Introduction to a special edition of the Round Table Journal: CARICOM@50. picture shows cover

[This is an excerpt from an article in The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.]

This special issue

The articles in this special issue on CARICOM @ 50 tackle many of the issues raised above by drawing attention to how CARICOM may want to reform/decolonise itself in light of the retreat from regionalism currently taking place. The authors not only discuss the challenges that CARICOM is facing @ 50, but they also provide structure and guidance on how these challenges can be overcome. In doing so, they draw attention to five different areas of concern, which include: (i) reflecting on why functional cooperation has been so successful in CARICOM; (ii) the role of partnerships in the reparations movement; (iii) the consequences of neglecting the Charter of Civil Society; (iv) the lessons that can be learned from Latin America and Asian regionalism; and (v) the ways in which artificial intelligence can reshape CARICOM.

Edward Green’s article reflects upon functional cooperation, one of CARICOM’s four central pillars and the area of regional integration in which CARICOM has made the most strides over the last fifty years. In his reflection, Greene argues that as a non-economic driver of regional integration, functional cooperation has served as ‘a broader arc of diplomacy that compounds the contradictions and challenges the Community faces’. He identifies that the history of functional cooperation, which dates back to the 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas, is one of challenges and successes, and functional cooperation has created several regional institutions that have strengthened the economic integrative project. In contextualising the voices of several of the forefathers and foremothers of regional integration, he calls for an enhanced version of functional cooperation and uses outliers such as the newly formed CARICOM Commission on the Economy as an example of the type of regional institutions/organs, which moves away from mimicking European institutions/organs and is based on Indigenous knowledge. He concludes by discussing the rise of ‘functional institutional cooperation’, which he identifies as the clustering of institutions to respond to the functional needs of the Community.

Special edition of the Round Table Journal – CARICOM@50

Chevy Eugune, Tavis D. Jules and Tinesh Indrarajah speak about how deeper cooperation between CARICOM and the African Union (AU) can create a transregional regime for reparations to address the past atrocities of slavery and indentureship. In making this argument and centring on reparations from a transregional perspective, they rely on Robin Kelley’s critical nine theses on decolonisation and CARICOM’s current 10-point Plan. They identify three gaps – the representation of the Indigenous Caribbean in theory but not in practice, the overarching emphasis on the state-to-state approach to reparations, and the lack of youth participation – that need additional research and expand upon the idea of the Caribbean-Africa Knowledge Program (CAKP) – as a new mechanism for knowledge transfer that reimagines cooperation and alliance between the two regions. In distinguishing between the neoliberal view of reparations and decolonisation, they argue that at the heart of reparations is seeking justice and reconciliation to eradicate racism and exploitation. In making this argument, they move away from focusing on monetary claims for reparations, which have consumed much of the recent literature, and draw attention to epistemic justice. They conclude by laying out practical steps as to how CARICOM and the AU can advance the global reparations movement with the aid of education.

Kristina Hinds discusses CARICOM’s Charter of Civil Society and its implication for CARICOM at fifty. She argues that while CARICOM has been able to navigate numerous obstacles over the past fifty years, it has neglected the 1997 Charter, which was in response to 1992 recommendations from the West Indies Commission. In discussing The Charter, she draws attention to the evolving role of civil society within The Charter and the fact that The Charter is more of a human rights document rather than a commitment towards advancing civil society participation. She highlights that given The Charter’s non-binding nature; it merely serves as another ‘dusty’ declaration of commitment rather than a progressive document that expresses a regional commitment to civil society. In this way, civil society is presented as something aspirational. Moreover, there are no reporting mechanisms, and monitoring is not mandatory, which makes The Charter ineffective. Given these shortcomings, Hinds concludes by proposing a revision of The Charter that would make it binding on member states and have reporting and monitoring mechanisms. She also suggests that updating The Charter would allow it to address some of the current challenges that the region is facing.

Tinesh Indrarajah, Victoria Desimoni, and Tavis D. Jules discuss the lessons that can be learned from other regionalism(s) in an era of deglobalisation as CARCICOM turns fifty. These authors use a comparative regional approach to examine CARICOM’s integrative model in relation to that of Latin America and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Following a comparative regional approach, they argue that European integration should not be held up as the gold standard and that lessons can be learned from other Southern integration movements. They highlight that one lesson CARICOM can take from LA is how to avoid fragmentation, given that several CARICOM members are also members of Latin American regional integrative arrangements. From ASEAN, they highlight that CARICOM needs to (i) invest in greater South-South cooperation to facilitate deeper regional leverage, (ii) focus on what they call ‘Caribbean Centrality’, which implies breaking the bonds of coloniality and imperialism that still exist, and (iii) strengthen thematic issues areas where different heads of government assume responsibility for different portfolios. They conclude by arguing that although we live in an era of neoliberal regionalism, driven by globalisation and the retreat towards regionalism, there are valuable lessons that CARICOM can borrow from these other two Southern integrative movements that can enhance mature regionalism and correct its implementation deficit.

Caribbean exceptionalism and the rise of Sino-CARICOM relations in the post-bureaucratic era
Global finance and climate change – Countdown to COP

Florin D. Salajan, Theodore L. Barnes and Anna Becker look at artificial intelligence’s role in shaping national education trajectories by developing a comparative study between the European Union and CARICOM. This conceptual paper explores what CARICOM’s AI policy initiatives can learn from the EU’s emerging regulatory framework. In discussing the rise of regulatory frameworks in the context of the recent explosion of AI, they discuss the intensification of AI regimes to harmonise legislative authority, which has elevated certain areas, such as education, to the category of high risk. This exacerbates the existing post-colonial dependencies as CARICOM looks to the global economic landscape for guidance on AI. These authors argue that as AI takes shape in the region and more people use it, CARICOM must develop a regulatory framework compatible with its integration models. Looking at how the EU and CARICOM have responded to AI; they note stark contrasts between the two approaches. The EU has responded with a comprehensive regulatory policy, while CARICOM has responded with a ‘wait-and-see approach’. They conclude by suggesting that the consequence is that CARICOM may end up borrowing or mimicking the EU’s AI policy scripts rather than coming up with one that suits the region’s needs. Their study has broader implications for CARICOM at fifty in that it adequately illustrates one of the issues that plagues Caribbean regionalism, which all authors in this special issue touch upon: CARICOM’s implementation deficit.

I hope the articles in this special issue on CARICOM @ 50 will spark conversation and response to some of the ideas that authors have put forth here. CARICOM has a long way to go and many challenges to overcome if it is to have a viable economic union. While it has done well in the functional areas despite numerous exogenous and endogenous challenges, much more work remains if the Single Market is to function effectively and the Single Economy can finally come into force.

Tavis D. Jules is Professor Program in Higher Education and NORRAG Senior Fellow, School of Education, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, USA.