Sunday 5 April, 2020

Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research begins work

UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles

UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles

The issue of reparations for Caribbean states that were colonised by Britain will remain front and centre of regional discourse at least for the next 20 years as what is being hailed as a historic collaboration between The University of the West Indies (THE UWI) and the University of Glasgow takes effect.

The initiative, which was first announced last summer, will be driven through what is called the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research.

A statement from The UWI on Wednesday said it is the first institution within British university history, dedicated to the slavery reparations policy framework.

The centre will be hosted at The UWUI’s Cave Hill campus in Barbados where the first Board of Directors meeting was held on December 18 last year.

Co-chaired by Professor Simon Anderson, distinguished Jamaican scientist who is Director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre at The UWI Cave Hill Campus and the accomplished Professor William Cushley from Glasgow University, the board also consists of six senior persons from each university including the co-chairs.

The UWI directors are Pro Vice-Chancellors Stefan Gift and Clive Landis as well as Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Professor Verene Shepherd, and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.

“The purpose of the inaugural meeting was to rollout the research and project development agenda for the Centre which is aimed at confronting and eradicating the debilitating legacies of slavery and colonisation in the Caribbean,” The UWI statement said.

The next meeting is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2020.

In addition to project development and applied research, there is also funding available for relevant reparations oriented teaching programmes.

The seed budget of £20 million to be used over two decades to develop the work was discussed alongside other fundraising strategies. Research proposals were also established, and joint subcommittees will begin planning for projects.

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Professor Anderson expressed his delight as co-Chair to begin this historic journey bringing together the two university worlds within a reparatory justice framework. Professor Cushley underscored the enormous significance that this initiative has for the world today, particularly universities that consider themselves ethical in the pursuit of excellence.

The historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that led to the partnership was signed in Kingston last July. The document, framed as a “Reparatory Justice” initiative, acknowledges that while the University of Glasgow lent support to efforts to abolish the trade in enslaved Africans and to end slavery, it also received significant financial support from people whose wealth was derived from African enslavement.

The evidence of this history of financial benefitting from enslavement, particularly in the Caribbean context, was presented by a research team commissioned by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli.

Under the terms of the MoU the two universities agreed to establish the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research.

It was agreed that the centre’s activities in its first ten-year phase will focus on three pillars. These are:

 1.       The public health crisis in the Caribbean, particularly the chronic disease pandemic, with special focus on identifying research-based solutions to reduce the burden of Type 2 diabetes and its complications such as diabetic foot amputation. The region has the world’s highest per capita amputation rates. There will also be a focus on other chronic diseases including mental illnesses, heart disease, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease and cancers affecting in particular women and children. It will support work that carefully considers health disparities within the broader social context including their social and genetic determinants.

2.       The search for post-plantation economy development policies that are innovative and progressive in the struggle for economic growth in the global economy. It was noted that economic practices and policy in the region are conservative and technologically transformative; effectively sustaining persistent poverty and growing inequality and designed to meet the specific needs of IMF conditionalities rather than focusing on economic diversification, racial inclusion, gender empowerment. Devising a new set of economic tools and thought specifically for the post-colonial Caribbean is, therefore, a top priority.

3.       Recognising that slavery and colonialism drove deep wedges between Africa and its Caribbean family, strategies for project implementation to tackle the day-to-day cultural divide between Africa and the Caribbean are to be funded. Innovative projects to practically integrate and socially domesticate this bond are to be prioritised.

 

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