Press release 30/2012
(2 February 2012)

REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR IRWIN LAROCQUE, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM) AT THE TWENTY-SECOND MEETING OF THE COUNCIL FOR HUMAN AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT (COHSOD) ON YOUTH CULTURE AND SPORTS 2 FEBRUARY 2012, GEORGETOWN, GUYANA
 

 

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) I am very pleased to address my first Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) as Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community. The COHSOD has always been and continues to be a critical vehicle for examining and assessing the development of our human resources within the Region. It continues to provide dynamic leadership for national and regional development by ensuring that effective policies in human and social development are formulated and implemented.

The theme of the Meeting – Culture, Youth and Sport: Strategic repositioning for human development and economic growth - resonates with the call to innovate or perish and to seek out new ways to foster human development and economic growth in our communities. In the current global order, continual strategising and repositioning is an imperative, if the Region is to develop and compete rather than merely exist or survive. We need to be cognizant, however, that each delivery brings with it further and higher expectations, especially among our young people who are fast-paced and understandably impatient with us in some respects. They want MORE and they want it NOW! We must work along with them to deliver.

That the COHSOD focuses on Youth, Culture and Sport is a recognition that the success of the integration movement hinges in large measure on the successful empowerment of the youth of the Region. Perhaps Kofi Annan’s inspiring remark is still as relevant today as the day he made it (2001): A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline. We cannot remain oblivious to the reality that failure to harness the potential of our young people is tantamount to failure to safeguarding the future of the Community.

The 2010 Report of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development titled - Eye on the future investing in youth now for tomorrow’s Community - underscores the positive contribution being made by the majority of our youth. It also enumerates the several challenges to the Community which threaten to destroy our youth.

That Report has pointed to the crucial importance of Sports and Culture in shaping identity and economic enterprise for youth empowerment by:

  • fostering cultural spaces in which youth can define and develop their “Caribbean-ness,” celebrate their diversity, birth and creativity;
     
  • sharing capacity building experiences to identify, nurture and develop talent in culture and sports; and
     
  •  strengthening regional integration through the unifying force of sports and culture and building on the strong foundations of regional events such as CARIFESTA.

In its call to action, that seminal report was unambiguous in its message for the Community to:

  • understand the youth;
     
  • recognise their contribution;
     
  • view them as assets and not problems;
     
  • build partnerships with them;
     
  • involve them in our governance structures; and
     
  • strengthen the protective factors to build their resilience to social and economic crises.

I have pledged to work with the youth of this Region to help make their dreams and aspirations come true. In this regard, I am glad to see that the Report is now accompanied by a Draft CARICOM Youth Development Action Plan which hinges on six youth development goals and identifies targets for implementing the recommendations of the Commission. I am confident that Member States will participate fully in the process for finalising this Plan and the accompanying Goals, and that COHSOD and Member States, will play their part in its implementation.

However, part of the remit of the COHSOD in discussing this Action Plan ought to be the development of appropriate mechanisms to engage and communicate with youth. In my interaction with young people, as I moved around the Community, I discovered that one of their concerns is how we communicate with them; how we engage them; how we perceive them. We need to adapt our communication methods, tools and technologies to meet the needs of our youth audience in order to engage them and communicate with them effectively.

Culture Honourable Ministers, Delegates, one of the most important building blocks of national and regional development, has been our Culture. Our Region is inarguably reputed for its dynamic cultural expressions, and the wealth of its cultural assets and resources. From the infectious musical commentaries of reggae icon Bob Marley, to the poetic musings of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, and the splendor of Trinidad and Tobago’s Steel Pan, the cultural products of the Caribbean have secured us a place in the global cultural marketplace.

The cultural and creative industries are among the fastest growing sectors in the world. The new digital and information and communication technologies have revolutionised the industry and our cultural institutions and industries must be at the heart of these changes and, in some instances, even leading them.

Culture in the Caribbean Community must be used to motivate Community action; enrich and animate Community life, while empowering the Youth so that they may willingly engage in national and regional development initiatives. It is one of the means of achieving sustainable development.

There is a body of research that indicates that the Caribbean Region has a distinct competitive advantage in some sectors of this burgeoning industry. It is this recognition that has led the Caribbean Community to establish a Regional Task Force on Cultural Industries (2008) to focus on the potency of our culture and provide us with a strategy to seize that advantage. That strategy would create an enabling environment with the necessary policy, legislative and institutional support to develop our cultural and creative industries.

Against this background, we welcome the CARICOM Regional Development Strategy and Action Plan for the Cultural and Creative Industries and thank the Task Force led by Saint Lucia’s Adrian Augier and Jamaica’s Sydney Bartley who have delivered on their mandate to develop this strategy. Well done colleagues. I would also like to thank the Hub and Spokes Regional Trade Project, funded by the European Union through the Commonwealth Secretariat, as well as the Government of Spain and UNESCO, who all supported the work of the Task Force.

The Task Force recognised CARIFESTA as a valuable platform for developing and harnessing the cultural potential of our young people. We must continue to nurture and develop this festival, not only to celebrate our Caribbean cultural identity, but also as an opportunity for merchandising our cultural products - a marketplace for trade in cultural goods and services and a space for festival tourism. I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Government of Suriname for offering to host CARIFESTA XI in 2013.

Sport and Development Ladies and Gentlemen, our sports agenda is interconnected with youth and culture as well as with health and education. It is about coordinating activities that engage a wide cross section of our population, young and old, in promoting health and welfare through physical education in schools and in our communities. Every effort must be made, through public-private partnerships to create recreational spaces that would contribute to promoting healthy lifestyles.

Like Culture, there is no underestimating the “added value” of Sport in fostering the social and economic development of people, families and communities. Our Region has produced several world renowned sportsmen and women: Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell Brown, Kirana James, Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul among others. It is no surprise that our Heads of Government, in their Special Retreat in May of last year, identified this as one of the priority sectors for development. We therefore need to reposition sports as an industry. The time may have come, for us to set up a Regional Task Force to assess the situation of Caribbean sports with a view to fully harnessing its potential.

It is that understanding of the value of sports in our development efforts which has led the Lead Head with responsibility for this area to propose the establishment of a Regional Sports Academy in Suriname, a proposal which the Conference of Heads of Government has embraced.

In closing, I want to acknowledge all our partners in Youth, Culture and Sport development who are here at this COHSOD. The single most common factor that allowed us a successful working relationship is the awareness and acceptance that we may be batting with different styles but we are all on the same team as we reposition our human resources for development on a path that will help us build a Community which our young people are proud to call home.

I look forward to participating in and celebrating the successes that emerge from the discussions of this Twenty-Second COHSOD.

Thank you.

Contact: piu@caricom.org
             caricompublicinfo@gmail.com
 

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