“…and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts…” – Exodus 31:3

Man is a creature of his environment. In the thrust for sustainable development, one is continually influenced by cultural, social, physical and economic factors that tend to mold you into a shape, a pattern, a routine until diminishing returns set in. How can we escape the temptation to retain the status quo with which we have become very comfortable? How can we recharge our batteries so that the process of development can evolve?

The answer, I contend, is in the renewal of the spirit of God. We must renew that spirit which can energise our psychological being, which can motivate our physical being, which can stimulate our intellectual being, that spirit which is our driving force to sustainable success.

I was invited as a member of the International Advisory Council (IAC) of Counterpart International (CI) to visit Washington DC on the occasion of a meeting of the CI board of directors so that IAC members could interact with the board for a mutually beneficial experience, but more so to determine how the resource base of the IAC could be a catalyst for the development of CI and its global family. Even though the formal IAC/board member interaction and subsequent follow up meetings were only expected to last a few hours, travel logistics dictated that I would have to be away for four working days. Given very demanding project assignments in the Caribbean, it was a difficult decision to make. I decided to go and do not regret it one bit. My spirit has been renewed and the chances are that, on my return, the stimulating experience in DC will have a net positive effect on the projects I left behind. What is more, there are so many new ideas and perspectives that have emerged through networking during the four days that I was away.

My networking experience included personnel from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Ruder Finn (a leading global PR agency) and other CI and IAC resource persons; Universidad del Turabo in Puerto Rico, Caribbean-Central American Action and the Barbados Embassy. Of course, a visit to DC is not complete without an opportunity for discourse with Ambassador Sir Courtney Blackman, who has always encouraged me to keep recharging my intellectual capital.

The outcomes of my visit were (1) renewal of the spirit; (2) contributing to the development of the IAC/CI model; (3) providing first hand up-to-date information on the progress with the film “Hit for Six” to sponsorship and investment prospects as well as creating further interest in the project; (4) unearthing a number of interesting CBET “management of change” consulting leads; (5) learning more about how CI can be used to leverage the development of Counterpart Caribbean and, in particular, The Future Centre as an enhanced sustainable development exhibition site; (6) the wealth of knowledge, experience and networking potential at the Barbados Embassy which could foster private sector development in the context of an emerging services economy; and (7) the potential to garner resources from the Diaspora for the mutual benefit of the Diaspora and the people of the Caribbean.

In less than two weeks’ time, the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism celebrates its fifth anniversary on the occasion of CMEx IX at Coco Palm Resorts in St. Lucia. CMEx arose in many conversations in DC and it is gratifying to note that there is interest in promoting the CMEx concept in the Mediterranean, Central Asia and, as a programmatic model for specific projects, on this side of the Atlantic. CMEx IX has attracted a Japanese delegation which will present on “the need for low-/non-waste lifestyles”, which is especially important since tourism generates a considerable amount of waste.

Last week, UN World Tourism Organization, Secretary General Francesco Frangialli (www.unwto.org) highlighted the major role the industry plays in combating poverty in developing countries…”fromTourism is now well recognized as one of the key ways to bring wealth and experience the richest to the poorest countries”.

The agency released an e-booklet on its website underlining tourism’s multifaceted role in promoting development, from its role as the world’s largest service sector to the part it plays in establishing contacts, recognizing diversity and practising tolerance.

It notes that tourism is bigger than cars, agriculture or electronics; that it generates $800 billion a year in international tourist spending – a sum that will more than double by 2020; and that it creates millions of jobs, both directly in transport, restaurant lodging and
travel firms and indirectly in agriculture, commerce and manufacturing.

Tourism represents 40 per cent of global service trade and 6 per cent of total world trade and over the past decade grew in the poorest 49 countries at six times the rate of Europe.
The 150-member UNWTO, a specialized UN agency, is the leading international organization in the field of tourism. UNWTO will be represented at CMEX IX.

CMEx IX will be another source for the renewal of the spirit and has been oversubscribed. We have already started booking participants for CMEx X which is scheduled to take place in Trinidad & Tobago in January 2007.