22 November 1991 - 24 November 1991

The Caribbean States

Chair: The Rt Hon the Baroness Young PC DL

Thanks to the planned coincidence with a joint Caribbean-European Community meeting and the help of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in sponsoring visitors to the UK, we were able to assemble at Ditchley a fair cross-section of participants from the region, as well as from Europe and North America. Unfortunately the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba was prevented at the last minute from attending.

We were adjured by one participant to produce at least one concrete proposal and, in so far as that lay within the power of individual participants, to give it effect. In fact a number of practical suggestions emerged from the two days’ discussion. Implementation however will call above all for leadership in the relevant field and one theme that constantly recurred was the dearth of leadership.

It was a flaw in the conference that the problems of the region tended to be seen from an Anglophone perspective, even though the Anglophone communities constitute a small proportion of the population of the region, the great majority, even excluding the mainland, speaking Spanish, with French in second place. Nevertheless considerable attention was devoted to the particular questions of Cuba and Haiti.

Discussion started with the recognition that much had changed in the world. In particular the US no longer saw any threat from the region or any need for “strategic denial”. There was thus a danger that the region might find itself marginalised while large trading blocs emerged elsewhere, the European Single Market and Economic Space, the North American Free Trade Area, and the informal yen trading area. Thus it was generally agreed that if the region was to be taken seriously, it must pull itself together, literally and metaphorically. Caricom was seen as a broken reed, and if functional co-operation had proved difficult, what hope was there for political co-operation? Caricom was under-funded (members not paying their dues), under-manned, wrongly-sited in Guyana and without political leadership or even the will among the members to implement agreed decisions, e.g. the agreed common external tariff. It lacked too any democratic under-pinning (the North Atlantic Assembly was quoted as a possible model). Indeed parliaments generally needed strengthening. Despite these shortcomings there was a general feeling that countries in the region should try to build on Caricom, by re-locating an expanded and more efficient secretariat, introducing majority voting (although it might be doubted if that would improve implementation) and creating some sanction for bad behaviour (would exposure and peer group pressure be enough? What other sanction could be devised?). Additionally, serious thought should be given to developing Caricom into a forum for political consultation and to widening membership to include e.g. Surinam, the Dutch Antilles, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and perhaps even Mexico and Venezuela, though there was no agreement on this list and some doubts were expressed. A common currency was generally thought to be premature. Only by confronting the world as a unity however could the countries of the region be seen as serious negotiating partners and as possible candidates for inclusion in the NAFTA, an opportunity which might be open in as little as 3 years. The establishment by private sector initiative of the Caribbean Council for Co-operation in Europe was welcomed: should there not be a similar body in Washington? While the initiative must come from the region, external bodies should tailor their policies so as to encourage intra-regional co-operation.

There were other ways in which the region could co-operate with advantage, e.g. the environment which affected all. Might not model legislation be offered, at minimal cost, to be enacted separately by individual countries, to cover such areas as oil drilling and marine pollution, drift-net fishing, spear-guns, cruise liners, etc? The Caribbean Conservation Association existed but was fairly ineffectual.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) was seen as a key to economic development, although the role of the local private sector was constantly stressed. Countries of the region needed to take positive steps to encourage FDI e.g. by entering into investment protection treaties (safeguards enshrined in treaties gave greater confidence than local legislation). Foreign investors tended to consider the region as a whole, another reason for close co-operation. In general much aid was available through the international financial institutions, the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative and other US mechanisms, and the EC (through Lomé IV and the regional fund) but the take-up had been disappointing and absorptive capacity was low. The causes of this boiled down to people. There was a pressing need for better qualified staff, with the right political leadership; and that meant education and training and the reversal of the brain drain. How could the tiny island communities offer a career to able people, be it in government, the police or education, unless they could get together with larger territories or in larger unions? Education in technical skills (e.g. agriculture and business management) was neglected. Education was vital for the development of the region: it could and should be tackled co-operatively. It should include education in languages, with the English speakers learning the other languages of the region and vice versa, with exchanges and scholarships to foster the process. On a more technical level, could not the international financial institutions (IFIs), including the Caribbean Development Bank, of which Germany was a member, the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, consider (with the support of their share-holders) providing a pool of foreign exchange which could be used, on banking terms, to provide working capital for the private sector? Was there a case for subsidising agriculture, e.g. by subsidising credit (not favoured, it was said, by the IFIs) or in other ways? Intra-regional trade, it was said, was minimal and in many ways the islands’ economies were competitive not complementary, but there was scope for expansion.

Tourism was discussed. Some of the economic benefit was lost because the material needs of tourists tended to be imported from outside the region. The remedy lay in political will and private sector enterprise.

Drugs and the drug traffic were also discussed. Greater co-operative effort, better enforcement (e.g. with small fast patrol boats), improved and shared intelligence, were all required, together with alternative crops for farmers; but the solution lay as much with the countries of demand (and the tourists) and the countries of supply: the Caribbean could not solve the problem alone and should not allow preventive measures to obstruct intra-regional trade.

Haiti was seen as a problem sui generis. The situation there was desperate, with a breakdown of government and only the non-governmental organisations able to operate throughout the country. It was important that action by the OAS should be successful in restoring democracy, though it was felt that failure would not necessarily prove a signal to other military adventurers. However while the efforts of the OAS to bring about reconciliation were to be supported, no clear remedies were offered. Emigration from Haiti was creating great problems for her neighbours. Already there were 1m Haitians in the Dominican Republic out of 6m. Again the Caribbean region alone could not cope with the problem. The US decision to return Haitian refugees was deplored, both on humanitarian grounds and because it put the burden on much smaller and weaker economies.

Cuba was something of an enigma with a clear division of opinion emerging between those who argued that real steps were already being taken there to liberalise political activity and allow private enterprise more of its head, and others who were deeply sceptical. All agreed however that the important thing was to work somehow to bring about the transition to a more liberal, more market- orientated situation, without bloodshed. The initiative of the Latin American Presidents to engage Castro in dialogue was welcome and the hope expressed, without much conviction, that that might lead to a US/Cuban dialogue. The Mexican-inspired conference of Spanish and Portuguese speakers in the region, with a follow-up conference planned in Madrid, was noted: might not the US and the EC suggest to Spain that a meeting with a wider participation from the region (e.g. Haiti and Caricom) might be linked to it?

Finally, one participant having observed in private that if Britain wanted independence from its dependencies, she would have to fight for it, it was suggested that the British Government might set an example by attempting to bring the British Dependent Overseas Territories (DOTs) together. At the least more consultation was needed between the DOTs and the metropolitan power.

This Note reflects the Director's personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.

Chairman: The Rt Hon the Baroness Young PC DL
Life Peer (Conservative); Vice-President, West India Committee


The Hon Emile Gumbs

Chief Minister, Anguilla

Mr Rickey Singh

Journalist, Barbados

Mr Adrian J Beamish CMG

Assistant Under Secretary of State (Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific), Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
Sir Michael Caine
Chairman, Director, Booker pic;
Sir Michael Franklin KCB CMG
President, The West India Committee
Mr Leonard van Geest
Chairman, Geest plc, Lincolnshire
Mr David Jessop
Executive Director, The West India Committee; Director, Caribbean Trade Advisory Group to British Overseas Trade Board
Mr Duncan McArthur
Regional Director, Bermuda, Caribbean & Atlantic Islands, Cable and Wireless pic.
Mr David Stephen
Director, Corporate Relations, Commonwealth Development Corporation
Dr Jean Stubbs
Co-ordinator, Caribbean Studies Programme, Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Institute of Latin American Studies, London
Mr David Suratgar
Group Director, Morgan Grenfell & Co Ltd; Vice President, West India Committee
Dr Paul K Sutton
Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics,  University of Hull
Mr David C Thomas CMG
Adviser on Overseas Scholarships Funding, Cultural Relations Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Professor Anthony Thorndike JP
Head of Department, International Relations and Politics, Staffordshire Polytechnic
Mr Bowen Wells MP
Member of Parliament (Conservative), Hertford & Stortford; Member: Foreign Affairs Select Committee; British Caribbean Group; European Legislation Select Committee; Secretary, All Party Overseas Development Group; Chairman: UN Parliamentary Group, British-Caribbean Group.
Mr Robert M Worcester
Chairman, Market and Opinion Research International (MORI); Consultant to The Times, The Sunday Times and The Economist; Visiting Professor at City University, London; Vice President, International Social Science Council/UNESCO, and Member, Human Dimensions for Global Environmental Change Programme; Member, Programme Committee, The Ditchley Foundation.

Mr Marvie Elton Georges OBE

Deputy Governor, Tortola, British Virgin Islands with special interest in the Dependent Territories

Mr Malcolm C Johnston

The Bank of Nova Scotia: Executive Vice-President, International Banking
Mr Ronald S Ritchie
Corporate Director; Chairman, Canadian Ditchley Foundation.

Lic. Bernardo Vega

President, Fundacion Cultural Dominicana

Mr Peter Pooley

Deputy Director-General for Development, The European Commission.

M Christophe Bouchard

First Secretary, French Embassy, London

Ambassador Dr Gerhard Henze

Director of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, Foreign Office, Bonn
Professor Dr Hans F Illy
Senior Research Fellow, Arnold Bergstraesser Institute, Freiburg; Consultant in Development Management

Dr Euric Bobb

Deputy Manager for Operations, Region III (Bahamas, Barbados, Chile, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela), Inter-American Development Bank

The Hon Bruce Golding MP

Shadow Minister of Finance and Chairman, Jamaica Labour Party

Professor Yuzo Kamo

Professor of History, College of Literature, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo

The Hon Reuben Meade

Chief Minister, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Government of Montserrat

The Hon Antonio J Colorado

Secretary of State of Puerto Rico (presiding over the Governor’s Strategic Development Council, the Interagency Commission for Foreign Affairs, the Industrial Investment Committee and the Commission for Transfer of Land and other Federal Properties)

The Rt Hon James Mitchell MP

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs, St Vincent & The Grenadines

Professor Anthony T Bryan

Director, Institute of International Relations (HR) and Professor of International Relations, University of West Indies, Trinidad

The Hon Washington Misick

Chief Minister, Turks and Caicos Islands

Mr Kevin Buckley

Writer, author
Ambassador Sally G Cowal
US Ambassador to Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Dr Georges A Fauriol
Senior Fellow and Director, Americas Program, and Director, Endowment Campaign, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC
Professor Anthony P Maingot
Florida International University, Miami: Professor of Sociology and Editor, Hemisphere (Latin American and Caribbean Studies magazine)
Dr Robert Pastor
Professor of Political Science, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, and Director, Latin American and Caribbean Program, Emory’s Carter Center
Dr Wayne S Smith
Adjunct Professor of Latin American Studies and Director of Cuban Studies, The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Washington DC

Dr Rainer B Steckhan

Director, Country Department II, (Latin America and the Caribbean), The World Bank