Forum reflects on world events

UCCI hosts second international conference

The broad theme of Leadership, Governance and Empowerment in the Caribbean at an international conference last week was linked, at least in part, to world events by one of the speakers, who noted that the forum comes at a crucial time.

“All the things we’ve seen in Egypt and Tunisia and Libya are essentially about those issues. People anywhere are increasingly resistant and rebellious of autocratic leadership and want to take more and more a role in what happens in their respective country,” said Opposition Leader and former education minister Alden McLaughlin.

Leadership was further addressed by keynote speaker Sir Shridath Ramphal, former secretary-general of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

“If leadership is faltering at the regional level and people are not to be empowered, governance becomes a political element of progress. What is the Caribbean’s balance sheet?.

“One of the attributes of good governance is freedom to be critical of government. And we need to remember this even when we are being critical,” he said.

Although Sir Shridath challenged the region’s leaders, he said he also saw signs of improvement.

“A bigger picture in the Caribbean surely is that the region has sustained democracy and has preserved the rule of law through the course in developments here over the last 50 years,” he said.

The University College of the Cayman Islands hosted the conference Thursday and Friday, 17 and 18 March. School President Roy Bodden welcomed guests, followed by greetings from Dunbar McFarlane, general manager of the National Building Society of Cayman.

Among senior government officials in attendance were Premier McKeeva Bush and Governor Duncan Taylor.

“It’s a special pleasure for me to have a conference … knowing that the distinguished keynote speaker is Shridath Ramphal,” said Governor Taylor. “Leadership is about teamwork and promoting teamwork. I don’t think leaders can do it on their own. The great leaders are the ones who are able to motivate others around them to work with them.”

Premier Bush told the crowd: “The University College has surely chosen an educational forum, which is bound to attract interesting and varied comment.”

Education Minister Rolston Anglin then spoke about the “rich educational mix of backgrounds of all the participants.”

“Your diverse perspectives and experiences is what will drive that accumulated body of knowledge that all societies thirst for,” Mr. Anglin said.

“For it is societies that have talented people coming from varied backgrounds that, in my mind, are going to have the greatest possibility of success in this era in which we live in.”

Earlier, Mr. McLaughlin addressed the importance of hosting a conference like this one at the university.

“Lots of us think, in fact a lot of young people think, that they don’t have an interest in politics. It’s largely because we as older people are not interested in their politics. And they don’t understand really how much decisions that are made in other places impact their daily lives.

“Once they get that sense of appreciation, they’re more likely to become involved in what’s going on. So conferences like this are very, very important from that perspective,” he said.

Warren Smith, president-elect of the Caribbean Development Bank in Barbados and the conference’s plenary keynote speaker, commended the university for hosting the second annual conference, adding, “My understanding is that the first one was a huge success, and looking at the programme that they have lined up here, I have absolutely no doubt that it will be another great success.

“I feel it’s a great honour for me to be asked to participate, because the topic is very important to me and my own institution.

The topic of governance and good government is something that is on everyone’s lips these days because we all recognise that we won’t be able to successfully develop our countries unless we know how to govern them effectively.”


A crowd gathers at the conference cocktail reception at UCCI.
Photo: Brian Wright