days that is what this conference facilitated. Leon Wainwright started the discussion with a few questions, one of which was "Should the arts be burdened with the task of building community?"
Rather than actually coming up with answers, the conference was very enlightening because it showed that issues experienced in the Caribbean are also in effect in the diaspora. Questions like "for whom is the work made?" and "are institutions disconnected from the audience?" were addressed. The importance of critical discourse in countries like Jamaica, Suriname and the Netherlands was expressed by Petrona Morisson.
As the mark of success in art seems to be related to public engagement, establishing links through existing spaces to broaden local audiences on artistic, critical and financial levels is paramount. Part of this can be achieved through carefully archiving Caribbean lived experience. As an example of this, Joy Gregory started/is starting up a residency in the former house of fashion designer Trevor Owens in Jamaica, providing a way into understanding this experience. At the same time, according to Therese Hadchity, the local and historical context is being transcended by artists like Sheena Rose, Ewan Atkinson and Alicia Alleyne, and is being picked up in other parts of the world. A new hybrid globalized subject is emerging with mixed sensibilities. Jynell Osborne made this clear by speaking about diversity in heritage and how this affects social and political issues in a country like Guyana. "We have to recognize where cultures come together and where they stay apart in Guyana, and by extension in the Caribbean. Part of building a strong society is building a strong culture that is sustainable." Tying back to the production of a critical discourse, this seems to be done more by writers than visual artists in smaller countries. Why is that?
One thing that the speakers and audience agreed on was Petrona Morisson's sentiment that the Caribbean and its diaspora should not repeat patterns of exclusion in our effort to build a sustainable art community. Annalee Davis' presentation on the initiative Fresh Milk is seen as one of the ways in which talent can be nurtured in our own geographical space. She made a case for the fourth sector model of social economy in light of the lack of funds, creating wealth by means of nurturing creative talent within the region. This, the panel agreed, is a revolutionary act. By first working within the local space and sustaining creative process, expansion to include all of the region is anticipated. The question of an understandable art language for everybody may be a consequence of this way of working. What the impact of this will be outside and inside of academia can only be imagined at this point. Who defines and critiques history, and is history in the way of the future? This was asked by Ozkan Golpinar when he explained the way decisions on funding are being made in the West.
The question about craftmanship vs art was raised by Wayne Modest, who is concerned with the relationship between the local and the global; "What happens when elite practices take up the 'ghetto'?" He took some time speaking about the 'ghetto' as a native place for contemporary Jamaican artists, in comparison to previous generations who saw Africa as the native place. This echoed my idea of continental Europe as a native space to Caribbean subjects who were born and or raised there. It was also exemplified by Glenda Heyliger's presentation on her work in Aruba. Fittingly, Marielle Barrow contributed to this exchange, joining the conversation via Skype from the Ghetto Biennale in Haiti. Unfortunately the connection went bad several times as it did with Raj Isar, but her message of multimodality was strong. How to sustain a network without funding was one of her main questions. Transformation seems to be one of the principles here. Charles Campbell showed us how he did it with 'Actor Boy', who became real, participated in society, started creating his own artworks and mythologized himself once over. As Alessio Antoniolli said about the organizations connected through the Triangle Network, "The most successful groups are the ones who are self serving."
o Orignally published on arcthemagazine.com
o Charl Landvreugd is a Dutch artist, born in Suriname and raised in Rotterdam. Aesthetically, politically, theoretically as well as practically, black is the base color in his practice. The artist has studied at the Goldsmiths College (London) and Columbia University (NYC), and now continues his investigations of black and Blackness. He explores the plurality of black hues and advocates for distinctions in black diversity. Inspired by the gathering of people from the African diaspora in the Bijlmer, he unites the four continents around the Atlantic in the video work Atlantic Transformerz 2010.