He was speaking at the opening of the Thirty-Sixth Meeting of the Council on Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on Thursday, 6 June 2019, at the CARICOM Headquarters in Georgetown, Guyana.
The two-day meeting is being held under the theme 'Leveraging CARICOM’s Cultural Assets for the Sustainable Development of the Community'. The Secretary-General said that the theme further emphasised the commitment of the Region to develop its rich and diverse cultural assets.
"It has been asserted that Culture should be seen as the fourth pillar of sustainable development, as both an enabler and driver of economic and social development and environmental sustainability, which constitute the three dimensions of sustainable development," said Ambassador LaRocque.
In supporting his point, he said further that cultural industries in the Region had out-performed sectors such as agriculture, finance, insurance and construction in some Member States. He, however, said that there needed to be the necessary enabling environment for the creative industries to be more competitive, and to increase their contribution to employment and growth.
Speaking about the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA), which he referred to as the Community's highly valued regional space that showcased arts and culture, Amb. LaRocque said the mega cultural event was being positioned as a catalyst for creative industry development within CARICOM.
He noted that since CARIFESTA XI in Suriname, a business component - the cultural marketplace - was introduced where managers of venues, international festivals and performing arts, buyers and booking agents were invited to see and network with Caribbean artists. According to him, that initiative was intended to create more opportunities for the professional development of artists and for the export of their products and services.
Dr. the Hon. Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Trinidad and Tobago, gave the feature address at the opening.
She was also of the view that the theme chosen for the hosting of the Meeting was very relevant, remarking that it spoke to how individuals, the Community and nations of the Region understood and utilised culture for self-evaluation. According to her, a paradigm shift was needed to create a more self-sustaining cultural economic cycle.
"We must place ourselves in the driver's seat - charting together the course for cultural development based on already identified cultural assets - driving the way forward, instead of accepting windfall successes," she opined.
She expressed the view that in addition to developing the creative sector, the Community's icons and citizens who had made outstanding contributions should be honoured so as to "incentivise" excellence in the cultural sphere.
As expected, Minister Gadsby-Dolly spoke about CARIFESTA XIV which is being hosted by Trinidad and Tobago in August. She informed the Meeting that the host country was introducing several niche festivals to the event that could become stand-alone events in the Region. She said that CARIFESTA was one of the Region's best cultural assets and it was up to the Community to find innovative ways to reinvigorate and re-imagine the Festival each time.
Hon. Dr. George Norton, Minister of Social Cohesion, Guyana, was happy to welcome the Ministers and Officials to his country for the Meeting. He also posited the value of culture, saying it was time for it to be mainstreamed in the Regional agenda.
He noted that the Community's culture was dynamic and that the cultural and creative industries would continue to evolve, even while being the key vehicles driving the development of the Region. He encouraged those present to continue to work together to achieve tangible outcomes and gave a commitment of his government's continued support.
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