I am currently at the 3rd Meeting of ACP Ministers of Culture in Brussels. My contribution is to senior officials on the topic, “Culture within the ACP Frame, assessing the perspectives, a case study of CARIFORUM”.
Sadly very few of the Caribbean countries turned up to the meeting compared with strong representation from Africa and the Pacific countries.
Those who did included Jamaica’s Director of Culture Hon Sydney Bartley whose comments electrified the room exhibiting tones of in-depth knowledge, Dominica’s Cultural Icon Consultant Mr Gregory Rabess whose experience was overwhelming and Trinidad and Tobago’s Permanent Secretary of cultural affairs Ms. Desdra Bascombe who was technically shrewd and specific.
This meeting of senior experts not only was of great significance but also highlighted the advancement of the cultural element of the Economic Partnership Agreement which their country all signed but some yet to ratify.
The general aim of this meeting is to examine the implementation and opportunities presented by this historical agreement between the EU and CARIFORUM States, by assessing the extraordinary way that the cultural sector is included in a trade agreement and evaluating and recommending possible improvements.
European markets are now open to trade in Caribbean cultural commodities. Are the cultural creators in the Caribbean region aware of these opportunities?
Even though the gap between these opportunities and successful trade engagement remains wide there is an even wider chasm between the practical measures required and policy instruments.
In bridging those gaps there is the need for a realistic and desirable cultural promotion campaign which advances premium Caribbean cultural creators.
I am advocating a call that the Economic Partnership Agreement is accompanied by a critical review of the diplomatic infrastructure urgently required to facilitate the relations needed to develop in order to extract full value from the cultural dimensions of that Agreement.
To explain my point fully I will harness some of my experience gained from promoting Caribbean culture in Europe over the last twenty years which have taught me several lessons. One point that I have experienced and wish to share with everyone especially those leaders who take cultural enterprise as a joke and think it is seasonal needs to wake up and smell the coffee.
See video reflecting theme, NO FUTURE WITHOUT CULTURE:
To begin with, if you need to know what is happening on the ground as a government you need foot soldiers in the name of cultural attaches and cultural ambassadors, as this is a different time of industry i.e. the creative industry where creating is constant. Their status has to be that of diplomats as the doors in Europe will not open for ‘officials’ from the Caribbean with no official titles.
There are two angles to this, the private initiative side which I was fully involved in which is merely a hassle hoping and praying that the Europeans support your cultural activities and commodities.
The second angle is getting into the official hallways of government in Europe, speaking to mayors, municipal building officials, administrators of cultural tours, dance groups, paint galleries, theatre companies and so on. Why?
As they are the people that matter when it comes to organising well paid events staged on behalf of their government. France alone spends an average of 2.9 billion on culture so the only way we can loop into this well needed foreign currency from the other 16 member states is by using properly trained cultural diplomats to advance the sale of Caribbean cultural commodities.