The face of reparations

The face of reparations
Photo by George Alleyne

Within the decade beginning this year, the Caribbean may have solutions to the growing scourge of Type II diabetes, have a new economic approach as former colonial nations, and re-establish links with sub-Saharan Africa.

These projected achievements are thanks to a 20 million pounds sterling (US$26,000,200) research fund the University of Glasgow (UG) supplied in the first phase of a continued development programme in repayment for benefitting from the proceeds of slavery and in so doing giving a face to the concept of reparations.

The work is to be done by Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research that will have offices in the Caribbean and Glasgow.

“It is the first institution within British university history, dedicated to the slavery reparations policy framework,” read a statement issued by the University of the West Indies and University of Glasgow, administrators of the Centre.

The representatives of the two universities met in late December, “to rollout the research and project development agenda for the Centre which is aimed at confronting and eradicating the debilitating legacies of slavery and colonisation in the Caribbean”.

Led by Vice-Chancellor, Hilary Beckles, UWI had begun negotiations with UG for compensation since 2017 after that Scottish university published a document admitting to its culpability for slavery by benefitting donations by slave owners.

“Between the 1780s and 1880s it received millions of pounds in grants and endowments from Scottish and English slave owners that served to enrich and physically expand the near 600-year-old university,” stated part of the reparations agreement reached last August and signed by Dr. Beckles and Dr. David Duncan, University of Glasgow’s chief operating officer.

That agreement established the Centre that will target and promote solutions to Caribbean development problems in areas such as medicine and public health, economics and economic growth, cultural identity and cultural industries, and other 21st century orientations in Caribbean transformation.

Last months’ board of directors meeting at UWI’s Cave Hill Campus, Barbados, set out targets for the 2020 decade.

Headings of the three tasks set out are:

1. “The public health crisis in the Caribbean, particularly the chronic disease pandemic, with special focus on identifying research-based solutions to reduce the burden of Type 2 Diabetes and its sequelae complications, such as diabetic foot amputation;

2. “The search for post-plantation economy development policies that are innovative and progressive in the struggle for economic growth in the global economy; and

3. “Recognising that slavery and colonialism drove deep wedges between Africa and its Caribbean family, [develop] strategies for project implementation to tackle the day-to-day cultural divide between Africa and the Caribbean.”

Last August, UWI had stated the, “agreement represents the first occasion on which a slavery-enriched British or European institution has apologized for its part in slavery and committed funds to facilitate a reparations programme. In this instance, the two universities have adopted a regional development approach to reparations.”

“The seminal agreement, the first of its kind in the Western World … for slavery reparations since British Emancipation in 1838.”