Former Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson's address to the Africa-Caricom Day forum held September 7, 2023 at the Council Room — UWI Regional Headquarters
The ethnic origins and commonality of our colonial experience are beyond dispute. For black people everywhere, the lyrics of the Hon Peter Tosh reveal what is apodictic:
No mind your nationality
You have the identity
Of an African
It is in recognition of this irrefutable reality that the African Union declared the existence of six regions. Despite the close and productive collaboration between the continent and the Caribbean in the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the non-aligned and other multilateral fora, there never was a meeting of heads of State and government for the five regions on the continent with the 14 nations of Caricom until Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
Among the solemn decisions they took was to “designate September 7 of every year as Africa-Caricom Day”. The Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy regards September 7 as one of tremendous significance and is proud to join with The University of the West Indies, its office of Global Affairs and the Centre for Reparation Research on this special occasion to unite in recognising our shared history, culture and aspirations.
We are honoured by the participation of those who join with us to deepen the long-standing and deep-rooted connections across the oceans and examine the prospects for building strong and enduring institutional relationships; in promoting fruitful partnerships and increasing cultural bonds between kith and kin.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our leaders were unable to savour the fine traditional hospitality of Kenya as the first host. Not surprisingly, when they met virtually, it was the lessons from the impact and response to the pandemic which drew their immediate attention.
It was crystal clear — the developed countries, indulging in “vaccine hoarding and vaccine nationalism”, had denied early access to the majority of our countries. We were only rescued by sharing among ourselves whatever vaccines we eventually obtained. To avert this, our heads instantly concluded there can be only one solution: We must manufacture all the vaccines we need on the African continent and within the Caribbean ourselves.
We must engage in the sharing of knowledge and capacity building to provide the technology and medical supplies for our own health requirements.
As we commemorate this memorable day, September 7, there is gathered in Nairobi a summit of African heads to discuss the existential threat of climate change which exposes so many of our Caribbean islands to extinction. Faced with rising sea levels, frequent and devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts, floods, the 14 countries of the community and 54 nations of Africa must unite to resist any lowering of the 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels as the Paris Accord provides and insist that the polluters pay in full for the destruction they have caused to our natural environment and fragile ecosystems.
Simultaneously, Africa and the Caribbean must mobilise their scientific expertise and adequate resources on climate change mitigation, adaptation strategies and initiatives to safeguard our national environment and promote resilience.
The present configuration of global power reflected in the wars and conflicts which intensify geo-political rivalry, when combined, demonstrate the imperative for Africa and the Caribbean to find their own solutions to overcome ages of enslavement and imperial exploitation to forge sustainable development and self-reliance.
The younger generation will never accept that poverty and hunger must forever be our lot. The conflict in Ukraine has heightened the issue of food security. It threatens a shortage of the essential ingredients for food supplies, particularly on the African continent.
In sub-Saharan Africa, more than one in five persons suffer hunger and starvation. With 60 per cent of the world’s arable lands, Africa is importing more than 60 per cent of its food and agricultural inputs. Within the Caribbean we are still importing too much of the food we consume.
It will become even more as the tourism sector expands unless we can produce more food for its consumption.
Food security deserves, therefore, the highest priority attention. Hence, we note with satisfaction, the establishment of Exim bank’s Caribbean headquarters in Barbados and applaud the announcement of its president to place a heavy emphasis on developing food security in its lending and credit facility programmes.
We know so well that when the political will and intellectual synergies of Africa, the Caribbean and Diaspora are combined as one and indivisible, we become invincible in the fight, more so because our cause is just. That was responsible for our triumph, as developing countries, in negotiating with the European Common Market to create the Lomé Convention.
That was the case when we stood firmly with the Frontline States for the liberation of Zimbabwe and Namibia. We proceeded to be in the vanguard of dismantling the evil system of apartheid. Our leaders having pledged their allegiance to an Africa-Caribbean alliance for reparative justice, the institute, therefore today, supports the growing and inescapable demand that the topic of reparations be placed on the agenda of the forthcoming CHOSM Conference in Samoa next year. We must be relentless and vociferous in our claim, no matter how uncomfortable those countries who engaged in the most heinous crime against humanity may feel.
Pivotal to commencing the process of institutionalising the partnership of African and Caribbean states, which our heads ordered, is the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two secretariats in order to facilitate the subsequent adoption of the governance constitutive statutes by heads. While the original deadline for its signing has passed, we are pleased to note the MOU is now ready and use this forum to appeal today for an immediate conclusion and signatures by the AU and Caricom secretariats.
The institute is bound also to pinpoint that as of today there is no host, time or place for the second summit which was due in 2022. Further delay in settling these constitutes a clear and frightening danger. We are not oblivious to the numerous and demanding pressures which national issues impose on the time and attention span of heads, but remind them of their own accord for urgency.