Full Disclosure
October 3, 2008
Seeds of Caribbean Integration

Views on regional integration

In a recent research concerning issues of regional integration and its impact on our Caribbean society, the work done by O. Nigel Bolland, in his compilation “The Birth of a Caribbean Civilization – A Century of Ideas about Culture and Identity, Nation and Society”, made for extremely interesting reading.{{more}}

In Bolland’s analysis of segments of the work of George Lamming as an Anglophone intellectual, he noted the following under the rubric:

‘Seeds of Caribbean Identity Formation’-

“A concept of a people or a place does not arise out of the blue. How you come to think of where you are, and how you come to think of your relation as to where you are, is dependent on what is the character and the nature of the power as to where you are situated. You yourself do not, at a certain stage, decide who you are and what your relationship to where you are should be, and it is an illusion to think that you do. These relations are experienced within a specific context of power, and this experience always poses fundamental questions: to what extent have we been able to organize in the interest of our own welfare? To what extent can we control those who have acquired the power to organize our lives?”

On reflection, the quest by a sub-regional grouping, in this instance the OECS, or a general regional grouping, in this case Caricom, or any interrelation of both, should be seen within a context of the germination of the seeds of our Caribbean identity. In all of this, we must at all times remember that our people will forever be the key stakeholders in any regional integration process. Unarguably, one of the main features of a regional integration system is the success of common institutions serving the needs of the individual constituents. This then begs the question firstly, as to what extent have our pursuits towards regional integration benefited our people? The answer is that, overwhelmingly, our people have benefited. Secondly, to what extent are we hearing the voices of our people on issues of such an important issue as regional integration? The answer is that there is still a great degree of work left to be done. Today, our region has in countless ways and through numerous governmental and non-governmental bodies and arrangements exhibited that it will spare very little effort in ensuring that possible engagements important in the process of regional development are engaged.

Our region exists within the Caribbean sea without much ‘insulation’, and it is constantly bombarded by the excesses of capitalism, and many of the negative qualities that globalisation has on small nation states as ours. Is integration then a must, or do we have an option? Without doubt, if we are to harness the human capital and natural resources readily available to us on any scale to support efficiency in our productive sectors, there must be the appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure that relationships are forged on the basis of principles such as partnership through open communication, trustworthiness, mutual respect, and reciprocity among our states. It is, therefore, past the time when the members of our community must all recognise that full community participation and support, are two critical components if we are to provide a sustainable environment to build the structures which will support a thriving body politic.

Our efforts to bring our region together will be fruitful once grounded in the deep-seated faith that within us resides the ability to conquer and move forward. Beyond our common institutions and agreements, integration among CARICOM states also serves to undergird the international image of this collection of middle-income developing states. Our region, its constant evolution, and the projected resultant implications of the successes or failures of delayed or speedy integration will forever be an increasingly compelling subject for study. In considering the specific problems we face, primarily those grounded in the notion that integration is a modern incursion on a nation’s sovereignty, we must approach these issues remembering that the whole is always greater than any of its constituent parts. It is in this regard that we must never be discouraged in our efforts towards regional integration, and must find more cause for hope and optimism beyond easy and early solutions.

The message is clear. Our philosophy must not be one mortgaged to the past, but one secured in personal confidence and a willingness to work together for the betterment of our entire region. We must work with greater resilience and perseverance to see the seeds of Caribbean identity germinate and bear the beautiful fruit in its truest formulation of a Caricom Single Market and Economy.

Saboto Caesar is a Lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator.