The Caribbean’s Next Chapter - A Re-Think: The “World We Want”

By Paula Mohamed-Benjamin

Caribbean citizens live and manage their complicated and concavely-defined, rapidly changing and globally interlinked world on a daily basis. Change factors influenced by Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) inventions, interventions and use of internet-based communications redefine the pace of work and citizens’ thinking as they receive, share and process information across previously considered sovereign borders.

In 2012, the United Nations System, similarly influenced by new media and communications, launched the Post-2015 World We Want1 Consultation Platform. For the first time, they provided regional and national populations with direct internet-based access to UN global consultations.  Citizens across regional, national and subnational boundaries share and provide inputs that define new development priorities and targets, to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)2

The World We Want platform complements the 1990 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-launched Human Development Index (HDIs) which introduced people-centred, human development measurements - a shift from the traditional impersonal numerical measures of growth3 of GNP and GDP.  These turn-of-the century seismic shifts in development trends, approaches, discussion and policy focus also spawned results-based impact assessments and outcome measurements that reach well beyond traditional economic measurements as indicators of growth.

Cloud 4The 2008 global economic recession resulted in diverse, often innovative global responses and a plethora of change movements that spawned new governance and business models.  Within current globalized spaces and economic and social decision-making, fast paced implementation of innovative models of development is now the norm. Social entrepreneurship, social innovation, broad-based and inclusive governance development processes are high on the required critical action list for the Caribbean. Collaboration platforms that promote inclusive consultations with new development partners routinely include private, corporate and civil society - national and international NGO sectors. 

These responses to new global and regional fragilities have created spaces for new types of advocacy - ‘Cause Advocacy’ for example. This type of advocacy can be initiated by Caribbean citizens as the search for innovative consultative processes with combinations of implementation strategies intensifies. The need for complementary culturally or contextually appropriate dialogues can be supported by the use and adaptation of UN and other development partner consultative and dialogue platforms, as well as expanded with more internet-based, new media communications, social and digital technologies.

As globally funded development programmes experience radical reform and reconstruction surgery, advocating for policy level changes on foundational issues is increasingly important. Such issues include early childhood development, job creation that supports people-centred sustainable livelihoods and linkages with critical economic and social sectors. This intense change globally has facilitated and fast-tracked financial, social and environmental development players to re-think, re-invent and re-generate their modus operandi.   

The Caribbean - with its history of a blending of global cultures, expertise and unique ethnic diversities that shaped new population groupings, states and communities - presents an ideal platform for the building of unique collaboration, networking and sharing of best practice solutions. Caribbean citizens have proven expertise in resilience built on pre-colonial struggles for social justice and self-determination as well as use of migration, giving birth to new spaces at home and in the diaspora. This led to new social and enterprise structures, niche markets for Caribbean creative industries, food and culture and the honouring of Caribbean citizens’ contributions in Caribbean Heritage Month4.

This Caribbean construct, with its vast and successful networks in the global diaspora, is now challenged to innovate and establish new platforms of cooperation, to upscale new development paradigms and solutions. Caribbean development, defined by its youth demographic – 40% to 60% in most Small Island Developing States (SIDS)5 - implodes unemployment and underemployed levels which highlights a historical intractable problem across all population groups.  Similarly with trends in global population profiles, youth issues emerge as urgent and exacerbated. Youth inclusion has to provide a critical plank of support to aggressively solve economic and social problems. 

Current Caribbean development challenges include actions to stem fragmentation of effort and build peaceful environments that support positive, inclusive development in line with emerging global agendas - actions such as supplementing the use of economic analysis to take account and emergence of interlinked social and environment data.
Past lessons learned have illustrated repeatedly that the application of the topical ‘Botox-type quick-fix’ top-down and expertise driven models have maintained traditional centralized approaches to development decision-making. This has not always produced the expected levels of change, sustained impact nor results desired.   

Caribbean citizens are increasingly and acutely aware of the need to effect and respond with more viable approaches and solutions. To maintain high levels of development achieved in recent decades, there is a need for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach and responses that take account of its most visibly urgent needs - high youth unemployment and lifestyle expectations, skills training and continuous learning linked to new job and career demands.  

At this stage of Caribbean development, the challenge facing many institutions - NGOs, private sector, civic organizations, INGOs - is designing a business model that will best work and is most sustainable in the current economic and social climate. 

Other relevant issues to consider are:

  • How do we support the transformation of Caribbean systems and the shift of gears to stimulate new business models and internal productive capacities?
  • How do we effectively link with new global processes? 
  • How can regional institutions in Caribbean SIDS support endogenous action?
  • How can Caribbean NGOs adopt and adapt results based project management and higher levels of service and productivity?
  • How can Caribbean countries and communities contribute and keep pace with this global innovation thrust and new development strategies?  
  • What system shifts are required as small open, single sector, external trade dependent states?
  • How do we actively support more inclusive governance business models?
  • Can Caribbean Civil Society contribute to growth components and business models that stimulate internal productive capacities?  

Similar questions are being posed globally, illustrated in the following Chad Bolick March 26th 2015 DEVEX article, entitled DEVEX IMPACT:

#FUTUREINGO: INGOs of the future: Redefining the vanguard of corporate-non-profit partnership highlights challenges that "a group of leading international nongovernmental organizations convened to rethink, renovate and transform their approach to partnership with companies. ….over the long-term, change the dynamics that hold outdated corporate-non-profit relationship norms in place. As they do, they are asking bold questions, such as:

  • How do we move from transactional relationships to strategic relationships with corporate and government partners?
  • How do we invest in business model innovation in a climate that prioritizes low overhead above impact?
  • Do our internal organizational structures and staffing promote and sustain effective partnerships?
  • When will the rhetoric around “innovation” and “cross-sector collaboration” catch up with the reality? In other words, when will my job be easier?"

This ‘Cause Advocacy’ article is inspired by Maya Angelou, a global icon for positive change, who through her spoken and written word advocated for change in the individual, global, national and community levels based on her own personal struggles and tragedies.  Her Caribbean heritage start in life shows resilience of many generations - “a Trinidadian-American mother, whose father and grandfather had both migrated to the US from Trinidad and Tobago on a banana boat, by jumping off in Tampa, Florida.”6

“If you don’t like something, change it.
If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
Don’t complain.”
– Maya Angelou

These actions, which are not new to the Caribbean landscape, need to be urgently revived and re-engineered to support an integrated business model that is most sustainable as economic, social and environmental contexts evolve. ‘Inclusiveness’ support by delivery of assistance through facilitated ‘top-down/bottom-up’ conversations across sectors, with a mix of development stakeholders will allow for new policy formulations which is integral to this challenging stage of Caribbean post-independence development. 


1 https://www.worldwewant2015.org/sitemap

2 www.un.org/millenniumgoals 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – range from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education

3 GDP: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2012/06/20/oing-beyond-gdp-undp-proposes-human-development-measure-of-sustainability.html http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/magazine/16GDP-t.html?ref=magazine

4 In 2014 President Barack Obama noted that "Caribbean Americans are part of a great national tradition, descendants of hopeful, striving people who journeyed to our lands in search of a better life. They were drawn by a belief in the power of opportunity, a belief that through hard work and sacrifice, they could provide their children with chances they had never known. Thanks to these opportunities and their talent and perseverance, Caribbean Americans have contributed to every aspect of our society - from science and medicine to business and the arts," He stated that Caribbean-American Heritage month celebrations “honour their history, culture, and essential role in the American narrative."

5 www.sids2014.org  - Ist UN dedication of an International Year to a specific category of countries http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/corporate/Changing_with_the_World_UNDP_Strategic_Plan_2014_17.html

6 http://www.newsamericasnow.com/the-phenomenal-woman-with-trinidadian-roots-is-no-more/


About the Author

Paula Mohamed-Benjamin retired in 2014 from the post of Programme Manager, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Barbados and Eastern Caribbean Office, where she served for over a decade. In prior posts, she served as Head of the UN Section in the Department of International Economic Cooperation (DIEC) in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, Public Service Ministry (PSM), Government of Guyana. 

Having also worked as Programme Manager of a USAID Population and Development Project, based in a regional non-profit NGO - the Caribbean Family Planning Association (CFPA) - Ms. Mohamed further developed her skills and experience in project management and coordination support of global, regional and national development initiatives.  She also supported policy analysis and specific Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) programmes.

In retirement, Ms. Mohamed serves as a volunteer Board Member for Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children (FDCC), the region's first indigenous Foundation for Early Childhood Development (ECD).

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