Friday, April 17, 2009
The Melting Pot Is Heating Up
Summit of the Americas Is Getting Hot In Trinidad
Find purpose, the means will follow. -Gandhi
I arrived at the Hasley Crawford Stadium parked boarded a shuttle bus where I met the Director of the Aster Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago, Mrs Eustrice Hope. She commented on the fact that she was never really escorted by police motorcyclist before. I did not tell her but being escorted like that reminded me of the prison buses being escorted with blue light in such a speed that you would think that there was a fire at the prison and the prisoners would be we see all the time being escorted by these police motorcyclists.
I had elected to attend one of 5 Civil Society Forums entitled “Promoting New Skills, Decent Work and Entrepreneurship in the Current Crisis.” That session started with an overview of programs in Columbia, Haiti and Jamaica. These were poverty alleviation programs that created employment and hope in really adverse situations such as in Haiti and Columbia where entire communities are displaced. Here aer a couple tidbits of what I learned:
3 million people in Columbia - Displaced by Violence
92% from rural areas
63% under 25 years old
47% headed by women
14% cannot read or write
6 out of 85 million people live in poverty
50% on less than one US dollar a day
12.5% of babies die before age 5
Reference was also made to the Cuban model that somehow was able to show progress even without help from its western neighbors.
We were then placed in teams to discuss the issues input our collective experiences to come up with recommendations that could be presented to the Heads of Governments after it had been compiled with all the rest of the recommendations.
At the end of this process, right after lunch, a Secretariat coordinator announced that only 10 people will be allowed to attend the Heads of Government meeting. They were scheduled for 12 minutes to make their presentations.
That announcement caused a total uproar among the delegates. Their collective position was that it was wrong after they had worked for over 2 years attending various fora in different countries to develop recommendations and declarations and now they were being marginalized.
Especially since the Private Sector and Youth Groups were allowed 20 participants and I think 25 minutes.
The situation became a little tense for a minute, at one point a delegate suggested that Mrs. Manning who was present call her husband or anybody else and get it resolved immediately. Thank God for emails.
A Secretariat coordinator then came to the podium and announced that she had just received an email that says the Civil Society group will now be able to appoint 20 delegates and share equal time with the Heads of Governments.
At that point, the a contingent of Latin American delegates walked out of the auditorium en mass. The proceeding continued and they only meekly return to hear the Director of the OAS, (forgot his name} speak to the group.
In the end, the Secretariat conceded to allowing 40 delegates to attend today’s proceeding and giving them equal time. There is some validity to asking.
Ok my take on all this was summed up perfectly by an article I read on another blog, and I quote:
The first thing Obama and Latin American leaders should do at the upcoming summit should be to replace most paragraphs of their final declaration with one sentence: "We reaffirm our commitment to all previous agreements signed by us and our predecessors at previous summits.". Read the article here.
Fact is the member nations of the Americas have attended previous summits and have returned home and not implemented any of the resolutions. One that comes to mind immediately is the declaration on Human Rights. Only 50 percent of the member states have rectified that declaration at home. Trinidad and Tobago is sad to note is in that group.
And then there is the other on the Labor Laws in these countries. Many Caribbean states still operate on hundred year old labor laws with all of its inadequacies and discriminatory clauses.
Bottom line is that it felt like an exercise in futility and I thank God I had not worked for two years then hear that I will only be allowed 12 minutes to present all the world social problems with recommendations to be considered to the Heads of Governments. Unless these governments are ready and willing to act on the resolutions that are being made here. This entire summit will not accomplish its objective.
As far as in Port of Spain Trinidad involvement and hosting of the Summit, I think it provided an invaluable opportunity for many of our citizens to experience and transact with the rest of the world. There are many benefit to be derived from the hosting of he summit.
Inadvertently, the Trinidad and Tobago government has opened up a Pandora box. This Summit is not being held a million miles from our shores, we do not need to wait on our Heads of Government to report on what was said and who said it. The spot light is now lit on us, it will take awhile to fade. That in an of itself is one of the biggest benefits.
Other benefits are tangible as many citizens and large companies are experiencing right now. But I also witnessed and participated in much waste, seeing “with my own two eyes”, like we say here, where things could have been done differently in what so many people call “these hard times”.
Here is a typical example of how I participated in the waste. On the way out of the summit I boarded a 34 passenger bus to be shuttled back to the stadium. The bus left with two other passengers and myself. This driver was certainly not paid by the number of people he shuttled. How do the taxpayers feel.
OK that’s all for now. I will not be attending any more of the actual summit but there are a couple of events I will attend and update you from my point of view, the only view I have.
As always be well and enjoy the weekend.