Barbados and its CARICOM neighbours are getting closer to getting reparations from former European colonialists.
Officials have expressed that optimism as they prepare for a three-day reparations Summit that will begin in New York on Thursday.
“The summit is a new beginning of the new phase of the global reparatory justice movement,” chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC) Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said at a media conference at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus today.
He said he was concerned about the impact that native genocide and African enslavement continued to have on the region’s ability to develop its healthcare and education systems, cultural institutions and economies, “although slavery has been abolished over a century”.
Sir Hilary said it was therefore important to establish a framework through which people of African descent could have “a right to reparatory justice”.
“Our commission has confronted these matters and we are well on our way in establishing a path in which we can deal with this matter,” he said.
After establishing the CRC, a procedural path to be taken for reparatory justice, in the form of a document entitled Caribbean Reparatory Justice programme: a Ten-Point plan of Action, was put forward.
Sir Hilary said he was pleased that the commissions were “coming together to lay the foundation for what we hope will be a global summit within the next year”.
Along with Barbados, representatives from about nine other CARICOM nations, the US Virgin Islands and Martinique, as well as international representation are expected at the summit with the National African-American Reparation Commission (NAARC).
“Ultimately our objective is to be able to sit and speak with all of those countries in the world that have benefited from enslavement of the African peoples, that have built their economies upon the labour of the African people and who have built white supremacy social structures in this world,” Sir Hilary said.
The historian said he was positive Caribbean countries would get justice either through diplomatic channels or via the legal system.
“There are institutions that are in the global world that are available to us, there is the international court of justice and that will be the final step if diplomacy cannot come to bear. Effectively what we all want is a global summit where the descendants of the enslaved people and those who have benefited from our enslavement can sit in a summit and work through a development strategy,” said Sir Hilary.
At the same time, he said he did not expect justice would be served overnight, given trends over the years with change relating to emancipation, democracy and independence.
“Younger generations now have to say ‘we have to push through the compensatory aspect for these crimes’. It will happen and it is going to happen, it is inevitable. It is how each generation prepares itself to move on to the next level and always bear in mind there will be opposition at each stage,” he said.