Functional Cooperation and the Caribbean: An Introduction
Functional co-operation predates the Caribbean Community. There has been contact between the various peoples of the Region in various ways and in different forms. For example, organisations which brought the civil servants of the Region and lawyers have existed long before functional co-operation formalised this kind of exchange. These exchanges have served to strengthen the bonds which exist between the Caribbean peoples in a signal way. These bonds of unity at this level in the eyes of at least one of the founding fathers of the Community has brought about a deeper integration than is generally recognised.
Functional co-operation has always occurred at different levels. Success has been particularly outstanding in the field of education. The University of the West Indies (UWI) which also pre-dates CARICOM has been an outstanding regional achievement. Many of the graduates of this institution who are now in positions of leadership have passed through its hallowed halls. The University is also, as it was at the beginning of the Community itself, active in the research and information area which have relevance to the development of the Community. Indeed, it may be said that UWI is not only integral to the education network of the region but also pivotal to the further expansion of the Community.
The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) has established a regional system of examinations and its impact in the Member States of the Community has been great. UWI, which continues to be an impressive regional institution, and the expanding influence of the CXC will ensure the development and increase in quality of human resources.
Culture and sports have also brought great credit to the Community. Increasingly the Region has won greater recognition for its excellence in the area of culture. It is in the field of literature in particular, that the Region has shown the world that it is second to none. The Region has already caused astonishment at producing some of the finest cricketers from a population of fewer than six million people. In similar terms, it has caused the pundits to think hard about the fact that it has been able from this very small population to produce Nobel Prize winners in the field of literature and economics. As it has won great recognition and respect in the field of diplomacy, so the Region has garnered acclaim in the area of culture. Apart from its prowess in literature, the Region has also entered the domain of music with great confidence and has forced the world to pay attention to what it has to offer. Caribbean calypso, reggae and steelband music are now very much part of the global music scene.
In the Montego Bay Declaration, the leadership of the Community recognised the importance that sports has made in gaining recognition to the Region. This is particularly so in the field of cricket. As a great Caribbean writer and thinker, C. L. R. James has mentioned. The Caribbean has used bat and ball to clear the way into the comity of nations. Because cricket is so much enmeshed in the activities relevant to nation building, the development of cricket has come to be seen as part of the development of the Region. Hence the rather interesting spectacle of Caribbean leaders deliberating on a matter that other Heads of State would rather leave to lesser officials. Cricket is too important a matter in the Caribbean to be left to cricketers only. These are some of the areas in which the Community has done very well in the sphere of functional co-operation. Work continues apace in the fields of health, agriculture and disaster preparedness for example. But generally, functional co-operation has played a particularly effective role in knitting together the threads that make up the fabric of Caribbean togetherness. Lives are touched on a daily basis in this way. As the Report of the West Indian Commission has said: “The work continues and, almost imperceptibly it must sometimes seem, the Community’s presence is made more widely known and impinges on West Indian lives.”