R. Rose
July 8, 2005
Maybe, we too, need a Live 8!

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the first weekend of July is IT – the climax of the Carnival celebrations, the five-day (Friday-Tuesday) showpiece of the country’s biggest cultural festival.

In neighbouring Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada, the entertainment thermometer also rises as those countries build up to their own respective events in the July-August period. In Jamaica there is the big Independence weekend. Yes, the Caribbean is hot, and not just because of mid-year temperatures. {{more}}

Meanwhile a coordinated series of cultural performances was mobilizing millions of people around the globe and focusing attention on the dire need to end poverty, want and related diseases in the world.

The LIVE 8 concerts, centred on London’s Hyde Park but also organized in nine other venues in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa featured some of the world’s top entertainers using their god-given talents to heighten awareness of global action to eradicate poverty.

Target of the LIVE 8 mobilization is the gathering in the exclusive Scottish Gleneagles of the leaders of the world’s elite club of nations, the self-styled G8, consisting of the USA, Canada, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Russia and host country, Britain. The LIVE 8 gatherings hope to impress on these leaders that critical and urgent action needs to be taken to end the plight of hundreds of millions, especially in Africa, who are wallowing in hunger and misery.

In addition to poverty, the G8 agenda includes a number of issues of fundamental importance to developing countries including their huge and crippling debts, economic justice and fair trade, and the worsening situation of global climate change. Those who gather in Gleneagles are in a position to initiate positive global action to tackle these problems since their countries and governments wield the controlling influence in international political, financial and economic institutions. By the time the G8 begin their deliberations on Wednesday, the C15, as the CARICOM Summit can be described, would have concluded their own discussions. It is not by co-incidence that many of the issues on the agenda of the G8 would be the same issues facing the CARICOM leaders.

While no doubt the CARICOM Single Market and Economy will be the centerpiece of the Caribbean Summit, trade issues will be high on the agenda. Just as G8 leaders are being pressured to pursue trade policies based on justice and providing opportunities for the poor to lift themselves out of poverty, so too will their CARICOM counterparts. They will be expected to tell the region’s 20 million inhabitants, from Suriname to those on the twin-nation island of Hispaniola, what they plan to do to defend the livelihood of farmers, sugar workers, and employees in the public and service sectors, in the face of global trading arrangements which promise opportunities but are more likely to deliver crippling economic blows.

CARICOM and the Dominican Republican have to deal with the Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA) in the western hemisphere, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations which threaten the vital sugar, banana, rice and rum industries as well as posing a menace to agriculture and food sovereignty. They too must confront mounting national debts, a hostile world economic and trading climate and policies of the international financial institutions which restrict their ability to pursue alternative efforts at diversification of their own choosing.

Unfortunately for the people of the Caribbean, while the LIVE 8 concerts are bringing the issues of world poverty, particularly in Africa, to the international community, there is no similar mobilization in the Caribbean, either to impress the urgency of the People’s concerns on our leaders or let the rest of the world know of the impending dangers we face. True, the scale and nature of poverty in Africa is far worse than that in the Caribbean. But, close the sugar and rice industries in the region, destroy market access for banana farmers, blacklist the financial service sector, and force governments to privatize social services, and, overnight, all the advances that we have achieved in the past 50 years can disappear, just like that. It is a frightening possibility which daily inches towards PROBABILITY.

And we, with our false sense of economic well-being, our imported consumer tastes, our reliance on external forces are insufficiently aware of the gathering clouds.

How many of our songs, calypsoes, cultural performances, will reflect these realities? Perhaps, we too need a LIVE 8, or LIVE 15, to bring the message home.

It is that urgent.