Thursday 19th October 2006

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Uniting cultural roots of region

The countries belonging to the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group assembled in the Dominican Republic, where the 2nd Forum of Ministers of Culture of this vast group of countries was held, giving continuity to the first meeting of that kind held in 2003, in Dakar.

This time, however, the ministers took a step forward by simultaneously launching the ACP Cultural Festival, which runs from October 14 to 21.

The importance of the ministerial meeting is unquestionable, since it is in keeping with the strategy to combine multilateral policies that would enhance relations among the member states of this group of countries that are linked to the European Community.

This political exercise can be perceived as a quest to build trust and greater rapprochement among countries which work in different areas to design and plan ways of achieving co-operation for development in all the priority areas.

The ACP Group, which has existed for several years, has developed a high degree of institutionality. It has deepened co-operation in basic areas of development, with an emphasis on infrastructure, education and health. Nevertheless, culture acquired greater prominence and dynamism following the first ministerial meeting.

The functioning of the ACP can be considered as one of the precursors for rapprochement among the countries of the Greater Caribbean, since prior to the existence of this tricontinental group, relations among Caribbean countries were rather limited, given that each of the still existing groups were not necessarily interested in their closest neighbour. 

From our point of view, socialisation among Greater Caribbean countries, within the ACP, was a crucial factor for the emergence of the Association of Caribbean States, since these countries were compelled to identify subregional similarities among themselves, with a view to achieving improved negotiations with their European counterparts, who were long-time advocates for the consolidation of increasingly extensive blocs of countries.

The first African, Caribbean and Pacific Cultural Festival represents a milestone in the history of its member countries, not only due to its novelty but also since it reinforces the idea of cultural diversity as a norm among peoples.

However, for the Caribbean in particular, it offers our peoples the opportunity to establish direct contact with two of their major cultural roots: Africa and the Pacific countries. This importance stems from the fact that among these peoples, for understandable historic reasons, there is still far more direct contact with European culture than with African culture and that of Pacific countries.

The festival covers broad aspects of cultural manifestation such as: music, contemporary dance, traditional dances, visual arts, concerts, ACP cinema, gastronomy, fashion, cultural markets and meetings among professionals.

Such thematic diversity allows significant rapprochement among the peoples represented, as well as mutual understanding between culture professionals and leaders, which will undoubtedly result in the strengthening of the national and regional identities of all involved.

This festival serves as a tool to practise awareness and application of cultural diversity and plurality, which are so crucial in this era of global liberalisation, since, according to UNESCO, “no culture is an island.” 

The ACP countries have just created a remarkable instrument to work for the benefit of rapprochement among peoples, since, unlike other areas that need to be negotiated, the cultural issue is a fait accompli that exists above our level of awareness of it.

Therefore, it is a vector of unity, primarily for our region, which is recognised as a cultural mecca in its significance as a meeting point for several areas, since it is right here in the Greater Caribbean where those other continental realities converge.

Dr Rubén Silié Valdez is the secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States. The views expressed are not necessarily the official views of the ACS. Comments can be sent to: [email protected]







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