More than 200 delegates will put their collective heads together to chart the way for Barbados??? diaspora relations, when Barbados hosts the Barbados Network Consultation 2014 (BNC) ??? a three-day forum geared at strengthening Barbados??? foreign policy record abroad.

The conference will allow Barbadian descendants and friends of Barbados to participate in seminars, workshops and panel discussions built around the theme: One Nation, One Family ??? Building Pathways to Prosperity and Development.

Since 2010, the BNC has emerged as government???s central platform for raising the profile of Barbadians overseas, as a key part of Barbados??? development agenda. It has enabled diaspora relations to secure a critical place in this country???s foreign policy agenda, along with traditional agenda items such as CARICOM relations, environmental issues, trade, security and human rights.

The planned three days of discussion will also attract local entrepreneurs, who will have an opportunity to display and promote their goods and services, with a view to targeting possible export markets throughout the diaspora.

From Tuesday, August 5, several delegates will converge on the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre to address a number of areas critical to Barbados??? foreign policy and diasporic relations. The opening ceremony, which gets under way at 9:00 a.m., will be addressed by Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, who is expected to outline government???s foreign policy mandate.

A highlight of this year???s BNC conference will be the Cabinet Diaspora Interactive Session, on Tuesday, beginning at 10:45 a.m. Also on that day will be a joint public/private sector panel, which will focus on topics such as the ease of doing business and opportunities for investment in Barbados. Later in the afternoon, Professor Cardinal Warde will lead a list of speakers during the Technology Pathways to Economic Development session, slated to begin from 3:45 p.m.

When the participants get down to business on the second day, Wednesday, August 6, they are expected to zero in on a number of pertinent topics such as The Role of the Post during the Panama Migration, Pathways to and from Panama, and two workshops on Family History.

On the final day of the conference, Thursday, August 7, Coming your way from Bim, Hospice and Palliative Care, Returning Home: Building Pathways to Resettlement, and Building Connectivity Across Generations: Creating Pathways to Barbadian Status, will be among the areas explored during the sessions.

Later in the evening, the Prime Minister???s Official Residence will provide the perfect setting for the Crop Over reception, which will give participants an opportunity to mingle with a wide cross-section of Barbadians, while taking in the sweet sounds of the festival season.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, stressed the importance of the conference and the benefits to be derived as it related to strengthening diasporic relations.

???The BNC is intended to provide a forum for Barbadians at home and abroad, and friends of Barbados, to come together to share, network, experience Barbadiana and generally connect socially, to explore economic opportunities and to be a part of the Barbadian family,??? she said.

Senator McClean further stated: ?????? [there are] many Barbadians overseas who have a range of talent and skills who have an interest in contributing to Barbados. We also have Barbadians who have lived abroad and have come back home and are part of a reuniting of families and friends, and they too want to share their experiences and give back. So, it is an opportunity for us to be an extended family.???

The Minister said she hoped the conference would provide opportunities for trade and investment. ???The conference would do a number of things. One, as the conference takes place, those who participate will be injecting financial resources into the economy. So, I think it allows them to participate in the economic activity in Barbados, whether as a direct investors, consumers of Barbadian products and services, or as distributors of those products,??? she added.

This year???s BNC conference will be extra special, as it coincides with the centennial celebrations of the opening of the Panama Canal ??? described by many as an engineering wonder of the world.

The Foreign Minister said that Barbadians made up the ???single largest group of West Indians??? that went to Panama and as a result, the migrants sent back remittances to support their families, for land acquisition and to ???foster the development of a black middle class???.

Among the other events at the BNC to commemorate this important milestone are the screening of the teaser for the documentary Panama Fever, produced by Alison Saunders; the signing of the sister port agreement between the Barbados Port Inc. and Manzanillo International Terminal in Panama; and a ???sneak peek??? at the proposed Panama Canal Centennial Stamp Issue. There will also be a panel discussion featuring University of the West Indies Professor Velma Newton, a representative from Panama???s Government and Panamanian of Barbadian descent, Sheila Wilkinson.

Further information on registration and fees for specific sessions may be obtained by contacting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Culloden Road, St. Michael at 431-2200.

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