The academic communities of the Caribbean and Guyana are seeking to play a greater role in the discourse surrounding the issues of regional integration.
The Institute of International Relations (IIR) at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Guyana have come together to host a panel discussion that will feature International Relations specialists from both institutions as panelists. These specialists will meet today at the National Library at 17:00hrs.
Their discussion will be based on the theme “UNASUR: Its prospects and challenges for South America and CARICOM.”
The panelists from UWI are Professor Norman Girvan, Professorial Fellow at IIR, UWI; Dr. Mark Kirton, Senior Lecturer at IIR, UWI and Dr. Matthew Bishop, Lecturer at the IIR, UWI. Dr. Henry Jeffrey, a Senior Lecturer at the University and his colleague, Dr. Rishee Thakur, another lecturer at UG, will represent the University of Guyana.
According to Dr. Kirton, “…the academic community is attempting to add it’s voice to the discourse on integration.” He noted that it was the hope that the panel would let the participants and their audience share “perspectives and ideas on possible pitfalls, challenges, successes and prospects.”
He also touched on a few of the issues that the panel may touch on during their discussions. One focal point may be the question of whether or not UNASUR is simply adding to the plethora of regional integration efforts and what may distinguish it from the others.
Dr. Kirton said on the matter, “We think that UNASUR is significantly different. The first area of concentration for UNASUR is IIRSA.”
IIRSA or the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America is a collaborative effort by the Governments of South America to construct a new infrastructure network for the continent. It looks at the construction of cross-border roads, waterways, ports and energy and communications connections.
Most of the projects are aimed at increasing the availability and affordability of South American resources on the international market place for essential exports such as timber, minerals, soybeans and other grains.
According to Dr. Kirton “…it (IIRSA) will ensure that people, goods and services have access to countries which are members.”
The panelists will also consider whether it poses any issues for CARICOM since two CARICOM states, Suriname and Guyana, have already ratified the UNASUR treaty. Panelists will also consider whether any of the obligations of the UNASUR treaty may possibly be in conflict with their membership of CARICOM.
The question of whether the focus of the conference is too wide or too narrow, whether integration should be taken from the top down or if a bottom up approach would be better, where public involvement becomes important – these were all some of the issues that the Panel would be focusing on according to Dr. Kirton.
The Panel Discussion will be open to the public.
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