Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy to Barbados, Christopher Sandrolini (left) greets Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley at the start of today’s session. ??In the background from the left to right??are Paul Spencer,??Adviser??for Caribbean Affairs to the OAS Secretary General; Representative of the OAS in Barbados,??Francis McBarnette; and Hugh Riley from the Caribbean Tourism Association. (G. Brewster/BGIS)

If the Caribbean is to effectively formulate strategies for the expansion and capitalisation of its culture, the actual needs of the region must first be identified.

This assertion has come from Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth; Stephen Lashley, as he addressed an Organisation of American States’ (OAS) Regional Stakeholders Meeting, held at Amaryllis Beach Resort under the theme, Expanding the Socio-Economic Potential of Cultural Heritage in the Caribbean.

The meeting is part of a wider project which aims to contribute to the expansion of the socio-economic benefits of regional cultural heritage as valuable, non-renewable public resources through a new paradigm of public engagement.??

Minister Lashley said he was pleased that Barbados was selected to host the first regional meeting, and added that after he had reviewed the proposal and project outline, he recognised the significance of the meeting.

"All of this is extremely important for our countries, as we explore the ways in which our cultural heritage can contribute to the social and economic development of the region," he stated.

He also thanked the OAS for continuing the momentum and looking for ways in which the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the Caribbean could be expanded for socio-economic potential.

The Culture Minister further reasoned that phase one of the project was essential since it would assist with the identification of opportunities for regional collaboration and capacity building.?? "But, before we can formulate effective strategies for this expansion, we must, in my view, identify the actual needs of the region in this regard.?? This is extremely critical and indeed a vital first step as we move towards the achievement of our objectives," he stressed.

Alluding to the island’s UNESCO World Heritage designation, Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison", Minister Lashley pointed out that the Caribbean was under-represented on the World Heritage List.??

He said UNESCO had acknowledged that there was an imbalance on the list, and subsequently held seminars in some countries aimed at assisting with the identification of sites of historic value and with the preparation of World Heritage Nomination Dossiers.

Mr. Lashley also called on the OAS and UNESCO to offer "vital assistance" with the collection and analysis of visitor statistics for regional world heritage properties, since it was important as a country to "be able to measure the economic and social benefits of [a] world heritage inscription…"

He continued: "Once managed well, our world heritage properties across the region can play a critical role in our thrust to increase our foreign exchange earning, while providing exciting commercial opportunities for our young entrepreneurs."

Representative of the OAS in Barbados, Francis McBarnette, said he believed the Regional Stakeholders meeting would "facilitate robust exchange, and should lead to informed recommendations which would facilitate focused pilot projects in the future".

Charge d’Affaires of the United States Embassy to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Christopher Sandrolini, said the US was a proud supporter of the OAS Cultural Heritage project, and he explained that his country had allocated approximately $200,000 towards the initiative through the US’ Permanent Mission to the OAS.

Mr. Sandrolini pointed out that there was an urgent need to show the public and policy makers how historic preservation could sustain tourism and improve local economies, "while also revitalising communities and protecting their unique characters".

Phase one of the project, which is now under way, will include a detailed analysis of needs and opportunities in the region; developing a framework for regional collaboration and planning; recommending possible pilot projects which would function as models for multi-level, interdisciplinary and participatory heritage engagement programmes which would in turn enhance and inform future strategies for participatory heritage engagement, and the protection of cultural heritage resources in the Caribbean.


Author: Shamkoe Pil??

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