“A vital step towards achieving a closer relationship between Caricom and the Dominican Republic would be for its President to set out in detail his vision of how a closer relationship with Caricom might bring value to the English speaking part of the region as well as to his own country – Excerpt from the July 29, 2005 column by David Jessop, Director of the Caribbean Council for Europe.
Last week, three recent events placed the Dominican Republic sharply in focus on my radar screen. In order of my awareness of them, they are: The First International Conference on Environmental and Sustainable Development held in the DR; a fortuitous meeting in a Santo Domingo restaurant last Friday night with Dr Patrick Antoine, Strategic Trade Policy Adviser in the Grenada Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, who advised me that he had that day chaired a meeting of the DR/Caricom council; and a recent David Jessop column (www.carib-export.com).
The First International Conference was coordinated by Fundacion Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE) from the Dominican Republic, its US office the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD), Universidad del Turabo from Puerto Rico and the UniversitÃ© Quisqueya from Haiti. These three institutions have combined to form the International Center for Environmental and Sustainable Development Studies (CIEMADeS) which was created in November 2004 to develop professional and technical training, conduct scientific research, develop sustainable development programs, and promote environmental social consciousness.
The conference was mounted in collaboration with key international allies such as Counterpart International, the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) and the National Geographic Society as well as other partners from the private and public sectors from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the U.S.
I had the honour to be on a panel with Dr Noel Brown, former Director of the UN Environmental Program and the UNDP resident representative in Santo Domingo, Senor Miguel Ceara-Hatton. Our topic was ‘Environmental and Sustainable Development: Challenges and Opportunities for Small Island States’. Other topics on environment and sustainability included: a global perspective; UN Development goals; environmental disasters; coastal zones and bio-diversity; specific examples in Caribbean islands; geo-tourism; CAFTA, trade and sustainable development; research in environmental sciences and the role of academia; renewable energy and urbanization.
There were about 250 participants including a strong youthful contingent from Haiti as well as regional and international media representatives. The second conference in the series is scheduled for San Juan, Puerto Rico in August 2006.
The overall theme of the conference was ‘Environment: Our Partner in Development’. The stage was set by Senor Max Puig, Secretary of State for Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic with a global perspective. He quoted Lester R. Brown, author of the book ‘Plan B: Rescuing a Planet under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble’ in which is stated that: ‘The Environment is not part of the Economy, as many corporate planners and economists believe, but instead, the Economy is part of the Environment’. My own belief is that our focus should be on ‘holistic sustainable development’ with the spiritual, cultural, social, physical and economic environment evolving in tandem to ensure environmental harmony as we develop. I made mention of Counterpart Caribbean’s Future Centre in Barbados as well as the CBET Entrepreneurial Shepherding model. There was considerable local interest expressed in both of these initiatives as to how they could be implemented in the DR. Dr Noel Brown also very fascinated by these ideas and based on his vast international experience thought that there were many global communities that could benefit from an extension of these Caribbean innovations. We promised to take immediate follow up action in this regard.
We had the opportunity to visit FUNGLODE’s headquarters which is in fact a magnificent, state of the art Knowledge Management Centre, the like of which I have not experienced in the Caribbean. This was the dream child of President Leonel Fernandez before he assumed his current term as president but is operated as an NGO with significant private sector endowments.
FUNGLODE is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting collaboration between organizations in the United States and the Dominican Republic with an aim to study, research, enhance public understanding, design public policies, devise strategies, offer capacity building, and foster exchange in the areas crucial for the social, economic and democratic development of the Dominican Republic, Caribbean and Latin America.
FUNGLODE accomplishes its goals through research projects, training programs, academic exchange programs, publications, seminars and conferences, as well as joint US-DR task force efforts and development programs. It encourages intellectual and professional development of Dominican general audiences and experts, in the country and abroad, while working to offer viable action plans and solutions to domestic problems for the benefit of Dominicans residing in the Dominican Republic, the United States and Latin America.
It was therefore very heartening to note that concomitant with the conference there was in fact a DR/Caricom council meeting taking place in the DR presumably to seek areas of cooperation. Whereas it was apparent that there was a bond between the DR and Haiti, countries which share the Hispaniola island ecosystem, it was evident that not all Haitians are enthused by Caricom’s political stance with Haiti.