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IICA Director General endorses Brazil’s bid to host COP30 in the Amazonian city of Belem

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

On a visit to Brazil, Manuel Otero, Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), conveyed the hemispheric organization’s full support for the candidacy of Brazil’s Amazonian city, Belem, as the venue of COP30.

In meetings with Brazilian ministers and high-level authorities, Otero also expressed solidarity with and support for assistance to the Yanomami indigenous community, which has been experiencing increased deaths due to malnutrition and malaria in the remote northern areas of the country.

Otero met in Brasilia with the new ministers of Agriculture; Agrarian Development; Social Development; Finance; Science and Technology; and Integration and Regional Development, as well as with the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Deputy Minister of the Environment. In all of these discussions, he laid the foundation for increased collaboration between the specialized organization for agricultural and rural development and the new government of Brazil.

The IICA Director General addressed various issues during the meetings with the eight ministries, including natural resource conservation; the strengthening of national science and innovation systems to boost production, while reducing the impact on the environment; the empowerment of rural communities; the critical balance between productivity and the environment; and a new generation of public policies with a gender perspective.

Accompanied by the local IICA Representative, Gabriel Delgado, Otero met for the first time with Brazil’s new Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Carlos F?varo, with whom he discussed deepening the collaboration between the Institute and the new government of President Luiz In?cio Lula da Silva, by strengthening the Brazilian agribusiness profile, with an emphasis on environmental aspects.

Also discussed were issues such as the restoration of degraded pastures under the ABC Plus program, as well as new opportunities and cooperation initiatives.

Otero remarked that, “We believe that this new Brazilian administration is extremely receptive to IICA’s work–considering our hemispheric, regional and local dimensions, and our future projection–and we are confident that these different facets offer tremendous opportunities to support the proposed agenda of the new government of Brazil”.

“We see this government as one that is determined to restore the image of a country committed to sustainable development, social inclusion, environmental protection and international cooperation – a model in which agriculture must play a fundamental role”, he added.

The IICA Director General and his Special Advisor, Jorge Werthein, in meeting with the Minister of Social Development, Wellington Dias, spoke about international experiences that would be useful for a country of Brazil’s size and about food assistance programs to contribute to reducing high levels of hunger and food insecurity in this, the largest country in Latin America.

At the end of the meeting, Minister Dias remarked that, “Brazil and the Ministry of Social Development consider IICA to be an important partner, in this instance, focusing on the area of agriculture, evaluation, monitoring and support. IICA is also partnering with other ministries. We must all work together to access research and information and to undertake initiatives that will create an impact, for example, the installation of water tanks. We must collaborate at the State and the community level, integrating social, environmental and economic aspects. President Lula wants to adopt this approach to ensure that we can produce good results”.

On the other hand, Otero maintained that, “IICA pledges its support for the work of the Ministry of Social Development and for the administration of President Lula. Without water, there is no agriculture and without agriculture, there can be no sustainable development. Also, we must always seek to ensure a greater role for vulnerable groups in rural areas. That is why we are launching a project with Minister Dias”.

He also expressed concern about the situation of the Yanomami people, in the state of Roraima, bordering Venezuela and Guyana. An increase in malnutrition- and malaria-related deaths on the Yanomami reserve has prompted the Brazilian government to declare a health emergency in this northern district.

The Minister of Agrarian Development, Paulo Teixeira, and his team, met with Otero at the restructured ministry, to which IICA will provide support in institutional development. The conversation stressed the importance of family farmers and vulnerable groups in the transition towards more environmentally friendly agriculture; and discussed the possible role of the Institute as a major sounding board at the hemispheric level to drive a new generation of public policies to empower these sectors. They also spoke about building bridges with other nations.

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Commonwealth Secretary-General launches landmark Year of Youth 2023

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

The Commonwealth Secretariat has officially launched the 2023 Year of Youth – a seminal 12 months devoted to the celebration and empowerment of the 1.5bn under-30s living in the Commonwealth.

Youth-related issues like climate change, access to education, skills, employment, and political, social and economic participation, will take centre-stage throughout 2023, with Commonwealth Heads of Government committing to prioritise collaborative action.

Commonwealth young people will feature in a variety of high-profile events aimed at spotlighting the issues facing their well-being and prosperity.

Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex, a long-time champion for young people, will act as the Quality Youth Leadership Ambassador throughout the 2023 Year of Youth. In this role, His Royal Highness will support the inclusion of young people and shine a light on the valuable contribution they have made to member states. Further Youth Champions and Ambassadors will be announced in due course.

Speaking at the in-person launch at Marlborough House, London, the Commonwealth-Secretary General Patricia Scotland KC, said:

“It is my absolute pleasure as Secretary-General to be here launching the Commonwealth Year of Youth and I am excited that the next 12 months will bring Commonwealth leaders, stakeholders and citizens together to celebrate and empower our 1.5bn young people.

“Young people are at the heart of the Commonwealth Charter. Despite the many challenges they face, young people give so much towards every aspect of the social, economic, political and cultural life of our 56 member countries.

“The Commonwealth’s future success rests with them. So here today we commit to investing in and promoting their development and engagement at community, regional, national and pan-Commonwealth levels throughout this year and beyond.”

The launch featured the unveiling of the Year of Youth 2023 logo and website and gave an overview of the most prominent youth-focused events that will take place throughout 2023 – the events calendar can be found here.

These include but are not limited to: Commonwealth Day, the Commonwealth Youth Games – to be held in Trinidad and Tobago – the Commonwealth Global Youth Work Conference, and the Commonwealth Youth Awards Ceremony.

The Commonwealth Year of the Youth initiative also marks the 50th anniversary for the world-renowned Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP). In August, the CYP will mark 50 years of working hand-in-hand with governments to support the education and personal development of millions of young people and giving thousands more the opportunity to sit beside world leaders and advocate for their peers.

The planning of the Year of Youth will be overseen by an Advisory Committee who will take responsibility for ensuring events and activities reflect the diverse, talented and vibrant youth population within the Commonwealth’s 56 member countries.

The launch was attended by Ministers including. Rosemary Mbabazi, Minister of Youth, Rwanda, Shaza Fatima Khawaja, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Youth Affairs, Pakistan, Sarah Mateke Nyirabashitsi, Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs, Uganda, and Shamfa Cudjoe, Minister of Sports and Community Development, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as representatives from the Commonwealth Youth Council, Commonwealth Games Federation, the Royal Commonwealth Society and other youth stakeholders.

The special designation for the Year of Youth comes from a mandate by Commonwealth Heads of Government who met in Kigali, Rwanda in June 2022. There, Heads declared 2023 be focused on empowering young people, stakeholders and governments, to sped-up progress on youth-focused issues.

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In Haiti, gangs take control as democracy withers

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service
A man walks past a burning barricade during a protest over the death of journalist Romelo Vilsaint, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. Vilsaint died Sunday after being shot in the head when police opened fire on reporters demanding the release of one of their colleagues who was detained while covering a protest, witnesses told The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Jimmy Cherizier zips through Haiti’s capital on the back of a motorcycle, flanked by young men wielding black and leopard print masks and automatic weapons.

As the pack of bikes flies by graffiti reading “Mafia boss” in Creole, street vendors selling vegetables, meats and old clothes on the curb cast their eyes to the ground or peer curiously.

Cherizier, best known by his childhood nickname Barbecue, has become the most recognized name in Haiti.

And here in his territory, enveloped by the tin-roofed homes and bustling streets of the informal settlement La Saline, he is the law.

Internationally, he’s known as Haiti’s most powerful and feared gang leader, sanctioned by the United Nations for “serious human rights abuses,” and the man behind a fuel blockade that brought the Caribbean nation to its knees late last year.

But if you ask the former police officer with gun tattoos running up his arm, he’s a “revolutionary,” advocating against a corrupt government that has left a nation of 12 million people in the dust.

“I’m not a thief. I’m not involved in kidnapping. I’m not a rapist. I’m just carrying out a social fight,” Cherizier, leader of “G9 Family and Allies,” told The Associated Press while sitting in a chair in the middle of an empty road in the shadow of a home with windows shattered by bullets. “I’m a threat to the system.”

At a time when democracy has withered in Haiti and gang violence has spiraled out of control, it’s armed men like Cherizier that are filling the power vacuum left by a crumbling government. In December, the U.N. estimated that gangs controlled 60% of Haiti’s capital, but nowadays most on the streets of Port-au-Prince say that number is closer to 100%.

“There is, democratically speaking, little-to-no legitimacy” for Haiti’s government, said Jeremy McDermott, a head of InSight Crime, a research center focused on organized crime. “This gives the gangs a stronger political voice and more justification to their claims to be the true representatives of the communities.”

It’s something that conflict victims, politicians, analysts, aid organizations, security forces and international observers fear will only get worse. Civilians, they worry, will face the brunt of the consequences.—–Haiti’s history has long been tragic. Home of the largest slave uprising in the Western Hemisphere, the country achieved independence from France in 1804, ahead of other countries in the region.

But it’s long been the poorest country in the hemisphere, and Haiti in the 20th century endured a bloody dictatorship that lasted until 1986 and brought about the mass execution of tens of thousands of Haitians.

The country has been plagued by political turmoil since, while suffering waves of devastating earthquakes, hurricanes and cholera outbreaks.

The latest crisis entered full throttle following the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise. In his absence, current Prime Minister Ariel Henry emerged in a power struggle as the country’s leader.

Haiti’s nearly 200 gangs have taken advantage of the chaos, warring for control.

Tension hums in Port-au-Prince. Police checkpoints dot busy intersections, and graffiti tags reading “down with Henry” can be spotted in every part of the city. Haitians walk through the streets with a restlessness that comes from knowing that anything could happen at any moment.

An ambulance driver returning from carrying a patient told the AP he was kidnapped, held for days and asked to pay $1 million to be set free.

Such ransoms are now commonplace, used by gangs to fund their warfare.

An average of four people are kidnapped a day in Haiti, according to U.N. estimates.

The U.N. registered nearly 2,200 murders in 2022, double the year before. Women in the country describe brutal gang rapes in areas controlled by gangs. Patients in trauma units are caught in the crossfire, ravaged by gunshots from either gangs or police.

“No one is safe,” said Peterson Pean, a man with a bullet lodged in his face from being shot by police after failing to stop at a police checkpoint on his way home from work.

Meanwhile, a wave of grisly killings of police officers by gangs has spurred outrage and protests by Haitians.

Following the slaying of six officers, video circulating on social media — likely filmed by gangs — showed six naked bodies stretched out on the dirt with guns on their chests. Another shows two masked men using officers’ dismembered limbs to hold their cigarettes while they smoke.

“Gang-related violence has reached levels not seen in years touching near all segments of society,” said Helen La Lime, U.N. special envoy for Haiti, in a late January Security Council meeting.

Henry, the prime minister, has asked the U.N. to lead a military intervention, but many Haitians insist that’s not the solution, citing past consequences of foreign intervention in Haiti. So far, no country has been willing to put boots on the ground.

The warfare has extended past historically violence-torn areas, now consuming mansion-lined streets previously considered relatively safe.

La Lime highlighted turf wars between Cherizier’s group, G9, and another, G-Pep, as one of the key drivers.

In October, the U.N. slammed Cherizier with sanctions, including an arms embargo, an asset freeze and a travel ban.

The body accused him of carrying out a bloody massacre in La Saline, economically paralyzing the country, and using armed violence and rape to threaten “the peace, security, and stability of Haiti.”

At the same time, despite not being elected into power and his mandate timing out, Henry, whose administration declined a request for comment, has continued at the helm of a skeleton government. He has pledged for a year and a half to hold general elections, but has failed to do so.——-In early January, the country lost its final democratically elected institution when the terms of 10 senators symbolically holding office ended their term.

It has turned Haiti into a de-facto “dictatorship,” said Patrice Dumont, one of the senators.

He said even if the current government was willing to hold elections, he doesn’t know if it would be possible due to gangs’ firm grip on the city.

“Citizens are losing trust in their country. (Haiti) is facing social degradation,” Dumont said. “We were already a poor country, and we became poorer because of this political crisis.”

At the same time, gang leaders like Cherizier have increasingly invoked political language, using the end of the senators’ terms to call into question Henry’s power.

“The government of Ariel Henry is a de-facto government. It’s a government that has no legitimacy,” Cherizier said.

Cherizier, a handgun tucked into the back of his jeans, took the AP around his territory in La Saline, explaining the harsh conditions communities live in. He denies allegations against him, saying the sanctions imposed on him are based on lies.

Cherizier, who would not tell the AP where his money came from, claims he’s just trying to provide security and improve conditions in the zones he controls.

Cherizier walked through piles of trash and past malnourished children touting an iPhone with a photo of his face on the back. A drone belonging to his team monitoring his security follows him as he weaves through rows of packed homes made of metal sheets andwooden planks.

Tailed by a cluster of heavily armed men in masks, he would not allow the AP to film or take photos of his guards and their weapons.

“We’re the bad guys, but we’re not the bad-bad guys,” one of the men told an AP video journalist as he led her through a packed market.

While some have speculated that Cherizier would run for office if elections were held, Cherizier insists that he wouldn’t.

What is clear, said McDermott, of InSight Crime, is that gangs are reaping rewards from the political chaos.

InSight Crime estimates that before the killing of the president, Cherizier’s federation of gangs, G9, got half of its money from the government, 30% from kidnappings and 20% from extortions. After the killing, government funding dipped significantly, according to theorganization.

Yet his gangs have significantly grown in power after the group blocked the distribution of fuel from Port-au-Prince’s key fuel terminal for two months late last year.

The blockade paralyzed the country in the midst of a cholera outbreak and gave other gangs footholds to expand. Cherizier claimed the blockade was in protest of rising inflation, government corruption and deepening inequality in Haiti.

Today, G9 controls much of the center of Port-au-Prince and fights for power elsewhere.

“The political Frankenstein long ago lost control of the gang monster,” McDermott said. “They are now rampaging across the country with no restraint, earning money any way they can, kidnapping foremost.”——Civilians like 9-year-old Christina Julien are among those who pay the price.

The smiling girl with dreams of being a doctor wakes up curled on the floor of her aunt’s porch next to her parents and two sisters.

She’s one of at least 155,000 people in Port-Au-Prince alone that have been forced to flee their homes due to the violence. It’s been four months since she has been able to sleep in her own bed.

Their neighborhood in the northern fringes of the city once was safe. But she and her mother, 48-year-old Sandra Sainteluz, said things began to shift last year.

The once bustling streets emptied out. At night, gunfire would ring outside their window and when neighbors would set off fireworks, Christina would ask her mother if they were bullets.

“When there were shootings I couldn’t go in the yard, I couldn’t go see my friends, I had to stay in the house,” Christina said. “l had to always lay down on the floor with my mother, my father, my sister and my brother.”

Christina started having heart palpitations due to the stress and Sainteluz, a teacher, worried for her daughter’s health. At the same time, Sainteluz and her husband feared their kids could get kidnapped on the way to school.

In October, during Cherizier’s blockade, armed men belonging to the powerful 400 Mawozo gang stormed their neighborhood. That same gang was behind the kidnapping of 17 missionaries in 2021.

Christina saw a group of men with guns from a friend’s house and ran home. She told Sainteluz, “Mommy we have to leave, we have to leave. I just saw the gangsters passing by with their weapons, we need to leave!”

They packed everything they could carry, and sought refuge in the small, two-bedroom home of family members in another part of the city.

Life here is not easy, said Sainteluz, the main provider for her family.

“I felt desperate going to live in someone else’s home with so many children. I left everything, I left with just two bags,” she said.

Sainteluz scrambles to scrub clothes, cook soup for her family in the dirt-floored kitchen and help Christina sitting on an empty gasoline container meticulously doing her math homework.

Whenever a gust of wind blows through the nearby hills, the rusted metal rooftop of the house they share with 10 other people shudders.

The mother once worked as a primary school teacher, earning 6,000 Haitian gourdes ($41) a month. She had to stop teaching two years ago due to the violence. Now she sells slushies on the side of the road, earning a fraction of what she once made.

Young Christina said she misses her friends and her Barbie dolls. But, the sacrifice is worth it, Sainteluz said. Over the past few months, she’s heard horror stories of her daughter’s classmates getting kidnapped, neighbors having to pay ransoms of $40,000 and killings right outside their house.

At least here they feel safer. For now, she added.

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The Oil & Gas Sector: Implications For Agriculture

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service
Dr H. Arlington Chesney is a leading Caribbean Agricultural professional who has served his country, the Caribbean and the hemisphere. He is a Professional Emeritus of IICA and in 2011, was awarded Guyana’s Golden Arrow of Achievement for his contribution to agricultural development in Guyana and the Caribbean.

By Arlington Chesney

An integrated and holistically conceptualised oil and gas (petroleum) sector could assist in developing a transformed and modernised Guyana and regional agriculture and contribute to regional food security. It could thus again be a key driver in the sustainable development of CARICOM.

From the onset, I have strenuously articulated the need for a critical relationship between the windfall revenues of the oil and gas sector and food security in Guyana and all CARICOM. Initially, Guyana’s oil and gas revenues were promoted as a major catalyst for expanding and modernising its agricultural and rural sectors. This need was supported by the concept of “agriculture being more than food on the table” and its resultant “true”, expanded and major importance to sustainable national development. Further, these bonanza revenues were identified as critical to successful achievement of Guyana’s climate change adaptation measures, particularly for its socio-economically important low lying coastal and riverine areas, as part of its Low Carbon Development Strategy 2030. Ultimately, with the developed world’s failure at COP 27 to guarantee immediate inflows of funding required to address major climate change issues, the existential relationship between regional (Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago [T&T]) oil and gas windfalls and its food security, in general, and the 25×2025 initiative, in particular, was expounded.

This article discusses how the components of the oil and gas sector (as opposed to their windfall revenues) could facilitate agriculture’s backward (inputs for primary commodities) and forward (elements for secondary commodities) linkages thus ensuring that the major components of the value chains of key agricultural commodities are substantially controlled regionally. Consequently, the concept “Agriculture is more than food on the table” could be operationalised.

Further, it identifies critical inputs for production of both primary and secondary agricultural commodities as compared to previous ones dealing with mostly primary production.

Ranken Energy Corporation, a respected 30+ year oil and gas Company, opines that, “with over 6000 products and counting, petroleum continues to be a requirement for all consumers”. Agriculture is one such key consumer.

Agriculture, the consumer, requires products from the downstream segment of the petroleum industry–refineries and Natural Gas Liquid [NGL] plants.

Some major agricultural products obtained from petroleum and associated natural gas include fertilisers, particularly ammonia-based, pesticides and antiseptics mainly for udder washes for dairy animals. Fertilisers, with annual regional imports approximating US$100m, is the largest single group.

The proposed modular refinery in Berbice, Guyana, should be conceptualised in its design and locality (a petroleum-based park) to definitively facilitate sustainable production of the above named commodities. The experiences in T&T are useful as Guyana’s production should complement that of T&T. Indeed, these countries, plus Suriname, will initially share the Caricom Market, and can significantly contribute to regional energy and food security: two of the three major developmental priorities of CARICOM Heads.

Also downstream, the petroleum industry, through the NGL plant, can produce hydrocarbons, including the gases methane, butane and ethane–all of which can help provide for residential and industrial needs.

In spite of public queries, the Guyana Government (National Budget, 2023) is committed to a Gas to Energy/Gas to Shore Project with a targeted electricity rate, substantially cheaper than the regional range of USD0.20-0.37/kWh and approximating that of a currently subsidised T&T rate of USD0.05/kWh (November 2022). Guyana and T&T will have very favourable electricity rates for producing (processed and frozen) secondary agricultural food commodities.

This integrated Programme should be included in the Draft Action Plan for Industrial Development in CARICOM to be presented to the Quasi Cabinet of Heads within its newest portfolio, Industrial Policy.

In 2021, the annual regional imports of secondary agricultural food (meat, fruits, vegetables, dairy, juices) commodities, plus, as necessary, inputs for their manufacture, approximated US$1.3b. Small quantities originated regionally, mainly from T&T with its cheaper electricity.

Also, the annual value of imported secondary agricultural food commodities is reported as increasing faster than that of food imports generally. This phenomenon is probably due to increasing preferences for convenience foods, with the accompanying increased Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and concomitant curative costs.

In the spirit of the 25×2025 Food Security Initiative, Guyana and T&T can immediately gear up to access this major regional market (and subsequently that of the regional diaspora) for these commodities. However, this Programme, with supporting country projects, must critically now be based mainly on regional, as opposed to extra regional, sources of primary inputs. In the context of regional inclusiveness, all member states should be involved in producing these primary inputs.

Opportunity could also be taken, with the support of the Caricom Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), to develop regional standards for these commodities that aim to reduce the incidence of NCDs and its.

Some known critical factors to facilitate implementation of this Programme must be aggressively addressed with approved schedules for achieving agreed objectives and targets. Firstly, as articulated by Prime Minister Rowley, at the AgriInvestment Forum and Expo II, August, 2022, the traditional importers of these secondary food commodities must meaningfully “come on board” to this “new” paradigm. Secondly, the Non Tariff Barriers to Trade must be dismantled, starting on a commodity basis and, taking into consideration, the recent amendment to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which allows for a “Group of the Willing” to proceed. Thirdly, intraregional transport for primary and secondary products, which is currently a “nightmare”, must be effectively operational. Fourthly, the Caricom Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) and the Caribbean Agribusiness Association (CABA) must come together and organise their members to meaningfully participate on a commodity basis.

This Programme, based on critical upstream and downstream activities within the regional petroleum industry, would allow CARICOM to significantly control key elements of the supply chain for the production of both primary and secondary food commodities. It also allows for the development of Regional Agricultural Corridors as proposed by CPSO. Further, it allows the gas producing territories to actively explore commercial production of nutraceuticals and, based on the region’s expansive flora and fauna diversity, herbal medicines.

Both the Guyanese refinery and NGL plant are projected to be operational by mid-2025. Consequently, it may be posited that it’s too early to initiate activities to ensure achievement of this reality. However, the CARICOM Medium/ Long Term Action Plan, for agricultural development towards food and nutrition security, identifies the need to resolve 11 major issues with 50+ subitems. These include:

-policy implementation to reduce regulatory barriers to address intra regional trade;

-support to development of improved food quality standards and best practices;

-incorporation of climate smart technology into agrifood systems; and

-supporting agricultural MSME growth in Agro industries and food processing.

These “soft issues”, plus the other generally “hard issues” previously mentioned, require time for completion.

Successful implementation of this upstream/downstream oil and gas initiative must be a Public/Private undertaking, led by the Caricom Ministerial Task Force (CMTF) as part of its Agri-Food Systems Agenda, with meaningful collaboration of CPSO and CABA. Because of agricultural development’s all-embracing and intertwining nature, the CMTF must also work very closely with the team preparing the draft Action Plan for Industrial Development and other regional groupings in trade, health, transport, security, etc.

This program, facilitated by the regional petroleum sector, could, in the medium term, contribute to an enhanced quality of life by operationalising an economically viable, a much less supply (source and chain) dependent and self-sustaining regional agricultural sector.

——————-

Dr. H. Arlington Chesney is a leading Caribbean Agricultural professional who has served his country, the Caribbean and the hemisphere. He is a Professional Emeritus of IICA and in 2011, was awarded Guyana’s Golden Arrow of Achievement for his contribution to agricultural development in Guyana and the Caribbean.

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Newly Inducted Principal at The UWI St. Augustine: ‘Campus must be entrenched in community to have relevance’

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

At her January 21 Induction as Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principal of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine reflected that she is guided by a belief in the “exceptional nature as Caribbean people, and an imperative to make a positive contribution to society.”

She said, “We are as intelligent, creative, talented and capable as anyone anywhere, and our abilities find their greatest expression in service. I am fortunate to be part of an institution that gives me the opportunity to work so closely in alignment with these values”.

Principal Antoine explained that her philosophy has always been “that a university, this campus–must be entrenched in its community to have relevance–A vibrant, impactful and revered social actor, with cutting-edge research. We cannot retreat and become reactionary–we must be proactive, thought-leaders and problem solvers.” In that regard, she plans to help expand The UWI from the classroom to the communities. She emphasized that “Scholarship should be taken to the people. It is then that our research, our teaching, will be grounded and transformative.”

Delivering opening remarks at the Induction ceremony, Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles stated, “Professor Antoine has demonstrated a record of distinguished leadership and development expertise…I have admired her tenacity, her sharp intellect and deep commitment to our people, in particular, those who have been marginalized and rendered especially vulnerable…She joins a team that has had no doubt, that has had no despair, that has experienced no diminished nature of self-confidence. She will be a critical part of the team going forward and we have no doubt that she will strengthen this team and see to it that we continue to be rooted, ready and rising.”

Later in the ceremony, Vice-Chancellor Beckles presented Professor Antoine to Chancellor Robert Bermudez for Induction. As he formally handed her the responsibilities of the Campus, Chancellor Bermudez noted that she is a “daughter of the Caribbean, a UWI graduate, a distinguished award-winning scholar who has made significant contributions to policy and jurisprudence in the Caribbean and globally”.

St Augustine Campus Council Chair, Sharon Christopher pointed out that Professor Antoine is the pride of the Caribbean law fraternity since she is the “only person from the law profession to rise to the top of an esteemed tertiary institution–first as Pro Vice-Chancellor, Graduate Studies and, now, as Campus Principal.”

Among the dignitaries in the audience were Saint Lucia’s current Prime Minister the Honourable Philip J. Pierre, and former Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony, husband of Principal Antoine. Also present were former Jamaica Prime Minister the Hon. PJ Patterson, Claudius Francis, Speaker of the House in Saint Lucia, Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago Ivor Archie, Minister of Education of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and Chief of the First Peoples in Trinidad and Tobago, Ricardo Bharath.

Principal Antoine, a trained soprano, ensured that the ceremony and reception featured the best of Trinidad and Tobago’s diverse musical talent. From The UWI Arts Steel, soprano Natalia Dopwell accompanied by The UWI Arts Chorale, UWI alumna Laurissa and Renelle Maharaj (both lawyers) on the violin and viola; alumnus Abhijit Anchortassoo with a classical Indian song, to Khion de Las and Daniel Ryan on pan and saxophone. The ceremony ended with Malick Folk Performers African Drummers and Tassa performing fusion music at the reception in the University Inn and Conference Centre. Calypsonian and Extempore Artiste Black Sage completed the lineup on the night.

The new Principal, who selected ‘Together We Can Create The Change’ as her induction ceremony’s theme is the second woman to hold the title. Professor Bridget Brereton served as Campus Principal in 2007.

For more on Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine and her work, visit https://sta.uwi.edu/induction.

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Samoa Outlines Vision As New AOSIS Chair

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

A New Era of Island Leadership: The influential negotiating bloc of small island developing States is now helmed by a Pacific country, after official handover by Antigua and Barbuda.

At a special Plenary meeting on Monday 30th January, 2023 featuring the official handover ceremony, the reigns of leadership of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) were handed over by the Caribbean island of Antigua and Barbuda, to the Pacific Island of Samoa.

This culminates four years of AOSIS Chairmanship within the Caribbean region, with Belize serving prior to Antigua. The regional rotation of Chairmanship ensures fully inclusive representation among all Caribbean, Pacific, African, Indian Ocean and South China Seas members.

AOSIS plays an integral role in international climate and sustainable development negotiations, and has been central to the advancement of small island developing States’ priorities. Significantly, AOSIS has been a key figure in the milestone achievement of a loss and damage fund establishment at the recent COP27 in November, 2023.

As new Chair, Samoa Prime Minister the Honourable Fiam? Naomi Mata?afa vowed to continue the excellent work of the previous Chairs, particularly by amplifying marginalized voices and advocating for the Alliance’s interests on the global stage and to secure global commitments and agreement.

She outlined the Chair’s new vision, which will focus on Climate Change, Sustainable Development, and the Ocean, including issues such as food security, energy, ocean’s health, and more ambition on finance to support the achievement of agreed targets under the SDGs, the Paris Agreement and the SAMOA Pathway.

“For 2023, we will continue the work to advance our collective interests in climate change especially with respect to climate financing and the achievement of the 50/50 split between mitigation and adaptation,” Prime Minister Fiam? said. “We will continue to keep the Loss and Damage flame burning and inject urgency into our efforts aimed at concluding BBNJ negotiations.”

“Sustainable development is a key strategic priority. Economic recovery is an enormous challenge and responsibility. To this end, the importance and effective implementation of the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI) cannot be over-emphasized. The MVI is a tool to assist SIDS in addressing the economic recovery challenge, especially in relation to access to concessional financing, debt regime sustainability and ODA eligibility and effectiveness. AOSIS has been at the forefront of this strategic process, and we must now over the coming 12 months complete what remains to be done.”

“Ocean is the lifeblood for most of our countries. But whilst its sustainable use provides a core pathway towards our future development and livelihoods, like the climate emergency, we must also urgently address the associated risks.” Prime Minister Fiam? highlighted the ocean-climate nexus, plastic pollution negotiations, the Blue Economy, and the Global Biodiversity Framework as key issues.

In his congratulatory address, Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda noted he was placing the Chairmanship in most capable hands, and that his country looked forward to working with the new AOSIS Chair in preparation for the 4th UN International Conference for SIDS in 2024.

Representing the Prime Minister, Ambassador Fatumanava-o-Upolu III Dr. Pa’olelei Luteru emphasized that the AOSIS Chair would accelerate advocacy for concrete outcomes to ensure not just the survival, but the prosperity of small island developing States.

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Antigua Minimum wage implementation sparks controversy

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has criticized the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce, Yves R. Ephraim, over statements made regarding the timing and implementation of the new minimum wage.

“Yves Ephraim served on the minimum wage committee, representing the Chamber of Commerce: he agreed and recommended EC$9.00 minimum wage to the Cabinet for adoption, to be implemented on January 1, 2023,” Browne said, adding that the effective implementation date was announced over a month ago.

In a statement last week, Ephraim said the private sector had been informed that the minister responsible for labor had ordered a minimum basic wage of nine dollars per hour for employment in Antigua and Barbuda, effective January 1.

“The Chamber wishes to voice its utmost displeasure with the timing and manner with which the “minister responsible” has issued such notice,” he said, adding that among the concerns of the private sector is that “the minister responsible has created unnecessary angst for many affected businesses by issuing the notice on the day before pay day and for simultaneously making the implementation of the minimum wage retroactive by setting the effective date as of 1 January, 2023.

“Further, the notice comes when most of the affected businesses would have already completed payroll and have already sent paychecks to their employees’ bank accounts,” the chamber president said, adding that the “minister responsible, in our opinion acted without regard for how such retroactive implementation on the eve of a payday would have stoked unnecessary tension between employer and employees, by giving the false impression that the affected employers might be deliberately failing to comply with the law”.

“One would have thought that the public notice on the 26th of January, 2023 would have announced the introduction of the new minimum wage from the 1st of February, 2023. This is what we would expect a caring government to do,” Yves R. Ephraim added.

He said further that the minister responsible should be aware that the effect of this increase in the minimum wage, represents a 9.75 percent increase in payroll cost for certain affected and struggling businesses whose payroll cost are already as high as 80 percent of income prior to this increase.

Prime Minister Browne however says the chamber president is trying to create disruptions “I am appalled that having participated and agreed to the nine dollar minimum wage, that the chamber president and its members are now seeking to undermine the process and to encourage discontent,” Browne said, adding that the “simple solution to the late processing of the minimum wage order is to pay the staff retroactively the paltry EC$16, per employee for the month of January”.

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Haitians in the U.S. feel pressure to sponsor friends, family back home

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service
Asylum-seeking migrants from Haiti cross the Rio Bravo river to turn themselves in to U.S Border Patrol agents to request asylum in El Paso, Texas, U.S., as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico April 22, 2022. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Haitians in the United States are facing enormous pressure to help family and friends under a U.S. migration program announced this month that may help some people escape Haiti’s escalating violence but is also putting strain on the nation’s diaspora.

Giubert St Fort, a South Florida resident from Haiti said he was inundated with calls almost immediately after the Biden administration said on Jan. 5 it was opening a new legal pathway for migrants from four countries, including Haiti who had U.S. sponsors.

“Things are very tense because everyone is expecting a call from someone,” said St Fort, 59, a social worker who is already sponsoring members of his family.

“Many people unfortunately are not in a position to sponsor family members or friends back home, but they are receiving calls nonstop.”

Haitians living in the United States, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet, say they are being sought out by everyone from immediate family members to distant acquaintances or neighbors they haven’t spoken with in years, community advocates and immigration lawyers said.

Desperation to leave has grown in Haiti amid a political crisis and a spike in violence that most recently has included a wave of killings of policemen, triggering protests by angry officers who attacked the residence of interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has struggled with a record number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border including the arrival of more than 10,000 Haitians to southern Texas in September 2021. Many of asylum-seekers deported back to Haiti or rapidly expelled, despite objections from human rights groups and a U.S. career diplomat who said doing so was “inhumane.”

In response, Biden expanded pandemic-era restrictions put in place by his Republican predecessor former President Donald Trump to rapidly expel migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to Mexico. At the same his administration opened up the possibility for up to 30,000 migrants from those same countries to enter via air per month by applying for humanitarian “parole.”

‘UNDUE STRESS’

The parole program is aimed at encouraging migrants to safely travel to the United States instead of braving boats or grueling land journeys through Central America to the border. U.S. officials say illegal crossings by the four nationalities have already dropped dramatically.

A senior administration official said last week that about 1,700 people from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua have arrived in the United States through the program in recent weeks, with thousands more approved for travel.

But finding willing sponsors is proving difficult for many Haitians as many immigrants already in the United States are concerned they won’t be able to provide for others with the rising cost of living and soaring rents, advocates and attorneys said.

Tammy Rae, an American lawyer who works in Haiti, gave a radio interview to describe the humanitarian parole program and was later flooded by calls from people seeking a sponsor.

She said her clients have described being expected to sponsor entire extended families and in some cases face threats.

“It’s true that this is a program that will unite families,” said Rae. “I would say it’s also a program that will place undue stress on families and cause family divisions.”

The Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, did not respond to a request for comment.

Guerline Jozef, executive director of non-profit immigration advocacy group Haitian Bridge Alliance, which is helping Haitians find sponsors, described the dilemma.

“People will say ‘I have more than one cousin I would like to sponsor, I’m only able to sponsor one of them,’” Jozef said. “And that creates a major issue because how do you choose which one to sponsor?” She is also opposed to the expulsions of Haitians and other migrants arriving at the southwest border, many who are seeking U.S. asylum.

Jozef said immigrant advocates have long fought for measures such as humanitarian parole, but said the program should not be attached to systematic deportation or expulsion of immigrants seeking asylum.

“Unfortunately, it is attached to a lot of bad policies. It is being used to literally deter people from seeking protection at the U.S-Mexico border.”

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Remembering Yves Renard

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

The Caribbean Region has lost a true stalwart and environmental sustainability champion, Yves Renard. Yves first came to public attention in the Eastern Caribbean in the early 1980s when he spearheaded the Eastern Caribbean Natural Area Management Programme (ECNAMP).

Based in Saint Lucia, he worked with government agencies, community interests and resource users to promote the then-novel concepts of community-based management and co-management.

The work in which he engaged, especially along the southeast of Saint Lucia ranged from helping to introduce (the now well-established) seamoss cultivation to assisting charcoal producers to harvest wood from the mangrove forest in a sustainable manner.

During that period, Yves interacted with a range of government, Non-Governmanetal Organisations (NGOs) and community interests drawn from, among others, the forestry and fisheries sectors. He was also involved in the World Heritage Site Inscription process for the Saint Lucia Pitons and provided advice to the OECS for a proposed World Heritage Sites and Conserved Areas Network.

Director General of the OECS Dr. Didacus Jules described Yves Renard as

“an environmental visionary and pioneer whose commitment to community and people was unmatched. Yves’s genius lay in his use of science to create solutions that were sustainable yet provided economic value (e.g. growing of Leucaena plant for multiple communal uses – charcoal, animal fodder, skin products etc). His passion for people ensured that every initiative was about the cultivation of community. His resourcefulness planted the seed of many community and environmental initiatives that have blossomed – many years later – into lucrative sources of income for SIDS”.

In 1989, ECNAMP transitioned to the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), a non-profit operating in both Saint Lucia and the U.S. Virgin Islands and with a focus on “research, policy influence, advocacy, and capacity building towards sustainable livelihoods and participatory decision making and management of the region’s natural resources.” Yves served as the organisation’s Executive Director from 1992-2001. Since its establishment, CANARI, now headquartered in Trinidad has extended its reach to cover the entire insular Caribbean.

In the early 1990s, Yves, through CANARI, played a critical role in the planning and the conduct of the stakeholders’ consultations in Soufrier? (Saint Lucia), aimed at managing resource use conflicts along the west coast of the island. This highly successful process eventually resulted in the establishment of the internationally recognised Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA).

In the field of natural resource management and conservation, Yves served the region in many capacities. Among these were his tenure as President of the Caribbean Conservation Association, from 1995 to 2000, and his tenure as the Caribbean representative on the IUCN Council from the late 1980s to early 1990s.

Following his leadership of CANARI, Yves worked as an independent consultant, undertaking several assignments for the OECS. He was active in several areas including, but certainly not limited to institutional development, social policy, land policy, and environmental literacy. In the lead-up to COP-21, for example, he worked with PANOS and others to get Caribbean journalists and musicians to Paris to ensure that the people of the region were kept abreast of the climate negotiations and that the region’s climate experience was effectively heard.

However, Yves did not confine his interests to consulting, research, policy, and conservation. He held a deep appreciation for the Arts and played a leading role in expanding the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival to the south of the island. He was well known for his wide-ranging community development endeavours in his adopted community of Laborie (Saint Lucia), including the establishment of a youth steelpan orchestra.

Yves Renard was truly a man of many talents, with a uniquely analytical thought process. Yet, he never displayed any air of arrogance and was always able to laugh at himself. Indeed, his easygoing nature made working with him easy and no doubt contributed to his ability to make such a huge impact. His passing on January 20, 2023, leaves a void in the hearts of many but his legacy will endure.

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Jamaica court order prevents embattled SSL from winding up

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

The regulator of the island’s financial services has obtained a court order preventing the official of the investment firm Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) which is under fraud investigation, from winding up the company.

Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke said the Financial Services Commission (FSC) was granted the order as it sought to prevent an attempt by members of SSL who had applied to the Companies Office of Jamaica for a members’ voluntary winding up around January 16.

He said that prior to the application, the FSC had put the company under temporary management, using its powers under the Financial Services Commission Act.

“To effect its temporary management, the FSC went to court to prevent the company from going through the process of winding up itself,” Clarke explained.

The court order restrains SSL, the purported Trustee of SSL, and directors of SSL from: disposing of, dealing with assets and liabilities in SSL’s name or its clients’ name; withdrawing, transferring or otherwise dissipating any funds from accounts in its name wherever held.

It also restrains the embattled firm from interfering with the acts of servants or agents of the FSC and temporary manager; winding up or dissolving the company and liquidating the assets.

The FSC also wants to stop any SSL official from reorganising the company or its operations, whether it be in any document form or organisation of its members, or the assets and liabilities.

Government has already announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States will assist local investigators in their probe into the alleged multibillion fraud at SSL that has affected several clients including eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt who is said to have lost more than US$12 million.

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