July 28, 2013
At a lecture entitled "Britain's Black Debt: Reparations Owed to the Caribbean for Slavery and Indigenous Genocide", Sir Hilary Beckles, Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, urged CARICOM countries to seek reparation from Europe for the atrocities of slavery. Sir Hilary went on to say that seeking reparations is not about seeking handouts, but about "repairing historical damage and finding a way forward". The Jamaica Observer has more here.
According to reports from a number of news sources, CARICOM has taken up the cause, and has enlisted the assistance of British law firm Leigh Day. The firm won a battle for compensation for hundreds of Kenyans who were tortured by the British during the Mau Mau rebellien of the 1950s and 1960s. David Fitton, British High Commissioner to Jamaica has responded to the issue by saying "[Britain] doesn't think the issue of reparations is the right way to address the issue...[or] to address an historical problem."
Since independence, the region has been on the receiving end of billions of dollars in foreign aid and support from Europe. In 2009, the European Commission agreed to provide €165 million (US$ 245.2 million) to CARICOM as part of its support for the region's integration process. Between 1975 and 1995, Europe paid top dollar for agricultural goods originating in CARICOM countries as part of an export-led development model championed by economists of the time. While the Lomé Convention has ended, Europe continues to be the region's primary trade partner in agricultural exports, and European tourists comprise the majority of extra-regional visitors to CARICOM countries.
CARICOM's 40th anniversary should have been focused on strategies for deepening its integration effort (and widening it, since the Dominican Republic is once again appealing to join the grouping) and navigating the current economic crisis. CARICOM Heads of Government should have emerged from the meeting with a 100 year vision for the region, and some idea as to how to begin to move forward. Instead, what has emerged is an affirmation of the kind of institutional weakness that has plagued the organization since its formation.
What are your thoughts on the move to seek reparations from Europe?