Privy Council rules against Barbuda communal land rights
The London-based Privy Council ruled against communal land rights in Barbuda, part of a long battle between the island’s residents and the Antigua and Barbuda government. Barbudans have practiced communal land ownership for centuries; the 2007 Act codified it into law. Efforts to overturn the practice have invoked a stormy response from many Barbudans who feel it will destroy their unique way of life and erase their cultural identity, reports the Antigua Observer.
Since 1834, when the British emancipated their slaves, Barbudans as a community have owned all their island’s land. Barbuda, the smaller of the two biggest islands of Antigua and Barbuda, with a population of approximately 2,000, codified this long-existing communal ownership in 2007 in the Barbuda Land Act. The island’s communal land protections were overridden by Antigua and Barbuda’s government in the wake of Hurricane Irma destruction in 2017, but was the subject of the court battle that ended with Monday’s ruling.
Locals fear the repeal will turn Barbuda “into the environmentally destructive mass tourism hub that Antigua has come to represent,” reported The Intercept in 2020. (See Just Caribbean Updates for Dec. 16, 2020.)
With the Privy Council’s latest ruling, the development of the island now seems all but certain if plans by the government to make the island green and a high-end tourist attraction are realized, reports the Antigua Observer. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has argued that Barbuda’s development depends on a developed property rights system that provides individuals freehold and leasehold ownership, and said that his administration continues to work towards this “by creating the registry and selling the Barbudan people’s land for $1 per plot.”
Browne has called the Barbuda Land Act unconstitutional – and denigrated Barbudans who defend it to the media as “deracinated Imbeciles, Ignorant [sic] elements.”
“A change in land ownership in Barbuda could harm Barbuda’s most vulnerable people, including women, children, and the elderly,” said Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu, researcher on women and land at Human Rights Watch in 2018. A Human Rights Watch report highlighted that research in Zambia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Mozambique has consistently shown that taking away land used by communities – without due process and without adequate compensation and rehabilitation – results in serious risks to people’s rights to food, water, housing, health, and education.
Caribbean at Summit of the Americas
Leaders from across the Caribbean participated in the ninth Summit of the Americas, which concluded last Friday in Los Angeles with new commitments to climate adaptation, clean energy, and food security. Both U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with CARICOM members and Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted multiple Caribbean government heads.
The U.S. leaders announced the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis, or PACC 2030. The new initiative will elevate U.S. cooperation with Caribbean countries to support climate adaptation, strengthen energy security, and accelerate the transition to clean energy, while building the resilience of critical infrastructure and local economies to the climate crisis.
PACC 2030 specifically focuses on improving access to development financing, a priority for the region. PACC 2030 will work to expand existing access to project financing and unlock new financing mechanisms to support climate and clean energy infrastructure development in the region. Key actions under this pillar will include increasing U.S. International Development Finance Corporation financing for climate and clean energy projects in underserved Caribbean countries, as well as collaborating with multilateral development banks and multilateral climate and environmental trust funds to improve the policy environment and unlock access to additional infrastructure financing for the Caribbean.
Many Caribbean leaders criticized the U.S. decision to exclude Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from the Summit. CARICOM Chairman John Briceño, the Prime Minister of Belize, strongly condemned the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as inexcusable, incomprehensible, and unforgivable. He insisted that the summit belongs to all of the Americas and “it is therefore inexcusable that all countries of the Americas are not here, and the power of the Summit diminished by their absence”.
“At this most critical juncture, when the future of our hemisphere is at stake, we stand divided. … Geography, not politics, defines the Americas,” said Briceño.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called for dialogue rather than exclusion: “We need to speak to those with whom we disagree. We don’t only need to narrowcast, that is the problem with the world. There is too much narrowcasting than broadcasting, there is too much talking instead of talking with,” she said. But she also called on the leaders of the three missing countries to put people before ideology.
Decolonization and Racial Justice
- The UK foreign secretary decided to give the British Virgin Islands’ emergency administration two years to implement reforms to tackle endemic corruption, avoiding direct rule in the meantime, reports the Guardian.
- Jamaica’s government said it will create a Constitutional Reform Committee, with representatives from the government, parliamentary opposition, relevant experts, and civil society, to ensure Jamaica’s smooth transition to a republic.
- “Forgotten Souls of Tory Row: Remembering the Enslaved People of Brattle Street,” the installation of bottle trees now on view at the History Cambridge headquarters in Boston represents the people – adults and children – who were enslaved by the 18th century owners of the mansions on Brattle Street (many of whom amassed fortunes through their plantations in the Caribbean). (Repeating Islands)
Development and Aid
- Ten years after international luminaries inaugurated Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti, thousands of people displaced from the project are still waiting for compensation. It’s just part of how many international efforts to rebuild Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake have backfired, condemning a generation of children to poverty and causing irreversible damage to their families’ livelihoods, reports Buzzfeed.
- The threat of food shortages — coupled with already high prices — means Caribbean leaders should take rapid action to ensure food security, writes David Jessop in the Jamaica Gleaner. Achieving food security requires Caribbean leaders to facilitate large-scale, well-capitalised regional and international private-sector investment in the region’s agriculture, in ways that address mechanisation, training, and introduce global best practice.
- Over the last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Puerto Rico has detected and intercepted an increasing number of migrant voyages, mostly made up of Dominicans and Haitians, looking to land on Puerto Rico’s shores, reports the Miami Herald. The Mona Passage, a historic migrant route with a deadly reputation for swallowing yolas, or small migrant boats, is at the heart of the activity.
- Charter flights from Haiti to South America, with premium-price tickets, provide an escape route for Haitians seeking to migrate, including many who were deported from the U.S. The flights from Haiti became a lucrative business as restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus decimated tourism, reports the Associated Press.
Climate Justice and Energy
- Island states say a fund for climate disaster victims must be created by Cop27. Developing countries demanded a losses and damages fund during last year’s COP climate talks, but settled for a “dialogue”, co-chaired by the US and Singapore. At the first session of the dialogue small island states said 2024 was too late for money to start flowing to communities on the frontline of climate impacts. They want to establish a finance facility at this year’s climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and work out the details along the way. (Climate Change News)
- A GeoPoll survey of 13 Caribbean countries found that most respondents believe climate change is happening and are at least somewhat worried about it. Hurricanes comprise their biggest concern. Most respondents have personally experienced the effects of climate change including damage to infrastructure, and some have already had to move as a result.
- A region-wide stony coral tissue loss disease outbreak in the Caribbean is killing off up to 94 percent of some coral species. The outbreak is probably is made worse by coastal development and climate change, according to researchers. (Washington Post)
- The violent armed gangs that control much of Haiti are using social media to expand their reach and tighten their grip on the country, reports the Washington Post. Posts aimed at energizing recruits, intimidating rivals and terrorizing the population are challenging the platform’s ability to police the problematic content.
- A powerful Haitian gang attacked and occupied the country’s Supreme Court nearly a week ago. Reports that police have still not retaken the courthouse, display authorities’ inability to deal with expanding criminal groups, reports InSight Crime.
- Dominican Republic environment minister Orlando Jorge Mera was fatally shot in his office, allegedly by a childhood friend, over denied environmental permits, reports Al Jazeera.
Economics and Finance
- The Bank of Jamaica is preparing to issue a nationwide digital currency following recent approval from legislators, reports the Associated Press.
- Barbados, which recently transitioned to a republic, should reform its education system, argued former Senator and retired principal Alwyn Adams, who has described the current system as “a preservation of British rule.” (Barbados Today)
- The United Nations Population Fund published Guidelines for the Management of Safe Shelters for GBV survivors in the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean. These guidelines address the practical and functional aspects of setting up a safe shelter for GBV survivors, while focusing on a survivor- centred approach and on the principles of non- discrimination, respect, safety and confidentiality.
- The exhibition, “Everything Slackens in a Wreck,” highlights the experiences of South Asian and Asian indentured laborers who came to the Caribbean from 1838 to 1920. Despite the violence and economic bondage of their lives in the Caribbean, they created new forms of culture and new ways of thinking that endure today, reports the New York Times.
- Invisibilizadas e innombradas: Cuentos de mujeres puertorriqueñas negras by Rosario Méndez Panedas is divided into two parts: Invisibilized Women, biographies of black women forgotten by the collective memory despite the extent of their work, and Unnamed Women, imaginary narratives of slave women whose only known data are those printed in advertisements in Gaceta del Gobierno Constitucional de Puerto Rico. (Repeating Islands)
- New Political Culture in the Caribbean is a collection of essays edited by Holger Henke and Fred Reno. Caribbean political discourse “has significantly shifted over the first decades of the twenty-first century, and the impact of social media and a concomitant rise of political fringe discourses have accelerated the fragmentation of the public and polity, leading to sharper confrontations in the political sphere and giving once again rise to crude forms of nationalism.” (Repeating Islands)
- Odyssée Garifuna, an art exhibit in Martinique, took artist Robert Charlotte to St. Vincent, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and from the east to the west of the United States, to meet the Garifuna people. The work narrates the rootlessness [l’itinérance] of this people, born of the fortuitous meeting of deported Africans and kalinagos from the Caribbean. Over the course of the travels he embarked upon to explore one of the less valued—and even, little known—facets of Caribbean identity, Robert Charlotte substantiates the urgency of understanding how a culture evolves, endures, is transmitted or disappears. (Repeating Islands)
- Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s list of “must-read magical Caribbean novels” at Repeating Islands.
- 28 June — Climate Resilience and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities — SAEDI Consulting. Register here.
- 29 June — DAWN-UWI WEBINAR: Caribbean Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Towards Policy Transformations? – Conversation on the policy direction and political responses during the pandemic based on case studies of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Register here.