GEORGETOWN, Guyana – CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque on Thursday emphasised that culture played an essential role in the region’s sustainable growth and development. LaRocque was speaking at the opening of the 36th meeting of the Council on Human and Social Development (COHSOD) at the CARICOM headquarters in Georgetown, Guyana.
The two-day conference was held under the theme ‘Leveraging CARICOM’s cultural assets for the sustainable development of the community, LaRocque said that the theme further highlighted the dedication of the region to develop its rich and diverse cultural assets.
“It has been asserted that culture should be seen as the fourth pillar of sustainable development, as both an enabler and driver of economic and social development and environmental sustainability, which constitute the three dimensions of sustainable development,” the secretary-general stated.
In defending his point, he stated additionally that cultural industries in the region had out-performed sectors such as finance, insurance, agriculture and construction in several member states. LaRocque, however, said that there needed to be the required enabling environment for the creative industries to be more aggressive and to enhance their participation in growth and employment.
Articulating the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA), he pointed to the community’s highly prized regional space that displayed arts and culture, and that, the large cultural event was being placed as an impetus for productive industry development within CARICOM.
LaRocque remarked that since CARIFESTA XI in Suriname, a business component, the cultural marketplace, was introduced where managers of venues, international festivals and performing arts, buyers and booking agents were invited to experience and network with Caribbean artists. According to him, that initiative was designed to generate more possibilities for the professional development of artists and the export of their services and products.
Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Trinidad and Tobago’s minister of community development, culture and the arts, delivered the feature address at the opening, was also of the view that the theme adopted for the hosting of the conference was very appropriate, noting that it spoke to how individuals, the community and nations of the region recognised and used culture for self-evaluation. According to her, a paradigm shift was required to produce a more self-reliant cultural, economic cycle.
“We must place ourselves in the driver’s seat, charting together the course for cultural development based on already identified cultural assets, driving the way forward, instead of accepting windfall successes,” Gadsby-Dolly stated.
She expressed the view that in addition to developing the creative sector, the community’s citizens and icons who had made outstanding contributions should be honoured to “incentivise” excellence in the cultural sphere.
Minister Gadsby-Dolly mentioned that CARIFESTA XIV, which is being hosted by Trinidad and Tobago in August, was introducing a number of niche festivals to the event that could become stand-alone events in the region. Gadsby-Dolly said that CARIFESTA was one of the region’s best cultural assets and it was up to the community to find pioneering ways to re-energise and re-imagine the festival each time.
Dr George Norton, minister of social cohesion, Guyana, was delighted to greet the ministers and officials to his country for the meeting, posited the value of culture, saying it was time for it to be mainstreamed in the regional agenda.
He noted that the community’s culture was dynamic and that the cultural and creative industries would continue to evolve, even while being the key vehicles driving the development of the region. He encouraged those present to continue to work together to achieve tangible outcomes and committed to his government’s continued support.