Welcome Remarks by Dr. Hilary Brown




It is a pleasure and a privilege to warmly welcome all of you, to the Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the Regional Cultural Committee, on behalf of the Secretary-General of CARICOM, His Excellency Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. This body has a long and distinguished history of providing expert advice to Ministers of Culture in the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) for over three decades, since it first met in June 1987, right here in Trinidad and Tobago.

Among our representatives from Member States and Associate Members, we have Directors who have served their countries and especially their culture communities with distinction for a very long time, and we appreciate their continued commitment to sharing their knowledge and experience in this forum.  We also have several representatives who are attending the RCC for the first time and we extend a very special welcome to them. We hope you will find the meeting relevant and rewarding and we look forward to your perspective and contribution to the deliberations.

A warm welcome also to members of the Interim Festival Directorate who are still with us, following the conclusion of the Seventeeth Meeting of that body yesterday (Mr. Ian Randle, Mr. Philippe Dodard, Ms. Lori Weatherhead). We are also pleased to welcome Mr. Sobers Esprit from the OECS Commission; Ms. Lisa Harding from the Caribbean Development Bank; Ms. Allyson Francis from Caribbean Export and Mr. Yuri Peshkov from UNESCO. We are happy to you have been able to attend this RCC Meeting and look forward to a very fruitful engagement and strengthened partnerships with all of you.

On behalf of all of us, I wish to say a very special thank you to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for hosting these meetings this week: namely the Seventeenth Meeting of the Interim Festival Directorate and the Twenty-Seventh RCC. We are very appreciative Minister, of the warm Trinbagonian hospitality that we have enjoyed since we arrived and the excellent arrangements in place for both meetings.

High on the agenda of this meeting is focused attention to preparations for the Fourteenth Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA), scheduled for 16-25 August 2019. The presence of Directors of Culture from 13 Member States and Associate Members and representatives of key partners, provides a unique opportunity for in depth discussion between Trinidad and Tobago as host country and the participating States, on the various aspects of what promises to be an exciting and diverse CARIFESTA programme; on the complex logistical arrangements required for such a mega festival and the artistic concepts which shape the event. The Meeting also provides an excellent opportunity for site visits to venues and hotels.

The RCC is therefore looking forward to a comprehensive update from the host country on the plans for CARIFESTA XIV. And I can say that following our discussions over the past 2 days during the meeting of the IFD, how very pleased we are with the pace of the preparations and the achievements to date by the Host Country Management Committee in relation to marketing and promoting CARIFESTA and developing the conceptual map and logistical arrangements for the Festival. These include an innovative new element introduced by Trinidad and Tobago of involving major artists such as Machel Montano, The Voice and others as Brand Ambassadors for CARIFESTA and we commend the host country negotiating an excellent line up for the “Island Beats” Super Concert well ahead of the Festival. We are all looking forward to a experiencing a really fantastic CARIFESTA, and please be assured Minister, that we are all here to provide our full support to the Host Country Management team, so ably led by Ms. Susan Shurland, to ensure that CARIFESTA XIV will be both successful and memorable.

Creative industry development is another area that is of tremendous importance to Member States in our region. The Draft Regional Development Strategy for the Cultural Industries in CARICOM developed in 2012 and the Cultural and Entertainment Services Strategy for CARIFORUM, completed in 2017, will be reviewed and discussed by the RCC, with a focus on priority actions to be implemented by Member States.  The Strategies call for significantly increased investments in culture by governments, while highlighting priority sectors and cross cutting areas for focused attention.

We know that the creative industries as a percentage of GDP was demonstrated by Trinidadian economist Dr. Vanus James, to account for 4.8% of GDP in Jamaica in 2005; a similar 4.8% in Trinidad and Tobago in 2011 and 7.8 % in St. Lucia in 2010. These are in keeping with global averages of 3-5 percent contribution of creative industries to GDP, based on studies conducted by WIPO and the 2015 Cultural Times Report by UNESCO, CISAC and Ernst and Young.

We are therefore welcome the launch of the Creative Industries Innovation Fund (the CIIF) by the Caribbean Development Bank in December 2018 and look forward to updates on this new facility set up to support creative industry development in the region. This initiative is in direct response to the mandate given by Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in 2015 at their Twenty-Sixth Inter-Sessional Meeting held in Nassau, Bahamas, where Heads re-affirmed the significance of the cultural and creative industries to regional integration and to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy; also to cultural identity, diversity and youth engagement. Heads of Government also emphasized the need for further developing the enabling environment for sustainable growth of the creative economy in the Region and the CIIF represents an important step towards realizing these important outcomes. The RCC will also propose strategies to increase the resources of the CIIF and strategies to finance cultural development in the region in general.

The spotlight continues to be on Reparations for Native Genocide and Slavery, since our Heads of Government took that historic decision in 2013 to pursue the relevant European nations for reparations, to repair the psychosocial, economic and cultural damage resulting from over 400 years of native genocide, chattel enslavement and colonialism.  The action of CARICOM has re-energized and inspired a global reparations movement spanning many countries and continents, including the United States, South America and Africa. This issue along with regional collaboration on activities to mark the UN proclaimed International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), are important ones on which the RCC will also deliberate, especially since they so profoundly connected to issues of redress, of identity, mutual respect and understanding among the people of the region.

Since this is the first meeting of this regional body since the passing of two distinguished sons of Trinidad and Tobago and of the Caribbean; the RCC joins in paying profound respect iconic calypsonian, Winston Mc Garland Bailey (The Mighty Shadow), who passed away 23 October 2018 and of Ken “Professor” Philmore, pan maestro, who died on the 30 of September. We recognize them for their sterling contribution to advancing the culture of our region in the international arena and celebrate their tremendous lives,  their  enduring legacy of excellence, creativity, songs and recordings which we all continue to enjoy.

The RCC has and continues to champion cultural development as an integral and essential component of the region’s strategy to reduce poverty and achieve inclusive and equitable sustainable development, in keeping with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The RCC has many accomplishments to celebrate, having been at the forefront of providing guidance and engaging in tireless advocacy in relation to CARIFESTA, creative industry development and culture and trade agreements which impact on artists and creative entrepreneurs, including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and the Economic Partnership Agreement.

This is an important forum for sharing and exchange among Member States, but most importantly – a forum for collective action – to improve the enabling environment and the material condition of aspiring and established artists and entrepreneurs in the creative sector in the region. Coordinated action in relation to proactive policy, legislation, incentives, financing and business support at both national and regional levels, is what the RCC set out to achieve when this forum was first established.

Let me say in closing, that I look forward over the next 3 days to fruitful deliberations, to progress in advancing the pressing issues on the regional culture agenda, to the camaraderie characteristic of the RCC and to an overall successful meeting.

Thank you.