REMARKS BY H.E. EDWIN W. CARRINGTON, SECRETARY-GENERAL, CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM), AT THE ALLIANCE FOR CIVILISATION SEMINAR, 25 SEPTEMBER 2006, SAINT LUCIA

 

Prime Minister of St Lucia Dr The Hon Kenny Anthony
Hon Rafael Dezcallar, Under-Secretary for Foreign Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Spain
The Most Honourable Percival J. Patterson, Former Prime Minister of Jamaica
H.E. Jesus Silva and other members of the Diplomatic corps
The Honourable Derek Walcott, Noble Laureate
Honourable Rex Nettleford
Specially invited guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my pleasure to bring you greetings on behalf of the CARICOM Secretariat and indeed the entire CARICOM Family. I take this opportunity to offer my sincerest congratulations and appreciation to the Governments of Spain and Saint Lucia on behalf of CARICOM for their vision in organising this most relevant Seminar at this very poignant moment in global relations.

The tensions generated by the so-called war on terror, the sensitivities between Christendom and Islam exposed by the recent statement by His Holiness The Pope serve to highlight the current volatility of relations between Civilisations. On the other hand, the fact that, today, as we are discussing the issue of alliances between civilisations, in Trinidad and Tobago the Region is currently celebrating CARIFESTA IX under the theme Celebrating our People: Contesting the World Stage seems to reinforce the relevance and timeliness of discussion of this issue of Alliances between Civilisations, as a key part of the dialogue between Spain and the Caribbean following the highly successful Madrid CARICOM-Spain Summit last May.

A Civilisation has been defined in number of different ways. Generally, it may be seen as a highly complex society involving processes of domestication; organisation of cities; division of labour; development of economic exchange (trade), technology and communication; formation of social organisation; establishment of organised religion and education systems, etc. according to Wikpedia Encyclopedia, 2006.

Alternatively, civilisation may be defined as a system of values inclusive of a world of forms and codes of behaviour, rules and exceptions according to Octavio la Paz, Mexican Laureate for Literature and author of the Labyrinth of Solitude and other Writings. La Paz admits however, that “the reality to which we give the name Civilisation does not allow of easy definition”. This, perhaps, explain why some find difficulty in acknowledging that there is a Caribbean civilisation, especially as too often civilisations are associated with imperium.

The current phenomenon of globalisation, bringing as it does all countries into a more integrated and united global economy and exerting similar pressures in the cultural sphere risks igniting conflicts between Civilisations. Amartya Sen, the Indian-born Nobel Prize winner and Harvard Professor of Economics and Philosophy, has observed that the creed of multiculturalism has in effect become a kind of "plural monoculturism". In such a situation so-called minority communities have often been pressured and isolated from the mainstream.

Perhaps, most important of all the issues of Alliance of Civilisations or more directly, Clash of Civilisations has critical implications for international peace and security – a subject on which I suspect a number of you present would be expounding during this seminar. This raises the fundamental issue of human rights, which is common to most peoples, and to their wish to live freely and securely in a just and peaceful world. It cannot therefore be disregarded being a principle that underpins the functioning of most communities, societies and civilisations.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in a brilliant lecture, “Our Caribbean Civilisation and its Political Prospects” to inaugurate the Distinguished Lecture Series commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has left us in no doubt that there is a Caribbean Civilisation sui generis, a position earlier affirmed by the former Barbados Prime Minister Errol Walton Barrow in his 1986 magnificent and decisive speech at the Miami Caribbean Conference - “the Caribbean is, after all, a civilisation”.

The Caribbean Civilisation represents an evolution of migrant peoples primarily from three continents ― Africa, Europe and Asia – into a relatively integrated society by a process of adaptation thereby making the content and form essentially Caribbean (creolisation). It is that historical process of adaptation, assimilation and integration that makes it unique – sui generis.

Therefore, as we know it today, while the Caribbean civilisation has the imprint of slavery, indentureship and colonialism, we the peoples of the Caribbean have been fortunate to resist the worst of such pressures and have been able to coexist in relative harmony. And this, also, despite the pressures and our different cultural and religious backgrounds and practices. We have also not experienced for example, significant civilisation conflicts as the Balkans or tribal clashes as with the Tutsis and Hutus.

Within the context of Caribbean civilisation we are dealing with a mix of people and nation-states at varying levels of socio-economic development and ecological vulnerability. In the attempt to determine our own pathways, to create a more viable Caribbean Civilisation, we have flirted over the years with many forms of integration; including West Indies Federation, a Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA) and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).

Today, we have transformed the Common market into Single Market, and intend by 2008 to establish the framework for a Single Economy. No other grouping of developing countries have taken such fundamental integration steps and indeed, only the European Union has so far gone this far among the nations of the world. This realisation of a dream of togetherness by our political forefathers speak of remarkable alliances achieved with the help of friends, within a part of the Caribbean Civilisation despite its many levels of difficulties.

The issues on which we deliberate today and tomorrow at this Seminar reflect a concern for first and foremost, human and social functioning. In this regard, our Caribbean Community still has a long away to go, particularly as we seek to provide an adequate place for the youth of our society. The feelings of apathy of many, their perception of themselves as dispossessed and marginalised are possible danger points, particularly in a world torn by conflict and strife, graft and corruption and one in which there is a perception of no hope for meaningful change in their lives. These youths are the ones who are most vulnerable to predators, to ideologies that seem to force on the world only certain types revolutionary change.

Therefore, as we ponder the issue of alliance versus collisions of civilisations, we of the Caribbean Civilisation have a small chance to demonstrate to the world that peoples of different races, cultures and religions can live together not simply live side by side and can even forge a Partnership of Civilisations and Culture – a true Alliance of Civilisations.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, anyone knowing a little of St. Lucia and its history would readily agree that there is no better place in the Caribbean to be discussing this important subject.

With these few words, I wish you the best in your discourse and deliberations.
 

 
2011 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat. All Rights Reserved. P.O. Box 10827, Georgetown, GUYANA.
Tel: (592) 222 0001-75 Fax: (592) 222 0171 | E-mail your comments and suggestions to: registry@caricom.org | SiteMap