Emancipation MOU

Emancipation MOU

UWI, University of Glasgow establishing centre to conduct reparatory-oriented policy research

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, August 01, 2019

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THE University of Glasgow, Scotland's premier tertiary institution, has agreed to put up 20 million over the next 20 years to establish a centre that will carry out reparatory-oriented policy research to address the legacies of slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean.

This is under a just-inked partnership with The University of the West Indies (UWI), and is the first such engagement between the Caribbean and an institution which benefited directly from the transatlantic slave trade.

Chief operating officer and university secretary Dr David Duncan, who also chairs the History of Slavery Committee at the University of Glasgow, said the institution is serious about the partnership.

“This hasn't been an easy process for the University of Glasgow, and you can see other institutions, (and) other governments wrestling with these issues, writhing around with these issues, trying to work out how best to handle them, thinking about what the consequences of their actions will be… many universities go around the world signing agreements, and they are sometimes called NATOs no action, talk only. This will not be a NATO agreement. We are not in the business of 'researching and running'. This will be an enduring bond between the two institutions,” he declared at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at The UWI Regional Headquarters in St Andrew yesterday, a day before the observance of Emancipation Day and just under a week before Jamaica's 57th anniversary of independence from British Colonial rule.

Dr Duncan said the sum of 20 million was determined through negotiations. “We came up with what we thought was a reasonable and achievable sum for the scale of the commitment that we want to engage in,” he noted.

The Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research will conduct development research in areas which continue to plague the region, such as persistent poverty, extreme inequality in economic relations, chronic illnesses which are believed to be directly linked to slavery, educational and other related factors which have adversely impacted economic growth and social justice. The centre will be administered by a joint board, guided by the principles of reparatory justice.

Vice chancellor of The UWI Sir Hilary Beckles, who brokered the agreement, pointed out that while “research and run” has become the norm for many universities with slave-produced wealth in Britain, the rest of Europe, and North America, “Glasgow has moved into a space above and beyond all of those conversations that we have been having at the national university level and they have taken that philosophical step. We are not going to research and run, we are going to research and then we are going to stand up and repair. Let's hope that all of them eventually will come around to realising that excellent universities have to be ethical, and if you have an excellent reputation for your research and scholarships and the dignity, if there are unethical aspects surrounding that excellence, it does in fact compromise a great deal of the language”.

He emphasised that Glasgow had accepted the principles laid out in the Caricom Reparations Commission's 10-point plan that sees reparations as part of a broad development strategy for the region.

“It has never been morally sufficient to issue apologies and the refusal to repair. To issue words of regret then reject any policy of repair,” he argued.

Glasgow University has conducted its own research into its historical links with slavery and produced a report titled 'Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow', co-authored by Professor Simon Newman and Dr Stephen Mullen.

The historic MOU has been widely endorsed by regional leaders. Prime minister of Barbados and chair of Caricom's Prime Ministerial sub-committee on reparations Mia Mottley, in a video statement at the signing, said, “The truth is, no amount of time can erase the scars of our history… the bottom-line is, we can always move forward and we choose to move forward when we begin the process of saying sorry and begin to deal with the consequences of centuries of slavery, centuries of underdevelopment, and centuries of colonialism. The 20 million may appear to some a small amount, but it is a significant sum in the journey.

“Those who engage in the process and the discussions on reparations will understand that fundamentally the underdevelopment that is taking place in our societies, has to be corrected,” she added.

Prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves noted that the work being carried out across Caricom to fulfil the commission's 10-point plan needs to be expedited.

“It is necessary and desirable for us to be more proactive than we have been in the recent past, and that the political leadership across the region must demonstrate on an ongoing basis that this is a vital issue for our times. It is a great cause, and great causes have never been done by doubtful men and women. This programme of education cooperation is part and parcel of one of the dimensions of the 10-point plan on reparatory justice adopted by Caricom,” he stated.

A commemorative signing of the MOU is scheduled to be held at the University of Glasgow on August 23, to coincide with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

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