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From 1994 SIDS Conference to Future Centre Trust

by Dr. Basil Springer
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“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” – 2 Corinthians 9:8

One significant milestone in the life of the late Guyanese diplomat Ambassador Miles Stoby was his pivotal role in championing the cause of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at the UN global conference in Barbados in 1994.

Last month, the Stoby family celebrated this achievement with two events. In the morning, a tree was planted at the Barbados Botanical Gardens, and a commemorative bench was donated to the people of Barbados in the vicinity of the tree.

In the evening, sustainable development pioneer Lelei Lelaulu of Samoa, who worked with Stoby at the 1994 conference, was Master of Ceremonies for an event at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. Bevan Springer, now President and CEO of the communications firm Marketplace Excellence (MPE), who produced the 1994 conference newspaper, The Islander, was the moderator for the evening’s panel discussion.

Barbados had won the right to host the conference from April 25 to May 6, 1994, due to the advocacy of the then Prime Minister, the late Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, and the stellar work of his foreign affairs team. Panellists for the session recalled how a small team of UN professionals pulled it all together under the leadership of Ambassador Stoby.

During the question and answer session, there was a query from the floor by Gilly Metzgen, a former British High Commission staff member in Barbados. What about the Village of Hope, what about Dr Colin Hudson?

The late Dr Hudson, a visionary, international environmental pioneer, inventor, and nature enthusiast, was a resident of Barbados and was asked to coordinate the Village of Hope as a parallel NGO forum.

The late Dame Nita Barrow, then Governor General of Barbados and patron of the conference, was so impressed with the Village of Hope, which took place at the neighbouring Barbados Community College, that she invited Colin to establish a permanent exhibition site in Barbados, reflecting some of the activities of the exhibition.

I was honoured to have been asked by Colin to be the first chairman of the board of this new organisation called The Future Centre Trust. He led the activities on a day-to-day basis and garnered the help of many local and international donors and volunteers. Dame Nita’s vision became a reality at his home and office in Edgehill, St Thomas.

After Lelei left the UN, he became president of Counterpart International in Washington, D.C. Counterpart’s mission is to work alongside community leaders, organisations, and networks to shape positive change worldwide. Bevan became director of communications at Counterpart.

The Future Centre Trust changed its name in 2001 to Counterpart Caribbean, with the support of the international NGO team in Washington, DC.

Colin passed away suddenly in 2004. In 2008, I retired as chairman, and Vivian-Anne Gittens assumed the mantle of chairmanship. The board decided to revert to the original name, The Future Centre Trust, in honour of Colin.

The Future Centre Trust is now under Barney Gibbs’s chairmanship. One of the current board’s innovations is the Barbados Trailways project, a paved bicycle and pedestrian path primarily on the right-of-way lands of the former Barbados railway, which ceased operations in 1937.

The journey from the 1994 SIDS conference to the establishment and evolution of The Future Centre Trust stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, visionary leadership, and a commitment to sustainable development.

Ambassador Miles Stoby’s legacy lives on through the continued efforts of those inspired by his dedication to the cause of Small Island Developing States. As The Future Centre Trust continues to innovate and make strides in environmental conservation and community development under the guidance of Barney and the current board, it serves as a centre of hope for a brighter, more sustainable future for Barbados and the Caribbean.

All roads now lead to Antigua and Barbuda this month, when the international community convenes to review the sustainable development progress of SIDS and propose a new decade of partnerships and solutions to accelerate their journey toward resilient prosperity.

Dr Basil Springer GCM is a corporate governance adviser. His email address is basilgf@marketplaceexcellence.com. His columns may be found at https://www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.

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