BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -The Barbados Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (Caricom), David Commissiong, said on Saturday that it is just not enough to simply have good intentions as the Caribbean seeks reparations from Europe for the slave trade.
“Rather, what is required is a determination to pitch our demands for reparatory reforms at a level where, if and when they are implemented, they will achieve a fundamental and decisive breakthrough in the structure of black poverty and inequality,” said Commissiong, as he delivered, virtually, Australia’s annual Nelson Mandela Lecture, commemorating the birth of the late South African leader.
Commissiong told the audience that for the Caribbean, “reparations is not simply about a money payment.
“Yes, there is a money component, but reparations is about much much more than a mere money payment. We conceive of reparations as a revolutionary programme of transformation that is designed to eradicate structures, practices and consequences of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, discrimination and inequality, and to create just societies.
“Indeed, we conceive of our campaign for reparations as the latest , and perhaps the most critical phase, in our mass-based mission to “humanize” the locations of barbarism that our ancestors were deposited in when the political and commercial elite of 17th century Europe decided to create slave societies in the Caribbean as mechanisms for the generation of super abundant profits.”
Commissiong said that based on the Caribbean programme for reparation, the region is indeed sending a message to Europe.
“That we are saying to Europe : “You cannot commit a crime; profit from that crime; cause immense damage to a people as a result of that crime; and simply walk away from the scene of the crime with your ill-gotten gain!”
”No! We are inviting you to return to the scene of the crime; to engage in a developmental conversation with the people you have injured; and to find a way to make a developmental contribution to those societies and people that you injured; those societies and people that you plundered and unjustly profited from. We are inviting you to do what is necessary in order to come to some sort of just and reasonable reconciliation.”
But Commissiong said that the situation goes further than that, and that there is indeed an international dimension to the Caribbean’s reparations campaign that goes way beyond the Caribbean, and that has implications for the entire international order.
“As we have engaged on this reparations journey, it has become increasingly clear to us that our campaign for reparations or for Reparatory Justice must be a campaign that is designed to produce the “Just Society” internationally as well.
“Thus, we have also started to formulate a demand for a fundamental transformation of the inequitable and exploitative economic and power relations that are still to be found currently existing in the international order…that has its roots in those centuries of slavery and colonialism.”
Commissiong said that this international dimension of reparations has implications for the restructuring of such important international institutions as the United Nations Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, institutions, which he said “were established when the black nations of this world were still colonies, and that therefore do not sufficiently contain our presence and influence within their structures.
“It has implications for the terms of international trade and finance. For example, it envisages reforming the inequitable and insensitive manner in which many of the international financial institutions treat the small developing nations of the Caribbean; and the manner in which a multilateral organisation like the European Union callously and unjustly “blacklists” and punishes Caribbean nations for daring to develop international business industries.”
Commissiong told the lecture held under the theme “Reparations and the Nelson Mandela Mission of Transforming and Humanizing Structures of Oppression,” that the new order has implications for how the vulnerable small island developing states of the Caribbean “must be treated in both the climate change crisis and in the crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are only now beginning to flesh out this internationalist dimension of our reparations campaign, but in the months and years ahead you will witness the Caricom Reparatory Justice Campaign striving for a world-wide transformation of centuries-old relationships between the peoples of the world –relationships that, tragically, are still based on old but persisting patterns of discrimination, exploitation, inequity and domination – relationships that are rooted in centuries of imperialism, colonialism, systemic racial discrimination, enslavement and native genocide.
“Indeed, you can expect to see the Caricom Reparatory Justice Campaign promoting and striving for the sort of global justice that the world so desperately needs now – reparatory justice in all of its dimensions – climate justice, economic justice, social justice – as we strive for the new relationships that will shift the current destructive economic model towards social, economic and environmental sustainability,” Commissiong added.