Norton worries Venezuelan migrants could change Caribbean cultures


By Isanella Patoir

The Minister of Social Cohesion Dr George Norton has expressed worry that the wave of Venezuelan migration to Guyana and other countries of the Caribbean could erode cultural expressions.

“The role of culture to cohesion of the CARICOM community must never be underestimated, particularly in the face of globalization,” Dr Norton said at the opening of the 36th meeting of CARICOM’s Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD), which is taking place in Guyana.

According to Dr Norton, the region must guard against the domination of culture penetration from elsewhere and actively seek to preserve and promote and guide the direction of cultural heritage.

Dr Norton made particular reference to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Migrants have been fleeing the economic and social crisis in their country and Dr Norton said they are bringing with them their own culture, language and beliefs.

Minister of Social Cohesion Dr George Norton along with Trinidad and Tobago’ Minister of Community Development, Culture and Arts, Dr. Nyan Gadsby-Dolly

“Our culture in the Caribbean will change and evolve; let it not change,” Dr Norton said.

During this meeting of COHSOD, CARICOM Ministers responsible for culture will be discussing policies for the region to create the necessary enabling environment for the development of the creative sector and economy.

The Culture Ministers will also deliberate on ways to deliver coordinated policy initiatives to advance cultural development for the benefit of the region and address the financing of the regional cultural agenda.

Minister of Community Development, Culture and Arts, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly from Trinidad delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony at the CARICOM Secretariat, Greater Georgetown.

“In order to create this self-sustaining cultural economic cycle, the holy grail of all cultural industry discussions, a paradigm shift is required,” Dr Gadsby-Dolly said.

The Trinidadian Minister said the Caribbean genres of music – reggae, soca, calypso and chutney – have led to a globally competitive and successful industry for musicians, dancers and video editors, among others.

“We must place ourselves in the driver’s seat, charting together the course of cultural development based on already identified and most importantly potential cultural assets,” Dr Gadsby-Dolly said.

CARICOM’s Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, said CARICOM studies have shown that the cultural industry out-performed sectors such as agriculture, finance, insurance and construction in some member states.

However, culture and arts are more central to promoting regional identity in addition to its economic potential, he stated.

“The Cultural Times report completed in 2015 by UNESCO and its partners and based on global mapping report, the global creative economy employed more than 29.5 billion people and generated more than two trillion US dollars in revenue,” LaRoque said.

The Secretary-General said the creative sector has been significantly employing more young persons than any other sector.

In 2015 the CARICOM heads of government recognize the need to find creative ways to sustain culture and prepared a Draft Regional Development Strategy and Action Plan for the Cultural Industries in CARICOM which will be presented at the meeting Thursday.

The region has demonstrated a comparative advantage in sectors such as music, visual art, publishing, festivals, fashion, performing arts and craft.


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