“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1
The concept of Smart Partnership for global cooperative prosperity grew out of a dialogue among members of the Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management (CPTM) in the UK and the Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) in the mid-1990s. Since then, 18 International Dialogues have taken place: in Langkawi (The Langkawi International Dialogue LID – 8); in Barbados (The Barbados International Dialogue – BID – 2); and in Southern Africa (The Southern African International Dialogue – SAID – 8). I was privileged to attend the first 8 Dialogues and after a break of nine years, I attended the 2008 dialogue in Lusaka, Zambia which took place last week. The cultural activity at SAID 2008 was superb. SAID 2008 was deliberately juxtaposed on the 82nd annual Zambian Agricultural & Commercial trade show which was quite an experience.
The benefits from these dialogues rest with the country representatives and individuals who attend. The dialogue merely provides the opportunity for exposure both in the plenary and roundtable sessions and through the important networking experience.
SAID 2008 was an international experience with participation from many countries including North America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Mediterranean; Africa, the Middle East, India, South East Asia, the Far East and Australasia. Approximately 500 participants from 15 countries dialogued on solutions to problems including: arts and culture, governance, transforming communities, media, visioning, social issues, climate change, interdependency, food, transport, energy and mining. Many Heads of State and Deputy Heads of State attended from Africa and Malaysia. Several First Ladies were present. Many civil servants and members of statutory boards attended. There were also private sector, university, church, NGO personnel and the youth. The media was represented both in the capacity of a social partner and as a communicator to the general public. Special sessions were held where the media engaged Smart Partners in reverse dialogue.
Presidents mingled comfortably with the youth and other Smart Partners. The roundtable design ensured a seamless hierarchical mix and full participation from the Smart Partners. The networking opportunities and contacts made outside of the formal plenary and dialogue sitting were incredible. Relationships were established within individual African countries; between African countries; between individual African countries and Malaysia; between individual African countries and the Caribbean; between Malaysia and the Caribbean. Imagine the experience if this Smart Partnership Dialogue event were to be held in the Caribbean. It would be a unique experience and could be the major catalyst that we are looking for to turn sovereign Caribbean states into Caribbean unity.
There was a call by a senior group of participants from diverse countries, at a breakfast meeting, just before we parted company, for the Caribbean governments to be involved in this stimulating dialogue experience. The Barbados Government has already expressed an interest in becoming involved and, as the designated lead country to promote the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, it is expected that Barbados will mobilise the CARICOM troops to benefit from the Smart Partnership movement. The next Smart Partnership Dialogue is scheduled for Kampala, Uganda in the second week of August 2009 followed by Langkawi, Malaysia in 2010. There is an opportunity to mobilise support for the Caribbean to attend the Kampala SAID 2009 in large numbers, and for this experience and benefits to be further sold to other Caribbean governments on the occasion of the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad & Tobago.
Based on the number of one-on-one networking experiences to which I was exposed at SAID 2008, I would say that Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean are poised to convert the Vision of South-South dialogue, as espoused by futurist guru John Naisbitt in his book Megatrends, into Action by establishing specific projects with Southern Africa, initially through face to face initiatives and also through the Internet.
Barbados has a per capita income greater than all Southern African countries. We must have done something right. It is often said that African countries are wealthy but its peoples are poor. African countries generally have greater untapped resources of wealth and larger populations than Barbados. We need to develop smart partnerships based on the relative success of Barbados, say in tourism and solar water heating, and potential wealth and larger populations of African countries to the mutual benefit of the respective countries by participating in South-South dialogue.
It is time for Barbados to become a donor country and benefit from the donor country benefits to recipient countries whilst still continuing to ensure that the recipient countries benefit as well. It should be noted that Turkey’s per capita income, although greater than that of Guyana and Jamaica, is certainly less than that of Trinidad & Tobago which is in turn less than that of Barbados. Turkey’s annual technical and development assistance abroad in 2006, targeted at beneficiary countries including those which are “economically stronger” than themselves, was stated to be over US$340 million and it has become an effective donor country with a net benefit to Turkey’s economy.
If more Caribbean persons attended these Smart Partnership Dialogues, if more Dialogues were held in the Caribbean, then the richer would the Caribbean be. Behold, how good and how pleasant it would be for the brethren to dwell together in unity!”