GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — A senior official of the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat is urging regional culture stakeholders to provide an input and ideas for developing strategies in the socio-economic development of the Caribbean in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The region looks to you as an important stakeholder to provide it with your inputs and ideas. If there was ever a time that we need culture and creativity to address our challenges, it is now,” said Dr Douglas Slater, the assistant secretary general in charge of human and social development.
Addressing the ‘First Regional Dialogue on Culture in a COVID-19 Environment’ Slater said COVID-19 had upended almost every aspect of CARICOM’s economic and social development and that member states had a tremendous challenge ahead in addressing the upcoming hurricane season, given existing vulnerabilities.
He urged the participants to be prepared to demonstrate the importance of culture as an element in the life blood of society, noting that there was a critical role for creatives to play in the rebuilding of a resilient Caribbean Community.
In his remarks, Slater provided an overview of the actions taken by the CARICOM Secretariat since the advent of COVID-19 in December 2019.
He said the Secretariat has been monitoring the development of the virus on a daily basis, working closely with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) along with other regional stakeholders.
Slater said that other sectors were also engaged, through special meetings of the various regional Councils, noting that “COVID-19 impacted on every aspect of the region’s economic development” including agriculture, trade, education, security and health.
He said the focus was on planning for worse case scenarios and the exploration of opportunities to emerge a more resilient Region.
“It is reasonable to say that we had astute political and technical leadership in CARICOM to handle this. The figures demonstrate this,” Slater said, adding that the region had been able to manage this first outbreak of COVID-19 well, relative to the international environment and more developed and endowed countries.
“We recognised very early that we have limitations in our health care systems and that we must heed the advice of our scientists and medical personnel and I want to place on record our gratitude to health care workers as well as the regional universities,” he said.
He also commended CARPHA and CDEMA for what he referred to as yeoman service to the region, adding that a Regional Public Health Protocol was now being developed to guide the reopening of the region.
He acknowledged that not all the components may be ideal to all member states and he expected that some may not use it in its entirety. But the idea was to have a baseline to be used.
“We expect, depending on the situation in particular member states, to have some adaptation of that protocol,” he said.
The meeting, which was held virtually, made a number of recommendations for follow-up action including addressing roadblocks to artists monetising online content; strengthening industry associations in all sectors across the Region; establishing content quotas to mandate the use of local music and film on national media platforms; data collection on the impact of the pandemic on the sector; analytics of online consumption and increased registration of artists to facilitate support.
The meeting acknowledged the increased use of online platforms for performance, festivals and events and recommended that CARIFESTA XV scheduled for 2021 in Antigua and Barbuda, serve as catalyst and game changer in a new approach to presenting festivals in a mixed on and off-line format and to jump start the festival economy.