FORWARD TOGETHER Consultation
Strengthening the involvement of Civil Society
in the Caribbean Community
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government have publicly
recognized the important role that civil society can play in the integration process.
In its publication Time for Action, 1993, the West Indian Commission
recommended that new modalities of governance and sustainability of the
integration process would require a strong and supportive civil society.
Subsequently, the Heads of Government, at their Conference in 1997 in Antigua
and Barbuda, adopted the Charter of Civil Society which, inter alia, had as one of
its principal objectives 'the creation of truly participatory political environment
within the Caribbean Community which will be propitious to genuine consultation
in the process of governance.'
At a meeting of the Heads of Government in Trinidad and Tobago in October
1999, the Heads set the stage for greater interaction with civil society. As part of
their strategy for the future, they called for an encounter with civil society, to
"provide for a free and wide-ranging inter-change of ideas aimed at arriving at a
consensus for a strategy for the development of the Region and its peoples". In
so doing, the Heads would have taken into account not just region-wide
developments but current challenges, and the principles of the Charter of Civil
Society where the Community commits itself to seek to "achieve and sustain
such governance by mobilising action for change". This civil society encounter
will take the form of a Regional Conference entitled "Forward Together",
scheduled to be held 2, 3 July 2002 in Georgetown Guyana.
II. THE AIMS OF THE CONFERENCE
It is expected that the Conference will bring together representatives of Non
Governmental Organisations and other private sector groups to discuss issues
related to their roles in the development of the Caribbean region. Among these
groups are representatives of labour, youth and gender movements,
representatives of the media, religious bodies, the academic community and
other civil society interests. The more specific aims of the Conference are:
* To identify strategies for financing development that pay attention to the
needs of the poor and marginalised groups.
* To establish new approaches to collaboration and consultation between civil
society and government, especially in the pursuit of the Caribbean Single
Market and Economy (CSME).
* To strengthen the scope for dialogue and collaboration among the various
strands of Non-State Actors in promoting regional development.
The notion of consultation with Civil Society as an integral part of governance
has become part of the new agenda for countries and international/integration
organizations alike, particularly in this Hemisphere. Aside from the consultation
processes that may exist at the country-level and among many regional
organizations, civil society has become a critical element in the Hemispheric
Summit process. The Hemisphere's Trade Ministers have created a Committee
of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society, which has
been receiving inputs from civil society organizations.
In CARICOM, the notion of regular interaction with civil society is gaining
increased acceptance among governments, several of whom currently hold
regular consultations with the private sector and labour organizations, and
receive inputs into policy development from NGOs. Perhaps the best example of
this collaborative relationship between a CARICOM Member State and identified
members of civil society can be found in Barbados' approach to consultations
among the social partners.
Development partners and other regional institutions have also been promoting
the need for social dialogue, giving the highest priority to the promotion of social
justice and the betterment of the human condition based on full participation for
all. The Inter American Development Bank (IDB) has developed a preliminary
proposal of goals and lines of action for programmes to modernise the state and
strength of civil society. Issues related to the most effective resource-allocation
mechanisms and the need to consolidate democratic systems are pre-requisites
in the new Bank strategy for helping countries of the region to face the
challenges arising from sweeping changes in the marketplace.
Similar concerns are being expressed by several other development agencies,
among them, CIDA, UNDP, DFID and the World Bank. In addition, attention is
paid in respect of the implications for strengthening economic capabilities while
paying attention to the nature of public/private partnerships and the structure of
Already, one notable innovation in the structure of regional governance is
reflected in the establishment of a quasi-cabinet system, wherein each Head of
Government has responsibility for a specific portfolio. A parallel and logical
development must be the establishment of a firm basis for the deepening and
widening of Caribbean integration through greater participation of Caribbean
people in the process.
It is evident that the Region would be hard pressed to deal with its current
challenges without the support and contribution of an active citizenry,
organizations and structures to participate in the business of government.
IV. ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE OF THE CONFERENCE
The Consultative Process
National consultations are preceding the Regional Conference, and have made
provision for the broadest possible participation of civil society groups. Each
national consultation is being co-ordinated by a focal point who is represented on
the Co-ordinating Committee of the Regional Conference. National Consultations
are being facilitated by background documents on regional developments, which
are being provided by the Caribbean Community Secretariat and other agencies.
The records of discussions and recommendations from each National
Consultation will contribute to the documentation for discussion at the Regional
It is recognized that consultations on similar issues are already taking place in
some countries. In other instances, opportunities have been identified for
discussions at the level of sectors/regional organizations. It has therefore been
agreed that the Consultations and Conference should take these into account to
build on them.
* The vision and strategies of Caribbean Development in the global system.
* The role of civil society in the design and implementation of these strategies.
Sub-themes for plenary sessions and for working groups
* Organising the proposed Caribbean Single Market Economy to maximise the
development potential (nationally and regionally) to benefit Caribbean people;
* Integrating Women and Youth into the development agenda
* Justice, Governance and Human Rights: Are there useful models? What has
to be changed, why and how?
* Moving beyond the rhetoric of human and financial capital investments
towards improving the Region's international competitiveness.
The Regional Consultation
The final agenda for the Regional Consultation is being determined by the
Regional Co-ordinating Committee on the basis of the results and
recommendations from the National Consultations. It is anticipated that the
Regional Conference will take more or less the same format as the National
Consultations. A major feature will be the participation of Heads of Government
in the dialogue related to the outcome from the plenary and working group
sessions, on the final day of a proposed 2-day meeting.
For the National Consultations, the Secretariat provides a brief background
document to facilitate discussion on the Vision for Development as well as a brief
"Issues Paper" which is to guide the discussions on a strategy for development.
It has circulated documents on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy
(CSME), the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the Charter of Civil Society and
relevant papers from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)/ Inter-American
Development Bank (IDB) Task Force and the IDB's Frame of Reference for Bank
Action in Programmes for Modernising the State and Strengthening of Civil
Society. The Working Document/ Report which will form the base document for
the Regional Consultation will be comprised of the outcomes of the National
V. RELEVANT ISSUES ARISING FROM NATIONAL FORUMS
Some of the major issues that will serve as a springboard or for possible
inclusion in the agenda for the Regional Conference are:
* How can the Region's productive capabilities be increased?
This will require focus on the exports of goods and services as well as on
investments. It also includes placing emphasis on agricultural commodities
that show strong demand growth in market segments, such as those of the
Caribbean Diaspora in Metropolitan countries. Services such as tourism,
professional, telecommunications and information, education and culture
could be further developed through the support of a policy framework which
includes upgrading production technology and knowledge through human
resource development and careful adaptation and assimilation of imported
* What are the most appropriate strategies for dealing with enhancing
Employment Opportunities and Human Resource Development?
The relationship between employment and human resource development,
and economic growth and economic and social development needs to be
explored more fully, especially in the context of the Caribbean Single Market
and Economy (CSME). It will include incorporating work ethic issues into the
formal education system; establishing flexible education systems (including
non-formal education to facilitate adaptation to technological change);
strengthening the links between employers and the education system;
developing an environment in which Labour Unions and the private sector
contribute to the process; free movement of labour in the Region; the
development of a labour market information system; and devising
programmes for the retention of skills in the Region.
* Why is the Development of a Technology Policy so important?
A Caribbean Technology Policy is deemed to be a critical component of
increasing the region's competitiveness. It needs to focus on the broadest
possible network; from appropriate science-based education at the primary
levels of the school system, to the high-end which focuses on cutting-edge,
innovative research and development, as proposed by the Caribbean
Regional Research Agency (CRRA), an initiative sponsored by
CARICOM/UWI/CDB and private sector partners.
* What is the relevance of Sustainable Development?
Policies need to be implemented to balance the objectives of economic
growth, social equity and environmental conservation. The generation of
research could be used to provide solutions to environmental problems in the
region, and there could be the development of relevant legislative
frameworks, as well as efficient co-ordination of implementation at the
political, institutional and community levels.
* What financial structures are necessary to make Capital Accumulation
It is necessary to focus on measures/incentives to increase internal savings
as well as foreign direct investment, because considerable amounts of capital
accumulation are required to complement domestic savings. The Caribbean
Stock Exchange and the Caribbean currency and ultimately, a monetary
union, are seen as mechanisms that can reasonably effect this.