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Friday, May 10, 2024

Women and Girls Continue to Disproportionately Suffer from The Crisis Ravaging Haiti

UN experts expressed grave concern that criminal gangs continue to use sexual violence against women and girls as a primary tactic to instil fear, extort money, gain control of power, and punish local communities 

Women and girls bear the brunt of crisis ravaging Haiti, say UN experts

GENEVA (6 May 2024) – Widespread violations of women and girls’ rights in Haiti are continuing with impunity, UN experts warned today, as the country grapples with an unprecedented outbreak of violence endangering the right to physical and mental integrity, and even life.

“Women and girls continue to disproportionately suffer from the crisis ravaging the country,” the experts said.  “Pre-existing inequalities and gender-based discrimination have exacerbated the current situation.”

Crisis in Haiti
“The outbreak of violence in Haiti has resulted in loss of livelihoods and food insecurity, widespread and multiple displacement, the collapse of education, breakdown of healthcare and other essential services,” the experts noted.  They also pointed to severely limited access to justice due to fear of reprisals and the lack of economic opportunities.

The experts expressed grave concern that criminal gangs continue to use sexual violence against women and girls as a primary tactic to instil fear, extort money, gain control of power, and punish local communities.

“Internally displaced women and girls, who live in inadequate and precarious displacement sites, are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence,” they said.  The experts also warned that risks and prevalence of trafficking of women and girls for purposes of sexual exploitation and sexual slavery had increased.

Calling on criminal gangs to put an immediate end to all forms of gender-based violence, the experts expressed alarm towards the authorities’ serious and continued failure to protect and fulfil the rights of women and girls in this crisis.  "No one should be forced to choose between their safety and their ability to provide for themselves and their families, attend school, access healthcare and basic services, including sexual and reproductive care,” they said.  They sounded alarm that survivors of violence continue to be unable to receive the assistance and protection they need.

The experts were also concerned at reports that the Government undermined and under-resourced State institutions that provide social services and protect human rights, failed to address corruption in the justice sector and beyond, and was actively complicit in gang activities.

"Haiti must return to democratic and constitutional governance based on the principles of respect for human rights, transparency and accountability," the experts urged.  “The transitional government must exert good-faith efforts to execute its mandate and create conditions for free, fair and inclusive elections.”

They emphasised that women’s voices and perspectives must be front and centre in the political transition process, to ensure accountability and non-recurrence of widespread violations of women and girls’ rights.

“We call on authorities to take all measures to ensure the full and equal participation of women in the peacebuilding process, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1325," the experts said.


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Cuba's economic model - significantly free from IMF's restrictions, exhibits a model where freedom propels progression

The Cuban Revolution Prioritizes Education

Cuba: A Beacon of Optimism from the Caribbean Region

By Dr Kevin Turnquest-Alcena
Nassau, The Bahamas

Living in English-speaking Caribbean, they typically experience democracy, often, by a fall back method creating a widespread matter called political clientelism.

Governments of this system including, borrowing from Peter to fulfill Paul with no clear sustainable plan for settlement. As a result, people often bear high taxes for these loans. If the debt cycle isn't checked, there could be a very real threat of these countries finding themselves in a financial crisis! Resembling Argentina's saga described by high taxation and skyrocketed inflation leading to severe economic lack.

On top of it, countries, like Trinidad, face exchange control problems, where strict currency policies further entangle economic stability and growth, making it another layer of difficulty in handling national finances.

Cuba, on the other hand is free from these problems. By developing its own exclusive political and economic systems - it operates out of the borrowing and dependency loop, thus skipping high taxation and possibly financial crises troubling other Caribbean countries due to political clientelism.

In an age where genuine democracy often seems more of a dream than a reality, and global economies are firmly controlled by bodies, like the IMF. Anyway, Cuba positions itself as a beacon of flexibility and ingenuity. The island nation skillfully navigated the difficulties of a prolonged economic ban and international isolation, offering a model of self-reliance and innovation stirring its Caribbean surroundings and far beyond.

Economic Independence and Women Empowerment

Cuba's economic model, significantly free from IMF's restrictions, exhibits a model where freedom propels progression. This liberation is highly noticeable in the spread of stellar, micro-businesses, led often by women.

These ventures are more than simple economic activities, they're acts of empowerment - showcasing the crucial role women execute in Cuban society.

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen's thoughts on small business are very relevant here, "Small enterprises are a reservoir of creativity and innovation, and they are crucial in the development of economies aiming for high growth and more equity." In Cuba, these micro-businesses notable contribute to societal flexibility and economic diversification, allowing the country to alleviate some of the impacts of international sanctions.

Healthcare and Education Advances

Cuba's dedication to healthcare and teaching stands as a primary part of its national identification. The nation's medical innovations, such as leading the fight against yellow fever and creating COVID-19 vaccines, highlight its resilience and capability against any odds. These contributions have not only improved Cubans' life quality, but also extended assistance to countries in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The island’s educational feats are just as impressive. The Cuban Revolution greatly influenced these, which prioritized education. The establishment of the esteemed University of Havana in 1728, followed by the continued emphasis on education throughout the island reflects a deeply rooted belief in the transformative power of knowledge, whatever that knowledge may be - corn-growing or salsa-dancing.

Cultural Resilience and Worldwide Solidarity

Despite a severe economic US embargo estimated to have caused $600 billion damage over 65 years, Cuba, developed a wildly diverse cultural landscape! More or less 3,000 institutions devoted to the arts, music, and culture underline the nation's persistence in preserving its cultural wealth and personality! Fidel Castro's belief that, "The risk of being ridiculous is taken by the true revolutionary with great love," reverberates throughout Cuba’s efforts to keep its revolutionary spirit alive despite facing noteworthy hardships.

Further, Cuba's globally humanitarian contributions - mainly in healthcare, mirror Nobel Prize victor Toni Morrison's endorsement, "I have seen the doctors from Cuba; they go places where nobody else will go." Such comments highlight Cuba’s international health diplomacy role and its commitment to giving its medical expertise with the world.

Endurance Despite Adversity

Much like the zealous pineapple thriving on the beach, Cuba's experience under the US embargo echoes historical narratives of endurance and faith, such as those of Job, Daniel, Joseph, and the Israelites under Egyptian slavery. Much like all these characters, Cuba stands determined despite severe trials.

The End

Cuba's unyielding spirit presents itself as an inspiration cornerstone. Not only for its countrymen, but for its Caribbean vicinity and other emerging countries. With global problems like climate change becoming more urgent, Cuba's methods to sustainable development and social empowerments offer valuable resilience and innovation lessons. The people's unyielding determination assures us that, "this too shall pass," strengthening the island’s potential for a brighter, more prosperous future. United and working collectively, we can utilize Cuba’s resilience to achieve our community's prosperity and wellness aims.


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

We Honor The Cuban Fishermen, whose Journeys to Ragged Island and Beyond are Foundational Tales of Caribbean Solidarity

Reflection on The Intertwined Destinies of The Bahamas and Cuba 

The Shared History of Cuba and The Bahamas

Cuba and Ragged Island: A Fascinating History, Saluting Fishermen and Fruitful Exchanges

By Dr. Kevin Turnquest-Alcena
Nassau, The Bahamas


Cuba Bahamas Relations
Our journey through the storied connections between The Bahamas and Cuba reveals a saga of endurance, exploration, and exchange, woven by the diligent Cuban fishermen. Their voyages transcended mere trade, fostering lasting friendships and cultural bonds that resonate to this day. We dive into this rich narrative, celebrating the shared history and unbreakable ties between these vibrant islands.

The Natural Connection: Limestone and Rich Soil

The Bahamas and Cuba are siblings of the sea, their lands cradled by limestone and nurtured by fertile soils. This geological kinship hints at a shared past and has sculpted both the landscape and the life it supports. Cuba's lush terrain complements The Bahamas' stunning shores, creating a diverse tapestry of ecosystems that enrich both regions. These natural blessings foster a unique blend of environments, where life thrives in harmony.

The Story of Camagüey and The Bahamas

In the heart of Cuba, Camagüey stands as a beacon of agricultural bounty, pivotal in the exchange of goods and culture with The Bahamas. This history of mutual benefit and shared growth showcases the power of community and cooperation across waters. Through the sharing of harvests and traditions, Camagüey and The Bahamas have woven a narrative of interdependence and resilience, celebrating the richness of combined cultures.

The Fishermen's Legacy

We honor the Cuban fishermen, whose journeys to Ragged Island and beyond are foundational tales of Caribbean solidarity. More than traders, these men were bridge-builders, connecting communities with every voyage. Their legacy, steeped in the spirit of unity and shared prosperity, has significantly shaped the Caribbean identity, reminding us of the enduring strength found in connection and shared purpose.

More Than Just Trading

The barter system initiated by these seafarers did more than exchange goods; it wove a fabric of interconnected lives, blending cultures, ideas, and families. This vibrant mosaic of exchanges has deeply influenced the Bahamian lifestyle, introducing a wealth of fruits and vegetables that enrich daily life. Celebrating this cultural fusion, we acknowledge the profound connections that have grown from these shared experiences.

A Link Through Time: The Cuban Crocodiles of Abaco

In the discovery of Cuban crocodile fossils in Abaco, we find a tangible link to a shared ancient past. This remarkable find not only highlights the biological ties between Cuba and The Bahamas, but also suggests deep, historical connections that predate modern exchanges. The presence of these ancient creatures in Bahamian soil speaks to a time when land and life flowed freely between these islands, adding a fascinating prelude to the story of Cuban and Bahamian unity.

Broadening the Horizon: From Mexico to Cuba and The Bahamas

The narrative broadens to include the pathways from Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula through Cuba to The Bahamas, tracing the routes of early exchanges. This expansive view enriches our understanding of the Caribbean's complex history, where land and sea routes facilitated not only the movement of goods - but also the spread of cultures and communities across this vibrant region.


Reflecting on the intertwined destinies of the Bahamas and Cuba, we celebrate the legacy of exchange and camaraderie that defines their relationship. Through tales of Camagüey, the valorous fishermen, and the ancient crocodiles of Abaco, we honor the spirit of cooperation that has forged indelible bonds across the Caribbean. This shared history, rich with lessons of unity and friendship, stands as a testament to the enduring power of collective heritage and mutual respect.

This article offers a gateway to the deep and vibrant history connecting Cuba and Ragged Island, paying homage to the fishermen and the complex web of exchanges that have brought our communities together, underscored by the ancient, ecological ties that bind.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Why do Latin America and the Caribbean have low learning levels?

If learning were a disease, we would be talking about a global pandemic


Understanding The Learning Crisis: Where Are Students with Learning Gaps Located?

iadb Blog

Education for all
The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) published the results of PISA 2022 in December last year.  Those results showed a global crisis in learning.

What happened in Latin America and the Caribbean?  We saw that three out of four 15-year-old students lack basic skills in mathematics, and almost half do not understand what they read.

We partnered with the World Bank to publish the report Learning Can’t Wait: Lessons for Latin America and the Caribbean from PISA 2022.  We sought to better understand the reasons behind this learning crisis in the region.

And, just as with child mortality, we know where and why.


Education for all children
Also, in low—and middle-income countries, on average, 15-year-old students in the region lag five years behind the average student in OECD countries.  If we compare Latin American and Caribbean countries with those above the OECD average, the gap is 12 years of learning compared to Singapore, which leads the PISA rankings.

We not only know where the learning crisis is located and in which countries these learning challenges exist, but we also know who the lagging students are within countries.

There is an enormous inequality in learning by socioeconomic status: 88% of low-income students underperform in mathematics, compared to 55% of the wealthiest students.  That’s a difference of more than 30 percentage points between the two groups.

Why do Latin America and the Caribbean have low learning levels? 

We not only know where, but we know why: 

  1. First, we are not investing enough in education.  Our countries invest, on average, three times less in education than OECD countries. 
  2. There is also a relationship between investment and learning.  With the current level of investment, we could improve learning outcomes.  Therefore, there is room for efficiency.  The countries in the region are below the trend line, which means they could achieve better learning results for every dollar they invest. 
  3. Third, there is a distribution problem and an equity issue. The teacher is the main input an education system has to achieve learning.  And what we see is that this main input is unequally distributed.  The highest-quality teachers are systematically in schools where the highest-income students attend.
Three keys to overcome the education crisis: solutions that work

Just as in the case of child mortality, we know where; we understand why. And we also know the solutions that work.
  1. Measure more and better.  Measuring learning means knowing where we stand and providing a sense of purpose and direction.  It indicates where we want to be in the coming years. 
  1. Investing more.  Countries in the region need to invest more. 
  1. Investing better.  Investing better means generating efficiencies and spending better on the one hand.  On the other hand, it means investing in programs that we know are effective and can improve learning. 
Examples of solutions that work to enhance learning

  • Early literacy programs.  We know, for instance, that if we offer good literacy programs to young children from an early age, we can improve their reading skills by 30%.  “Let’s All Learn to Read” is one such solution. 
  • Intercultural bilingual education.  We also know that when we culturally contextualize the learning of mathematics, indigenous children develop 50% stronger math skills. 
  • Remote tutoring.  We also know that when we provide personalized support to the most vulnerable, lagging students through highly cost-effective remote tutoring, we can accelerate their learning by 30%. 
  • School feeding programs.  We also know that offering school meals to students increases their participation in school.  We see a 9% improvement in school attendance. 
  • Education management and information systems.  Finally, having management and information systems is crucial.  They not only help us generate efficiencies but are also essential to ensure equity.  This data allows us to distribute resources more equitably in education systems to compensate for student differences.  

We know the magnitude of the problem.  We have studied it in depth.  We know where the problem lies and why we are facing this challenge.  And we also know the effective solutions.  We have done it before; we can do it again.  The main challenge is how to transform the region’s education systems at scale.  Because learning can’t wait, these generations of children and youth cannot wait.


Thursday, March 7, 2024

Haiti: Some 5.5 million people — that’s nearly half of the country’s population — need humanitarian assistance

The Rapidly Deteriorating Security Situation in Haiti and its Impact on Haitian Civilians

From UN Briefing on Haiti
5 March, 2024

Haiti Crisis
Turning to Haiti, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that the escalation of violence in several neighbourhoods in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has led to some [15,000; corrected below] people being forced to flee their homes.  Most of these people had already been displaced previously.

Despite the security constraints, our humanitarian partners on the ground have begun to respond to these new displacements by providing food; hygiene and health kits; mattresses, blankets and sheets; as well as lamps.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have delivered some 5,500 hot meals to some 3,000 people living in the three new displacement sites, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has started distributing emergency shelter material to more than 300 families.

The humanitarian community in Haiti calls on all sides to put an immediate stop to the violence; to allow safe access to the people in need; and respect human rights and humanitarian norms and standards.

As a reminder, some 5.5 million people — that’s nearly half of the country’s population — need humanitarian assistance.

This year’s $674 million Humanitarian appeal for Haiti is just 2.5 per cent funded; that means it had received only $17 million.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Security Council is scheduled to hold a private meeting on the situation in Haiti.  The head of our mission there — Maria Isabel Salvador — is expected to brief on the United Nations’ behalf; that will be done virtually.

I also want to reiterate that the Secretary-General is of course deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Haiti and its impact on Haitian civilians.

He calls for urgent action, particularly in providing financial support for the Multinational Security Support mission, which is — as a reminder — is not a UN peacekeeping force.  This force will need to address the pressing security requirements of the Haitian people and prevent the country from plunging into further chaos.

He also calls on the Government of Haiti and other political actors to swiftly agree to the necessary steps to advance the political process towards the restoration of democratic institutions through the holding of elections.


Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Deepening Human Rights Catastrophe in Haiti

Gang violence is affecting all communes in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, as gang members continue to clash for control of territory and have escalated their activities in areas outside the capital

- Haitian lives depend on the deployment, with no further delay, of the Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti (MSS), to support the National Police and bring security to the Haitian population, under conditions that comply with international human rights norms and standards -

From UN News

Crisis in Haiti
GENEVA (9 February 2024)
 – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Friday issued an urgent warning about the deepening human rights catastrophe in Haiti, after figures showed that January was the most violent month in more than two years.
“The already dire human rights situation has deteriorated even further, amid unrelenting and expanding gang violence, with disastrous consequences for Haitians,” said Türk.
At least 806 people, not involved in the violent exchanges taking place, were killed, injured, or kidnapped in January 2024.  In addition, some 300 gang members were killed or injured, bringing the total number of people affected to 1,108 – more than three times the number recorded in January 2023.
Gang violence is affecting all communes in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, as gang members continue to clash for control of territory and have escalated their activities in areas outside the capital. The intensity of clashes which, in some cases, have lasted several hours, may indicate that some gangs have recently received new ammunition.
People in areas controlled by gangs have been targeted directly.  Gangs also continue to use sexual violence against women and girls as a weapon, and spread fear by sharing on local social media gruesome photos and videos of killed individuals and women being raped.
The impact of this torrent of violence on children continues to be of particular concern.  In 2023, 167 children were killed and injured by bullets.  Some were executed by gangs or so-called “self-defence” groups for their suspected support for rivals.  The recruitment of children into gangs remained extremely worrisome.
In this context of widespread violence, in recent weeks there have been anti-government street protests and civil unrest, supported by opposition political parties, in at least 24 towns across the country, including the capital. Schools, public services, and local businesses have been forced to close.
Recently, armed elements have emerged, including some members of the so-called “Protected Areas Security Brigade” (in French, Brigade de Sécurité des Aires Protégées or BSAP), an informal entity established several years ago by a body in charge of environmental issues.
While some protests have turned violent, with public and private buildings ransacked, there are also persistent concerns about the unnecessary and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement.
Between 20 January and 7 February, at least 16 people were killed and 29 injured mainly in the context of confrontations between protesters and police.
Police officers must always abide by the principles of lawfulness, necessity and proportionality when managing protests, in accordance with human rights norms and standards, and protesters must express their grievances peacefully, the UN Human Rights Chief noted.
“Every day that passes, more casualties are being recorded.  Now, more than ever, Haitian lives depend on the deployment, with no further delay, of the Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti (MSS), to support the National Police and bring security to the Haitian population, under conditions that comply with international human rights norms and standards,” he said.
In addition to the need to improve the security situation, it is also essential to note the impact of this new wave of violence on Haiti’s economy, and spreading food insecurity.  High inflation due to extortion and road blockades have left millions of Haitians deprived of basic commodities.  More than 313,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.  Many have sought refuge in crammed and unsanitary sites, which affects their ability to access health and education services.
“As I have said time and again, while improvement of the security situation is the prerequisite to breaking the cycle of crises in Haiti, long-term stability will only be achieved through tackling the root causes of poverty, social and economic discrimination and corruption,” Türk stressed.

Friday, February 9, 2024

A Vision for an Holistic and Adaptive Conservation Model for The Bahamas

The challenges facing The Bahamas in conservation and climate change mitigation 

By Kathryn Campbell
Bahamas Information Services (BIS)

Vaughn Miller
NASSAU, The Bahamas
– In his remarks at the University of the Bahamas’ (UB) Conservation Conclave, the Hon. Vaughn Miller, Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources presented five strategies for sustainable environmental practices. These strategies, said Minister Miller, aim to create a “holistic” and “adaptive” conservation model for The Bahamas, addressing the unique environmental challenges and fostering a sustainable coexistence between nature and human activities.

The strategies are:

Marine Protected Areas

Establish and expand Marine Protected Areas to safeguard critical marine habitats, including coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangroves. Implement strict regulations to manage human activities within these areas, promoting the recovery and resilience of marine ecosystems.

Sustainable Tourism Practices

Implement and enforce sustainable tourism practices to minimize the impact of tourism on delicate ecosystems. This includes promoting responsible snorkeling and diving, regulating boat traffic, and educating tourists and operators on the importance of preserving the marine environment.

Climate Resilience Programs

Develop and implement climate resilience programs to address the impact of climate change on the Bahamian environment. This includes initiatives to protect coastal areas from rising sea levels, strengthen infrastructure against extreme weather events, and promote climate-smart agriculture.

Community Engagement and Education

Foster community engagement through education and awareness programs. Empower local communities to actively participate in conservation efforts, emphasizing the importance of sustainable fishing practices, waste reduction, and the preservation of natural habitats.

Biodiversity Conservation Initiatives

Implement comprehensive biodiversity conservation initiatives to protect and restore native flora and fauna. This includes reforestation projects, invasive species management, and habitat restoration programs to enhance the overall resilience of terrestrial ecosystems.

The event, which addressed current challenges facing The Bahamas in conservation and climate change mitigation, was held February 1 and 2, 2024 at the National Training Agency, Gladstone Road, and a collaboration with GEF Small Grants Programme and Disney Conservation Fund. The conclave brought together public policy experts, scientists, activists, community stakeholders and industry stakeholders to discuss the important topic.

Said Minister Miller: “The recommendations reflect a collective effort to forge a path toward sustainable environmental practices, balancing the preservation of our unique ecosystems with the developmental needs of our communities.

“These strategies are not just a set of guidelines; they represent a shared commitment to safeguarding our natural heritage for generations to come.

“In considering these recommendations, let us recognize the delicate balance we must strike between progress and preservation. It is incumbent upon us, as stewards of this beautiful nation, to adopt innovative approaches that harmonize economic development with environmental sustainability.

“The strategies outlined here serve as a roadmap toward achieving this equilibrium.”

He urged the participants to lend their expertise, insights, and passion to the crucial 'dialogue.'

“Together, let us refine and amplify these recommendations to craft a conservation model that not only meets international standards but also serves as a beacon of responsible environmental management.

“The success of our efforts relies on collaboration — between government agencies, environmental organizations, communities, and individuals.

“Let this be a moment where we unite in purpose, inspired by a shared vision of a Bahamas where nature thrives alongside progress.”

The goals of the conclave included these aims: to develop a shared understanding of the spectrum of current challenges facing The Bahamas in conservation, climate change mitigation and national development; consensus building on proposed solutions to challenges related to conservation, scientific research, data sharing and environmental protection policy in The Bahamas; and an agreement on an action plan, decision-making process and a framework for recommendations required to move forward.

Moreover, it was hoped that the conclave would result in the production of a white paper which could advise the development of a national policy on conservation with recommendations for adoption by the Government of The Bahamas.