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This Eighth CARIFESTA has already brought its fair share of excitement and expectations, challenges and creative adaptations, frustrations and a spirit of accommodation and understanding. After all, this festival is taking place in the Southern most Member State of the CARICOM family, whose ancestral heritage adds a distinctive flavour to the cultural variation that makes this region of ours so un


I am proud today as Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community to welcome you all to CARIFESTA VIII in Suriname. This pride is heightened by the fact that this is the first time since my assumption of office in 1992 that this major Community event is being held in a non-English speaking country. Indeed it is only the second time in its 31-year history that CARIFESTA is being staged outside the English speaking Caribbean, having been held in Cuba in 1979.

This is further signalling the new directions of our Community, which the Chairman of the Community, the Most Honourable P J Patterson, Prime Minister of Jamaica pointed to at the recent Heads of Government Conference. The honour of staging this event could not have fallen to a more appropriate country, which as you all know was embraced as the first non-English-speaking member of our Community in 1995.

To make this an even more special time, CARIFESTA VIII is one of the high points of the celebrations marking the 30th Anniversary of the Signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the Caribbean Community in 1973. And appropriately, His Excellency the President of Suriname has responsibility for Culture, Youth, Sport and Gender in the quasi-cabinet within the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community. One could not wish for a more ideal confluence of events.

At this time, I wish to commend His Excellency and the National CARIFESTA Committee under his direction, for the hard work they have put in towards ensuring the success of CARIFESTA VIII.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is clear to me that the theme for this year’s edition of the event, “Cultural Diversity” was well chosen with the host country in mind. Suriname is uniquely qualified to highlight this theme, having as it does, among its population, such a variety of ethnic strains, which surpasses all other Caribbean countries. That fact alone makes this CARIFESTA VIII very special and gives the theme true meaning. 

CARIFESTA embodies Caribbean integration. It is here that the people of the Region come together; co-mingle, creating one Community – one people. That is integration. Further this event strengthens the bonds between us, displays our creativity and ingenuity and demonstrates to the world the best that this Region has to offer. CARIFESTA celebrates our Caribbean being in a way that no other single event can.

I am particularly pleased that this year’s event has a special focus on the young people of our region. This emphasis is highlighted by the fact that there is a venue and a programme specifically set aside for the youth including symposia to encourage discussion on issues, which affect this key segment of our Human Resources. This direct involvement is one way of trying to ensure continuity of our Caribbean Culture.

In this era of globalisation where there is strong and relentless pressure to accept a mono cultural existence, this re-affirmation and celebration of our distinct Caribbean way of life assumes even greater importance. 

One of the specific challenges at this time is the rapid process of change at the global level, and in particular in the areas of information and communication technology, which has implications for the ways in which our artists and artistes as well as all our societies operate. This challenge also presents opportunities for us, which hinge on our ability to adapt to those changes and to adopt those technologies to pursue our interests.

The cultural industry is one of the fastest growing industries globally but although there have been some regional initiatives, on the whole, we have not yet found the ideal formula to maximise the potential which this industry undoubtedly possesses as a major contributor to the economy of our Region. In that regard, one of the important elements of this CARIFESTA VIII is the symposia, one of which will explore ways to facilitate the development of our cultural industry as a central feature of our economies in a manner that will enhance its potential to contribute to the GDP of our countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am of the view therefore that the Caribbean cultural agenda at this time must of necessity focus on those measures that will encourage the initiation of a regional programme for Cultural Industry Development. This programme must take into account the creation of new strategic alliances that will not only ensure that our artists and artistes receive full recognition for their work, but will enhance their competitiveness and thereby increase their earnings.

This task gives to CARIFESTA, a special role as it explores new directions. The time may have come to review the mammoth undertaking that now befalls one country in staging this event. I am aware that CARICOM’s Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) has been involved in taking a fresh look at the concept and delivery of this major Caribbean spectacle. This discussion continues here at CARIFESTA VIII and I am certain that the cultural community and the wider Caribbean Community await with interest the outcome of these deliberations, which should outline clear directions.

For now however, let us all enjoy once more our Caribbean camaraderie as Suriname says to all at CARIFESTA VIII Welkommen!

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