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Former Attorney General urges country to put aside partisan politics ahead of referendum

Former Attorney General urges country to put aside partisan politics ahead of referendum

ST. JOHN’S, ANTIGUA, Aug. 16, CMC – Former Attorney General Justin Simon QC, has called on the population to put aside partisan politics in the runup to a referendum on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), scheduled for later this year.

During an interview on state media, Simon this is what he will be pushing while on the trail to promote the Trinidad based CCJ.

Justin Simon

“I am not saying that people will not have their political difference, but let us sink them in respect to this particular cause.”

Simon, who served as AG under a previous administration of the United Progressive Party (UPP), made comments following  calls by the UPP – now the main opposition party, for the referendum to include more than one item in the context of constitutional reform.

However, the former Attorney General believes that the referendum should remain a one issue initiative.

“I am of the strong opinion and view that the CCJ should be dealt with on its own by itself. We look at the experience of Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines which placed other issues of constitutional reform on the table and that was rejected,” Simon said.

The London-based Privy Council presently serves as the island’s final court and the referendum on November 6 will allow for the population to indicate whether they intend to join the CCJ that was established in 2001.

While many of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are signatories to the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana have signed on to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the court that also serves as an international tribunal that interprets the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement.

CMC/kb/2018

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Caribbean broadcasters meeting in Jamaica

Caribbean broadcasters meeting in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 14, CMC –Caribbean and international broadcasters are meeting here amidst calls for regional governments to adapt to the new media environment of which social media is now a critical part.

Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Ruel Reid, addressing the 49th annual General Assembly of the Barbados-based Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), Tuesday, said that it was also necessary for Caribbean societies to guard against insularity as well as to take their place in the discourse in the global geo politics.

“I encourage our governments to adapt to our new media environment of which social media is now a critical part – embrace social media as an additional means to engage with our citizenry, encourage youth participation in our democracies and build trust in our systems.

Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Ruel Reid

“We see the power of the media in the #MeToo Movement – and it is from advocacy against gender based injustices in the West to campaigns for girls to access to education in the East that now cannot be muted given the coverage through multiple media platforms.”

But Reid said that the shift to the online world has also brought many new social problems.

“For example, children and young adults are particularly vulnerable to cyber-bullying, revenge porn, internet addiction disorder and other forms of deeply problematic internet use. One of the worst problems is that some gangs now record their criminal acts, including murders and rapes, which they then post on social media and share via WhatsApp in order to exult in their ‘success’, humiliate their victims, devastate their families and intimidate others. These posts/shares encourage imitation and retaliation, resulting in a vicious cycle of reciprocal violence. “

He said that a less-obvious but equally troubling problem is that as traditional news outlets have become less profitable, they are also losing some of their primary news-gathering and fact-checking capacity.

“The loss of authoritative and independent sources of news means that many people now obtain their information from closed loops of like-minded people, which encourages political tribalism and increases vulnerability to fake news and manipulation via social media.”

Reid said that a number of state agencies, criminal and terrorist organizations and mercenary hackers now have the ability to destabilize countries by penetrating their communications, compromising their infrastructure and manipulating elections with fake news.

He said the cost of a cyber-hack/fake news attack has fallen dramatically as the necessary skills have spread through the hacker community, which means that these attacks are likely to be much more common in future.

“So the critical issue for our countries now is that our regulatory framework must focus on protecting vulnerable persons such as children, adolescents and young adults against malign content; our States must take steps to improve national media literacy.

“Media must ensure that it maintains high media quality with particular regard to factual content, support national and citizen security, and protect the integrity of our democratic systems,” he told the delegates.

Reid recalled that while there had been the Ferguson riots in the United States against the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager Mike Brown in 2014, Jamaica was grappling with the Mario Dean tragedy.

Deane was reportedly beaten while in police custody and later died. That matter is still before the courts. Reid said that the ordinary citizen’s perspectives were amplified alongside traditional broadcast journalists and media houses’ coverage ensuring appropriate focus on the issues attendant on both security and justice.

He said tools available to journalists, civil society and the public at large, such as access to information (ATI) legislation must not be underused.

“Just recently, use of our ATI Act exploded the widely held view that women were not allowed to wear sleeveless shirts and or dresses to conduct business in government establishments, effectively proving a barrier to access timely government services.

“Human rights activist and blogger Susan Goffe utilized the Access to Information Act to request from a number of government Ministries, whether this enforced dress code was originated from any policy document. Following the request it was revealed that no policy prohibited women’s access to government buildings in sleeveless shirts or dresses. The national discourse again ignited, and this is where these discussions can influence policy,” he said.

Reid noted the challenges to the survival of indigenous Caribbean media recognising that the global media industry is in the middle of a profound transformation.

“We have left behind the era in which the media industry was organized and regulated by infrastructure -radio, television, telephone, print etc.-. Today, content flows over many different networks and technologies.”

He said that news, information, entertainment, education, directions, home management and shopping, translations and many other services are all now digital streams that can be directed to the nearest screen.

“Many different services can now be handled on the same networks, and different services can be transmitted on a number of competing networks using different and combined technology platforms. This means that the flow of content is no longer controlled by infrastructure.

“In addition, it is now possible to provide media services without the need to have any local presence at all, or ownership of any infrastructure – other than access to the internet- , which makes it increasingly difficult to regulate effectively within a single jurisdiction, let alone by a given technology.”

Reid said that these changes mean that the traditional divisions by region and infrastructure are becoming less and less relevant.

He said in the new era, consolidated content is the heart of the media world, while infrastructure and devices are delivery channels.

“This has implications for how we will regulate, paying particular attention to what flows through an increasingly diverse array of pipes.

“The media and communications sector today is in the business of conveying both specialized and mass information across the rapidly eroding borders of broadcasting. Television and radio, business and market information, education, entertainment, publishing, advertising, telecommunications, motion pictures, home videos, video games, computer databases, and other information products are all now digital streams which run across different networks, including many that flow through some of the currently unregulated spaces”.

Reid said that content, defined broadly, is now a most critical factor and it is where value is generated and added.

“Content is now the critical determinant of the economic dynamism and prosperity of an economy.

We in the Caribbean must take note that media firms are now competing against technology firms that can operate in unregulated and untaxed spaces while accessing advertising revenue. The traditional media organizations therefore are losing both audience and income.”

Reid said between  2012 -2014 the audience for radio fell from 21 per cent to 19.6 per cent; the audience for Free-to-Air TV fell from 25 to 23.2 per cent and newspaper readership fell from 22 to 20.6 per cent as people switched to the internet and international cable.

He quoted from a 2015 document by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) that argued that the creative economy of which Film and Television and Media Arts & Communications are apart, is an important part of global trade.

“The global market for traded creative goods and services totalled US$547 billion in 2012.  Growth rates stood at 8.6 per cent annually from 2003 – 2013, showing the strength and resilience of the sector despite the economic deceleration of the world economy,” the document stated.

But Reid said that there are advantages to some of the profound changes in the media landscape with one of the most significant gains being the shift from traditional to non-traditional platforms and stimulated many new creative and business ideas, as many people are now both consumers and providers of content.

“News, information and entertainment are no longer the sole province of the traditional creators and distributors of content, the broadcast and print media. In an era of citizen journalists, Facebookers, Tweeters, bloggers and vloggers, the average person is both consumer and creator of content. “

The Assembly which is being held under the theme “Building Resilience to Climate Change: Business, Technology & Content Options for Caribbean Media,” ends on Wednesday.

 

 

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Antigua announces “non-stop” campaign ahead of CCJ referendum0

Antigua announces “non-stop” campaign ahead of CCJ referendum0

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Aug 14, CMC – Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin has announced the start of a “non-stop campaign” ahead of a referendum vote in November on whether or not Antigua and Barbuda should make the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court.

The London-based Privy Council presently serves as the island’s final court and Benjamin said that the referendum on November 6 will allow for the population to indicate whether they intend to join the CCJ that was established in 2001.

Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin

“We want to make sure Antiguans are brought up to date with the real purpose of the CCJ. So we are starting a campaign, a non-stop campaign from now until the day of the elections.

“I just want to talk with my fellow Antiguans and Barbudans today. Search your soul, search your heart. Are you really independent? Are you really a Caribbean person? How can you say you are independent when you don’t control your Court of Appeal,” Benjamin asked.

Benjamin urged nationals to ensure that they are registered to participate in the referendum, saying that the last date for registration is August 31.

“So you could have your challenges, objections etc. But to get on the final list. The list will be published in October you’ve got to register by the 31st of August this year,” Benjamin said.

The referendum will be held on November 6.

While many of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are signatories to the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana have signed on to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the court that also serves as an international tribunal that interprets the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement.

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Ross University opens new research and pathology building in St. Kitts Nevis

Ross University opens new research and pathology building in St. Kitts Nevis

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Jul. 12, CMC – The Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUSVM) has opened a multi-million dollar research and pathology building that will allow for an improved understanding of zoonotic and vector borne diseases in the region.

At the opening earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Shawn Richards said the government is looking forward to this new phase.

“My Government is also happy that this new phase will result in enhanced understanding and control of zoonotic diseases that are transferred between animals and people, such as leptospirosis, and vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya, dengue fever and Zika. As you know, those three vector-borne diseases are spread by mosquito bites,” Richards said.

“My Government therefore envisages that the RUSVM Research and Pathology Building will serve to strengthen our ongoing partnership by becoming a national reference centre or important focal point for studying and controlling vector-borne viral and bacterial diseases.”

The deputy prime minister also stressed that the new research and pathology building will further strengthen the federation’s food and agriculture sector.

“In particular, the research and pathology building will revitalize animal agricultural research by strengthening best practices in monitoring and protecting our herd health, our public health system, and our food supply – from the farm to the dinner table,” adding that “RUSVM performs autopsies on livestock animals that die at the Basseterre abattoir, and the university provides this service free of charge. This partnership allows students to obtain the educational exposure in a manner that is socially acceptable, while at the same time allowing the Agriculture Department to make informed, science-based decisions relating to animal health and food safety. Our strong history of collaborating with Ross University in the control, prevention, surveillance and treatment of disease is further cemented with this new research phase, not only in the area of food security.”

The US$10.5 million building features 13,000 square feet of research space and comprises a pathology viewing area to enhance student learning and allows for multidisciplinary research to benefit human and animal health in the Caribbean

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Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971.

‘It put an end to my childhood’: the hidden scandal of US child marriage

The Guardian

In half of US states, there is no legal minimum age for marriage; a 40-year-old man can, in theory, marry a five-year-old girl. But Florida may soon ban the practice for under-18s. We meet the former child brides campaigning for change

Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971.
Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971. Photograph: Katharina Bracher

Sherry Johnson was 11 when her mother told her she was going to get married. The bridegroom was nine years older and a deacon in the strict apostolic church that her family attended. He was also the man who had raped her and made her pregnant. “They forced me to marry him to cover up the scandal,” Johnson says. “Instead of putting the handcuffs on him and sending him to prison, they put the handcuffs on me and imprisoned me in a marriage.”

Johnson is now 58, but child marriage is not a thing of the past in the US: almost 250,000 children were married there between 2000 and 2010, some of them as young as 10. “Almost all were girls married to adult men,” says Fraidy Reiss, the director of campaigning organisation Unchained at Last.

In most US states, the minimum age for marriage is 18. However, in every state exceptions to this rule are possible, the most common being when parents approve and a judge gives their consent. In 25 states, there is no minimum marriage age when such an exception is made. But now Johnson’s home state, Florida, is poised to pass a law that sets the minimum marriage age at 18 with very few exceptions – thanks largely to her campaigning.

In 2013, Johnson was working at a barbecue stand in Tallahassee when she told her story to a senator who was one of her regular customers. “She listened to me and decided to do something,” Johnson recalls. “She presented a bill to restrict child marriage in 2014, but it failed. That was because nobody understood the problem at the time.

“People thought: this can’t happen in Florida. The minimum marriage age is 18; what’s the problem? But they didn’t know about the loopholes. Between 2001 and 2015, 16,000 children were married in Florida alone. A 40-year-old man can legally marry a five-year-old girl here.”

Sherry Johnson’s marriage certificate.
Pinterest
Sherry Johnson’s marriage certificate. Photograph: Katharina Bracher

Johnson, whose own child-marriage took place in 1971, didn’t give up. She contacted numerous Floridian politicians, told them her story and explained the problem. “It was part of my healing process to tell my story,” she says. Actually, she adds, “I don’t like to use the word story because it ain’t a story. It’s the truth – I lived it.”

Apart from Florida, there are five states in the process of passing laws to end child marriage. It has been a tough battle, says Reiss, whose organisation has been campaigning for laws to be changed all over the country for three years.

“When I began, I thought it would be easy. I thought we would just explain the problem and legislators would jump up and change the law immediately. After all, the US state department considers child marriage a human rights abuse. But everywhere there are politicians who think it’s a bad idea to change the law. You wouldn’t believe how many legislators have told me that if a girl gets pregnant, she’s got to get married. One female Democrat politician asked me: ‘Won’t you increase abortion rates if you end child marriage?’ That left me speechless.”

Last year, 17-year-old Girl Scout Cassandra Levesque campaigned to change the New Hampshire law that allows girls as young as 13 to get married if their parents approve. “My local representative introduced a bill that raised the minimum age to 18. But a couple of male representatives persuaded the others to kill the bill and to prevent it from being discussed again for some years,” she says. “One of them said that a 17-year-old Girl Scout couldn’t have a say in these matters.”

“So they think she’s old enough for marriage, but not old enough to talk about it, says Reiss. “I think that reasoning is terrifying.”

She goes on to outline the harmful effects of child marriage. “Girls who get married before 18 have a significantly higher risk of heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and strokes and a higher risk of psychiatric disorders. They are 50% more likely to drop out of high school and run a higher risk of living in poverty. They are also three times more likely to become victims of domestic violence. Really, child marriage helps no one. The only people who benefit are paedophiles.”

Reiss, who was born in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community, and was herself coerced into marrying when she was 19, says it is “extremely ironic” that laws make exceptions when parents consent to a child marriage or when an underage girl is pregnant. “Because, in many cases, the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse and the parents are forcing the girl to marry to prevent a scandal. So the law doesn’t protect the child at all. When an adult man has sex with an underage girl, this is considered statutory rape in many states. But when the perpetrator marries his victim, he can legally go on abusing her.”

Fraidy Reiss, director of campaigning organisation Unchained At Last.
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Fraidy Reiss, director of campaigning organisation Unchained At Last. Photograph: Susan Landmann

Many child brides come from religious backgrounds and less privileged groups – but not all. Donna Pollard, 34, grew up in a white, middle-class, non-religious family in a town called London in Kentucky, and yet she was married when she was 16. The man was nearly 15 years older. “I met him when I was 14 and going through a difficult time. My father had recently deceased,” she recounts. “He was my mental health counsellor and he acted like I could trust him. He convinced me that we were in love and he said: ‘If we get married when you turn 16, you will have all this freedom and your mum won’t be able to control you any more.’ So I thought I was taking charge of my life by agreeing to this.”

Her mother had no problems with her daughter getting married at 16 and readily gave her permission. “She was glad to get rid of me.”

Pollard remembers feeling very uncomfortable during the marriage ceremony. “The clerk didn’t even look up at me from her computer. She only asked: ‘Which one’s the minor?’ She didn’t assess if I was safe or needed something. He was 30 years old at the time, but nobody questioned the fact that he was so much older. That void of emotion hit me like a freight train. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t feel empowered to speak up and say: ‘I don’t know that I really want to go through with this.’ Nor did I trust my own judgment. I was a troubled teenager.”

Once married, she left school and started working at a grocery store for a minimum wage, soon becoming the breadwinner because her husband stopped working. “He became physically abusive. He was controlling everything I did. In many ways, child marriage and human trafficking are interchangeable terms.”

Pollard left her husband when she was 19 after he tried to choke her in the presence of their baby daughter. “I realised she would grow up normalising violence if I didn’t leave. That’s what gave me the courage.” Looking back, she says that marrying young disrupted her personal development. “I was very good at school. I even received a substantial scholarship for writing achievement. I could have studied creative writing with a grant.”

Johnson says that “marriage put a definite end to my childhood. I was expelled from school and by the age of 17 I had six children. There was no way I could escape. You are not allowed to sign legal documents when you are under 18, so I couldn’t file for a divorce. For seven years, I was stuck with the man who damaged me and continued to do so.

“Child marriage delayed my life. I was never able to attain an education. I am still struggling, trying to survive. Working three jobs as a healthcare provider to make ends meet. And then there’s the pain, the trauma that you have to deal with.”

“We see the number of child marriages going down now, but it’s not going fast enough,” says Reiss. “It’s so difficult to help child brides escape. Our organisation risks being charged with kidnapping because they are under 18. This has already happened to us once. Also, there are very few shelters in the US that accept girls younger than 18. So when girls call us, we have to tell them the help we can provide is very limited. Most of the children who reach out to us for help have tried to kill themselves because they would rather be dead than forced into a marriage. That keeps me awake at night. Something has to change.”

On 31 January, Johnson sat in the public gallery while the Florida senate unanimously passed the bill that will end child marriage in the state (although the bill was subsequently amended to allow pregnant 16- and 17-year-old girls to marry). Several senators talked about her story and thanked her for pushing for the bill. Afterwards, she said that the senate vote helped to heal the pain. “I smile from within to know that children will not have to face what I have been through.”

For more information or counselling on any of the issues raised in this article go to unchainedatlast.org

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UNICEF and Education Ministry to launch campaign on discipline

UNICEF and Education Ministry to launch campaign on discipline

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun. 22, CMC –  The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) will be collaborating with the Ministry of Education to launch a campaign on positive discipline.

UNICEF’s country representative, Sylvie Fouet says the evidence-based campaign stems from a conversation the organisation has been having with stakeholders for some time .

“That consultation took place about a year ago and we also involved children themselves. It was important because the way of teaching has to change,” Fouet told the media, explaining that part of the campaign will also help the ministry in its review of its teaching scheme” Fouet told reporters on Thursday.

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Michael Gillis and UNICEF country representative, Sylvie Fouet

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist Michael Gillis said the organisation started the collection of data in 2014.

That data gave an indication of the kind of discipline being practised. A situation analysis was also done on women on children which indicated what was happening and why it was happening. It was found too that there were key issues in hinterland communities.

“We then followed the lead of the data and then collected the information about indigenous women and children. There is a whole lot of evidence which moved beyond what is happening in school, what is being practised in society.  The positive discipline campaign was really evidence-informed,” he said.

The analysis found that corporal punishment was being practised at a very high level with over 70 per cent of parents administering some form of corporal punishment for different reasons.

“The positive discipline campaign will bring additional tools and ways of disciplining,” he said.

Communication Specialist, Frank Robinson relayed some recommendations that could be adhered to by parents to aid in their discipline technique.

He said, instead of hitting the child, parents can explain why the behaviour is not in keeping with what the parent would like.

“Give the child the chance to understand the severity of the action or behaviour by sitting and talking with the child,” he recommended.

At the same time, he said children need to understand that while they have rights, they also have responsibilities.

“So, it more of an empowerment type methodology in terms of disciplining children and so xfar, what we have seen with parents and schools that practice positive disciplining, we have seen positive changes,” Robinsons said.

UNICEF has already produced a video showcasing the perspective of children on the subject.

A second video is currently being produced that will give the perspective and views of the parents on positive discipline.

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New policy aims to get teenage mothers back in school

New policy aims to get teenage mothers back in school

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun. 19, CMC – The Ministry of Education has implemented a  new policy  to ensure that  teenage mothers have the opportunity to go back to school while receiving support at home and from their community.

The policy manual was handed over on Monday  by officials from the Ministry and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The policy which is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, also had the input of other stakeholders, including the Ministry of Public Security and faith-based organisations.

Sandra Granger

Addressing the handing over ceremony at the National Center for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) , First Lady, Sandra Granger, called on the policy-makers and educators to uphold and protect the rights of children and adolescent mothers who have suffered sexual abuse.

“We have to speak of these things and see it as violence against our children. We also have to… ensure that their rights are recognised and upheld; that our legal and our social protection agencies protect these children with the full majesty of the law… the children come first and it is their future that we have to ensure… That is enshrined in our Constitution.”

According to Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry, teenage pregnancy is a complex issue which results from a number of factors. These can be poverty, gender inequality, violence, lack of education and difficult relationships with parents and family members. She said this must not prevent them from acquiring education.

“As the government, our motto is that every child matters. With this policy there will be no need to repeat the past because the future for adolescent mothers in Guyana will become bright because legally the barriers that prevail will be a thing of the past and indeed illegal. Leaving the path open to an education for all,” Minister Henry told officials present.

UNICEF representative to Guyana and Suriname, Sylvie Fouet said Guyana ranks the second highest in teenage pregnancy in Latin America and the Caribbean. She said the creation of the policy is a key milestone and the next step is implementation. She signalled that opening the doors is not sufficient, and communities and stakeholders need to understand and be supportive and knowledgeable of reproductive health in Guyana.

“They need to know that they are protected and they are cared for so all the supportive mechanisms like education, health and justice has to support that and we hope so and we wish the best for Guyanese particularly the youngest,” Fouet said.

The policy has been in the works for approximately one year and sets out clear guidelines to ensure that mothers are not denied the opportunity to re-enter the formal school system, to continue their education.

It aims at not only managing the reintegration of the adolescent mothers but it is to also advance the prevention of adolescent pregnancy.

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CARICOM and Cuba to strengthen relations in key areas of cooperation

CARICOM and Cuba to strengthen relations in key areas of cooperation

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 14, CMC – The Cribbean Community (CARICOM)  and the government of Cuba have both pledged to continue to strenthen relations in matters related to trade and the arts.

This was the outcome of talks between CARICOM’s  Assistant Secretary General, Human and Social Development  Dr. Douglas Slater, and  Cuba’s Vice Minister  Rogelio Sierra Diaz, when they met at the CARICOM Secretariat on Wednesday.

The issues related to a Disabilities Project, the extension of Art programmes at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica, and trade.

In the discussions on the Disabilities Project, Slater, who spoke on behalf of CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque,  noted that a tri-lateral  Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), among the Government of Guyana, the Government of Cuba and CARICOM had already been signed.

He explained that there was a decision to implement the Project in phases and outlined that a Centre has been constructed by the Government of Guyana and a  team from Cuba is already in  Guyana working on the Project.

He said when the initial phase was completed in Guyana and there was a clear way forward, the Project would be extended to the other CARICOM Member States.

In response, Diaz said firm steps had been taken and there was a lot to be thankful for. He said it was now important to acquire the equipment needed.

In relation to the phase of the Project that would extend it to the other CARICOM Member States, he said that the CARICOM Secretary-General and staff would play a key role in achieving the goals of that phase.

Both parties agreed that there were still some details that needed to be refined between CARICOM and Guyana.

The Cuban Vice-Minister also gave the assurance that Cuba would provide support, knowledge and training, but emphasized that the project belonged to CARICOM.

Turning to the matter of the extension of programmes in the School of Art at the Edna Manley School in Jamaica, the Cuban Ambassador said the Government of Jamaica had been contacted and the areas in which Cuba could provide assistance were identified. He explained that it was being proposed that there might be some additional infrastructural requirements for the project to move forward and various options to address this challenge were being explored.

Slater expressed an interest in further engagement on the matter and also gave an assurance that the CARICOM Secretariat would engage with the Edna Manley School to explore the available options.

Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration, Joseph Cox who was also present, spoke about a trade and economic partnership agreement that had been regionally applied in 12 Member States and highlighted that Haiti had now expressed an interest in joining the agreement.

We have commenced our engagements with Haiti in this regard and we will have further engagements with Cuba regarding their inclusion and that should happen in the very near future”, Cox said.

In relation to a Joint Commission in which the second protocol was signed in November 2017, he advised that Member States needed to accelerate their efforts to satisfy the legal requirements to be party to the Commission.

Under the agreement, more than 300 Caribbean products would have fees removed for export to Cuba.

The Cuban Vice-Minister said he understood that there were legal protocols that would have to be addressed, but implored CARICOM not to allow them to create further delays.

The goal of the protocol is to improve trade relations between CARICOM and Cuba.

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EU promises assistance to Caribbean in developing biodiversity strategy

EU promises assistance to Caribbean in developing biodiversity strategy

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 15, CMC – The European Union (EU) has reaffirmed its financial support for regional sustainable development while acknowledging the need for the development of a Caribbean biodiversity strategy over the next 5 years.

Chargé d’Affaires at the EU Delegation in Guyana, Layla El Khadraoui, told the participatory regional workshop for the development of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Biodiversity Strategy that Europe, which has been a “reliable friend” to the region is hoping “that the exchanges throughout this workshop will guide the discussion towards a concise Regional Biodiversity Strategy for the next 5 years.”

Chargé d’Affaires Layla El Khadraoui at the
EU Delegation in Guyana,

Describing the EU as “the world’s largest contributor” to cooperation for development and climate financing, she said it increasingly integrates climate change into its broader development strategy.

The diplomat said much work she noted has been done with the UN Environment “to build a strong regional approach to the conservation and management of marine and terrestrial biodiversity in the Caribbean, focusing initially on Cuba, Haiti and Dominican Republic” with a budget of Euro 3.5 million (One Euro=US$01.29 cents).

She said with an additional budget of Euro 40 million, the EU will also be providing support to 12 of its ‘overseas territories’ through a regional programme focusing on resilience, sustainable energy and marine biodiversity.

She described climate change as “burning priority” of the EU for which it is using 20 per cent of the funds from the contributors by 2020 for projects and programmes related to climate change and disaster risk reduction.

El Khadraoui said those financing priorities are with the knowledge that the Caribbean Sea region is particularly sensitive to natural and climate related disasters.

“Each year hurricanes are a risk for many of the islands, and they are expected to become more intense in the future because of climate change.

“Various Caribbean countries are fringed by mangroves, sea grass meadows and coral reefs, all of which form an interrelated ecosystem that is not only important to the economic and social well-being of the islands and countries, but they are key elements for adapting to the countries’ increasing vulnerability to these more intense natural events associated with climate change.,” she said.

She noted for examples that the mangroves, sea grass meadows and coral reefs not only provide well-documented protection against strong waves and storm surges during tropical storms and potable groundwater supplies, but they provide food, shelter, habitat, important nursery grounds and reproductive areas for many species.

“Mangroves and sea grasses also capture significant volumes of CO2 released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels,’ she said, while underscoring the critical importance of proper management of biodiversity.

“Most tourists appreciate the beauty of landscapes and seascapes like healthy coral reefs, beautiful beaches and other ecosystems that provide a broad range of essential services that would be either expensive, or impossible to restore or replace once they are lost.”

Therefore, she added, “investing in protecting and building the resilience of nature´s free services on the land and in the sea is a necessity for the well-being of the islands’ and countries’ future generations,” El Khadraoui told delegates.

Meanwhile, the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat says it is resolved to present to the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) by year’s end, a CARICOM Biodiversity Strategy (CBS) that will guide the protection and sustainable use the Community’s natural resources.

Assistant Secretary-General of the Directorate of Human and Social Development, Dr Douglas Slater, said this effort is collective and timely to accelerate progress in achieving regional commitments under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (CBD).

The CBS is an output under the Caribbean Hub sub-component of Phase II of the Programme for Capacity-Building related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

The process has been funded by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund and has received implementation support from UN Environment, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), CBD Secretariat.

The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) is aiding the development of the CBS for the CARICOM Secretariat and is also facilitating the workshop here.

Dr Slater noted that biodiversity and the regional economy are “deeply interconnected.”

He said the natural ecosystems of the region provide the people of the region with essential goods and services such as food and nutrition, medicine, recreation, fuel, storm protection, and climate resilience.

He said for those reasons, it is critical to “pause and take stock.”

The CARICOM Secretariat, in collaboration with UN Environment, has therefore coordinated the preparation of a progress report titled State of Biodiversity in the Caribbean – A review of the progress towards the Aichi biodiversity targets which will be released shortly.

Dr Slater said CBS will allow COTED to advice on the post-2020 biodiversity priorities for the Region and establish linkage to the Small Island Developing States (SIDs) agenda as well as the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

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Campaign to combat childhood obesity launched

Campaign to combat childhood obesity launched

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun 15, CMC – Barbados has launched a campaign aimed at addressing childhood obesity and the government has said it is examining the feasibility of restricting foods high in salt, fat and sugar from the school environment and from being marketed to children.

Health and Wellness Minister, retired Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, speaking at the launch of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Campaign, cited a report by researchers at the University of the West Indies (UWI) showing that in 1987, only 8.5 per cent of Barbadian school children were obese.

However, by 2010, the percentage rose to 32.5 per cent and it is now projected that the figure could increase to 50 per cent by 2030.

“Childhood obesity is harming Barbados through its impacts on the health and social fabric of the country. Not only is the burden of obesity in children large but it is projected to continue growing unless we take decisive action,” Bostic said.

He said that the impacts of childhood obesity on health encompassed issues such as increased risk of adult obesity and increased risk of non-communicable diseases, depression and anxiety.

The campaign, an initiative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados, and dubbed “Stop! Yuh TOO Sweet,” will initially focus solely on the support of policy change to ban the sale of sugary sweets in schools.

Bostic gave the assurance that the government was committed to addressing the issue in several ways including working in partnership with a variety of agencies.

Other initiatives include promoting breastfeeding as an integral part of early child nutrition; supporting the monitoring of growth and development in early childhood; and encouraging regular physical activity in school-aged children.

He said that the Ministry would be engaging the food industry on reducing the production, manufacture, distribution and marketing of energy-dense and high-salt foods.

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