From Tuesday 5th May 2015 to Thursday 7th May 2015, the University of the West Indies and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago in conjunction with the United Nations System in Trinidad and Tobago and a number of international partners hosed the Forum on the Future of the Caribbean. The motto of this forum was “Disruptive Thinking. Bold Action. Practical Outcomes”. While I was unable to attend, I followed the proceedings via a live stream. These are a few of my thoughts on the forum:
- The format of the Forum was more germane to an academic conference. I believe that to unearth the disruption that is needed for change in the region, it should have been more interactive. Oftentimes, participants were not afforded an adequate opportunity to express their views on critical issues plaguing the Caribbean.
- There was a constant demand for actionable items to emerge from the Forum. However, is it going to be business as usual as the delegates return to their regular ‘undisruptive’ roles? More talk without action is not what the Caribbean needs.
- How can disruptive ideas drive actual change in the Caribbean? Who will be responsible for these outcomes that we speak of? The issues raised at the Forum (education, poverty, inequality, youth, financing, technological advancement, sustainability etc.) are not new. They have been discussed at length throughout academia and policy circles in the Caribbean. However, if the persons with the legitimacy and power to stimulate change are contented with the status quo then no number of fora will drive the change that is needed in the Caribbean.
- We speak of integration and convergence. Yet, we are not taking the steps necessary to bridge the language gaps in the region. Spanish, in particular, should not be a ‘foreign language’ when regional integration is on the agenda.
FINAL THOUGHT: Once we are still being defined based on our relationships with the North, no amount of disruptive thinking will create the bold actions and practical outcomes that the Caribbean so desperately needs.