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Caribbean Human Development Report 2012
This is the first Human Development Report (HDR) on the Caribbean region.
The Caribbean is diverse. It consists of several subgroupings that may be categorized in different ways. It may be subdivided by geographical features into the mainland Caribbean and the insula (island) Caribbean and by linguistic groups into the Dutch-speaking, English-speaking, Francophone, and Hispanic Caribbean.
The Caribbean is largely made up of societies that are young in historical terms. Except for Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, which became independent in 1804, 1821 and 1902, respectively, Caribbean societies have only emerged as independent nations in the last 50 years, and some still remain dependencies of European powers. In the case of the English-speaking Caribbean countries that attained their independence between 1962 and 1983, the sense of national identity that emerged during the latter part of the colonial era has not yet become consolidated into a source of social cohesion.
These countries are also characterized by considerable variation in their basic demographic features, levels of development and state capacities. Caribbean populations are young, and, in several countries, most persons now live in urban areas. In the seven countries selected as the research sites for this report (the Caribbean-7), the proportion of persons below the age of 25 years ranges from a high of 54 percent in Guyana to a low of 36 percent in Barbados, with the corresponding population proportion for this group of countries is 46 percent. The populations of the region are diverse. Cultural differences are expressed in the wide range of languages and religions. Christianity is the dominant religion, but there are significant proportions of Hindus and Muslims in Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. In Trinidad and Tobago, 23 percent of the population are Hindus, and 6 percent are Muslims, and, in Guyana, the corresponding proportions are 28 and 7 percent. Racial, colour and ethnic diversity are variously configured within the region. For example, in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, no racial group enjoys majority status. The major racial groups are persons of East Indian origin, at 44 and 40 percent, respectively, and persons of African origin, at 30 and 38 percent, respectively. Other societies such as Jamaica and Antigua are of predominantly African descent. Barbados has a numerically significant—at 3 percent—and economically powerful white racial minority. There are other minority groups, including Amerindians, who constitute 9 and 2 percent of the population in Guyana and Suriname, respectively. People of Chinese origin are also present and have made invaluable contributions to the development of the countries of the region.
Differences in levels of development are captured in the distinction between those states that are classified as more developed countries (MDCs) and those that are classified as less developed countries (LDCs). This distinction is being erased by the higher growth rates and HDI scores of the LDCs and former LDCs. The MDCs are typically small states, while the LDCs are typically micro-states. The size of the populations of the micro-states falls within a range of less than 40,000 in Saint Kitts and Nevis to almost 173,000 in Saint Lucia. These states have limited capacities. Among them, regionalism is thus treated as a problem-solving device.
Historically, the countries of the region have been producers of primary products for export. This pattern left legacies of inequality that have since been eroded by changes in economies, greater access to education and high rates of social mobility. But, in some Caribbean cities, particularly those in the larger territories, there are substantial populations of excluded poor. In contexts of rapid social change and socially dislocating modernizing processes, high levels of inequality and the multiple deprivations that are associated with social exclusion tend to be strongly correlated with criminal violence.
The countries of the region have tried to increase their viability and reduce their vulnerabilities via regional integration. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM), and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are expressions of these efforts. CARICOM has a membership of 15 states. CARIFORUM is simply CARICOM, plus the Dominican Republic. It was expected to be a bridge to the Dutch-, French-, and Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean.
OECS is a subset of more closely integrated CARICOM states. Earlier attempts at political integration were not successful, and the West Indies Federation, which was the architecture for political integration, collapsed in 1961 before the first set of Caribbean countries became independent. The movement for Caribbean integration now focuses on functional cooperation, economic integration, the coordination of foreign policy, and, most recently, regional security cooperation and rationalization. These are the four pillars of the integration movement.
CARICOM has a fairly elaborate structure. At the apex of this structure is the Conference of Heads of Government. The regional security establishment includes the Council of National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE). At the level of the civil service, there are several committees consisting of heads of law enforcement and military, customs and migration officials and other representatives of security and law enforcement agencies. The operational arm of the security establishment is the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), which, as its name suggests, coordinates the implementation of regional security policies. IMPACS was established after the completion of the work of the CARICOM Task Force on Crime and Security, which identified a number of priorities and made several recommendations to the Conference of Heads of Government, most of which remain relevant.