Charting a Path of Social Development in the OECS

Under the effects of the Covid-19 crisis which has necessitated a radical transformation of the management and operations of companies, worldwide, the need for social turnaround and initiatives designed to help inculcate social development projects in the region is of crucial importance.

The community drive for “people empowerment” is a crucial part of the social development programs and political agendas set by Eastern Caribbean member states.

As a precursor to the work ahead, ministers from sub-regional governments gathered last week for the annual meeting of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Council of Ministers for Human and Social Development. The meeting, which was held virtually from October 12-13; culminated in an illuminating panel discussion followed by a virtual press briefing.

The theme of this year’s conference was: “Data and Dialogue for Guidance: Using Information and Engaging People to Set the New Social Agenda in the Age of COVID19”.

“The meeting of ministers on social protection reminds us that there is still a long way to go…the work that we must do to bring our people to a state of empowerment is long work and work of grant, but it’s the work that’s worth it,” noted Dee-Ann Kentish-Rodgers, Minister of Social Development and Education, Anguilla.

Kentish-Rodgers was among the panelists who provided a broad overview of social development programs in the sub-region.

She added that as ministers and members of this grouping, “our obligation is to continue to collaborate, to continue to support each other and to see how we can become active ambassadors of the mission of the OECS and the regional integration mission”.

The Minister said that this achievement can be achieved through “our power to come together in these forums and see how these forums will eventually be rooted in concrete actions”.

Director General of OECS, Dr Didacus Jules

OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules said that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unit had to redefine its social programs to better adapt to the increasing demands in these times.

“There is now a need to ensure that we have an integrated approach and a multifaceted response to the current conditions we face and the solutions we are trying to put in place,” he said.

Dr Jules said participating ministers from the sub-region focused their attention on “social protection issues in a holistic way, looking at poverty issues, all relevant components of what constitutes social protection social…and also considered the implications”. of these policies and the links of these policies with other areas.

The OECS Director General stressed that the areas of agriculture, food security and nutrition are issues under high scrutiny, especially in these current times of crisis. “The approach taken by the OECS Commission, going forward, is not to look at initiatives in silos within the portfolios where they occur, but to look at them in relation to other areas to that we can create synergies to ensure that any effort we make is driven by corresponding initiatives in other sectors that can strengthen the overall effort,” he said.

Dr Carlene Radix
Dr Carlene Radix

Among the many ongoing projects and in its quest for social cohesion and development in the OECS region, has the OECS Social Development Unit initiated dialogue at the community level?

Dr. Carlene Radix, Head of Human and Social Division – OECS urged community members to continue contributing to the reform of social interventions.

“We need to improve our dialogue with those most affected by the policies and systems we create,” said Dr. Radix.

She added that currently, this problem is particularly highlighted and aggravated by the problems of the pandemic.

Ultimately, Dr. Radix said, the implementation of new strategies in the OECS over the next six years will “prioritize engagement, looking holistically at how we engage all parties stakeholders in our communities and re-examine how we engage faith. grassroots organizations and civil society, community leaders, and ensuring that we also focus on unity at the family level.

The council meeting also involved consultations with youth representatives and a wide range of stakeholders “who have benefited from or participated in juvenile justice reforms, as well as stakeholder reviews of current social policy and programs. , and which included the beneficiaries,” Dr. Radix said. disclosed.

She said a special allocation had also been made to meet the needs of the elderly, as “this is a group that we need to include the commitment on”.

While addressing the issue, Dr Jules indicated that for the OECS to become involved in such an initiative, “a dialogue at the national level must be carried out… with the national authorities”.

However, he said, the OECS encourages “the creation of their own networks, so it is important, especially in the field of civil society, that people organize themselves so that they can create a ‘organized voice'”.

Such an initiative will require a cohesive effort from community members, and input from elders would go a long way in helping to provide support for this fundamental endeavour.

It should be noted that human and social development in the Eastern Caribbean is one of the main challenges facing the OECS Commission. Human and social development policies aim to improve the well-being and quality of life of all OECS citizens and enable them to reach their full potential.

Dr Jules added that the unit has interacted with older people in the communities and that new associations are being formed with retirees “it would be nice if these associations would organize themselves, so there is a lot they can do without depending of the government to do.”

He proposed, for example, “that a pensioners’ association could, as is the case in Barbados, seek senior discounts on certain goods and services…and health, we may seek to arrange certain benefits for retirees”.

Dr Jules continued: “If these groups were well organized at the national level and wanted to form themselves into a network of OECS retirees, we would do everything possible to help in this process of forming such a body.

He said that an elected body that is well organized and governed by a constitution “will be recognized by the OCES Commission as a bona fide entity.

“On their own, whatever brainstorms, ideas and consultations they do with their members and prepare concept papers, ideas and recommendations, they can find themselves on the agenda of a ministerial meeting to come and meet ministers to propose the changes that the constituency would like to see happen in this space.

Moving on, Dr Jules said, “We need to develop a culture of ‘people empowerment’, where they take responsibility for themselves and the government is made aware of the conditions and the facilities, and the things which can be done in order. help people to (be able to) help themselves.

Joel C. Hicks