Thursday, 2 July 2009
Caribbean bridges: the recipe for a better future
CI’s Antonino Serra Cambaceres writes from Jolly Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda, where the 7th Caribbean Consumer Conference reflected the need for enhanced networking and cooperation:
‘If something must be confirmed at the end of the 7th Caribbean Consumer Conference that was recently held in Antigua and Barbuda, it is that the consumer movement in the Caribbean is alive...and kicking.
Gathered together under the motto: “The resilience of the consumer movement amidst the food, energy and financial crises – building partnerships for cooperation”, consumer advocates and government officials used the three-day discussion forum to try and find a firm footing within their own realities and the map of the current world crises.
With Grenada, the only absentee, representatives of consumer agencies and associations of all Caricom states discussed how the various crises are affecting consumer welfare. It was argued that under the revised treaty of Chaguaramas – the cornerstone of the Caribbean Community – consumer protection must be one of the main issues that governments must enforce adequately and that all bilateral or regional agreements within the Caricom must assess how consumer rights can be effectively included in any political or trade negotiations.
Consumers International (CI) was present at the conference. We delivered a presentation about consumers and the financial crisis and emphasised that consumers must not be blamed for the crisis, and that regulation must be a tool that govenments should use to to drive markets to more secure paths, now that we know that Adam Smith’s “invisible hands” of markets are nothing but invisible. This presentation, alongside with Philip McClauren’s – past president of the Caribbean Consumer Council (CCC) – led to many serious discussions which all came to the same conclusion that more networking and more common work is the key for the coming times.
CI’s second presentation focused on the future of the consumer movement in this part of the world. While we encouraged the idea and the urgent need for more coordinated work between the Caribbean nations, we also launched the new Caribbean project funded by the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) that will be implemented in the next three years in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago.
This presented the ideal opportunity to introduce Candice Rowena Ramessar, the newly appointed project coordinator. Candice did a solid presentation of the main project aims and objectives, as well as activities. Side meetings presented a window of time with our partners in this project, as well as with the CCC, and we started to find ways for the wider participation of other countries, as well as the means of interaction we will be likely to develop.
In the end, the idea of bridges that link countries and then within these countries organisations, gained momentum. The general feeling amongst the conference participants was that all efforts can be boosted if the work is performed in teams, and that this is the best recipe for facing the hard times that will remain for a while in this shocked world of ours.’