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Bahamas at 40 conference aims to impact policy development


Published: May 07, 2013

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The window is slowly closing on the opportunity for the younger, post-independence generation to engage the persons who fought for The Bahamas' independence.  As the 40th anniversary of independence draws near, an examination of issues that impact national identity and progress remain crucial priorities.

The impending Bahamas at 40 Independence Conference, the brainchild of The College of The Bahamas (COB) School of Social Sciences, will provide a critical platform to explore the issues that have significant implications for the country’s development.  The conference will be held June 12–14 at the college’s Oakes Field campus in collaboration with the Government of The Bahamas and the Inter-American Development Bank under the theme “The Bahamas at 40: Reflecting on the past, envisioning the future”.

More than merely a platform for critical analysis and debate, the conference will give academics, researchers, activists and community leaders the opportunity to dissect the issues that impact national development and offer recommendations and guiding principles for decision-makers and those who craft and implement national policies.

Co-chair of the conference planning committee and head of the History Department at the college, Assistant Professor Dr. Christopher Curry, explained at a press conference held yesterday why such a critical discourse must happen as The Bahamas observes its 40th anniversary of independence.

“The Bahamas at 40 conference provides a unique opportunity to engage in a critical debate about the Bahamian nation’s past, present and future.  The debate at this juncture in Bahamian history is all the more relevant given that there are few surviving members of the founding generation of actors and actresses engaged in the movement for Majority Rule and Independence,” said Dr. Curry.  “Thus the conference will function as a bridge for dialogue between the members of the founding generation who are still with us, the generation born into and who grew up in an independent Bahamas and the younger, current generation who are in the process of maturing into adulthood.”

Dr. Curry explained that plenary sessions will focus on: Nation Building in a Global Age; Community in an Archipelagic Context; Economic Dependence and Global Capitalism and Small Island Sustainability, matters imperative to future growth and development.

“It will be an important think tank for developing policies, procedure and vision for national development,” he said.

The college’s School of Social Sciences has often been at the vanguard of discussions on matters of national development and identity, helping to uncover new knowledge on social, political, economic and criminological issues in The Bahamas.

President of COB Dr. Betsy Vogel Boze said The Bahamas has much to be proud of and it is imperative for the college and the wider community to look back on historical achievements and the persons who helped to develop the country.

“At age 40, the country ought to celebrate and reflect upon the history and the education of its citizens.  At The College of The Bahamas, we have been a transformative agent in producing citizens that have made advancements in politics, business and education. The aim of the conference is to examine the context and construction of the Bahamian nation; to investigate the challenges emerging in the post-independence period; to discuss contemporary social, cultural, economic and political issues and to explore future prospects for nation building and development,” she said.

The Bahamas at 40 conference is one of the events on the official government calendar to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Bahamian independence.  Head of the Secretariat for the National Independence Commission Jack Thompson, is working closely with the planning committee to ensure that the event is successful.

“It is both timely and fitting that we pause at this point on our history, in our country’s history, to re-evaluate, re-assess and re-examine our traditions and values and those things which make us uniquely Bahamian.  I cannot think of any better institution, any group of persons other than The College of The Bahamas to stage this wonderful, impressive, dynamic and most needed conference,” said Thompson.

“In the midst of all of the social gatherings, what can be more important than this dialogue?  This is critical.  This is very important and I know the prime minister really wants to see this happen. We are prepared to do all we can to encourage maximum participation.”

According to Associate Professor Dr. Nicolette Bethel, one of the members of the conference planning committee, impacting the culture of policy development in The Bahamas is a fundamental desired outcome.

“It would be fabulous if what came out of what we would have discussed could be applied to policy, because I think, If I may speak somewhat freely, we tend to rely on other people’s ideas of what The Bahamas should be in terms of developing our policy and we have an institution right here where we are doing the work, where we are looking at The Bahamas.  That is our primary interest and focus and it seems to me that developmental policy should come out of this institution,” she said.

Co-chair of the National Independence Commission Dr. Tracey Thompson said there is an opportunity to work with the Ministry of Education to ensure that information shared at the conference is shared with local schools and incorporated into the curricula in order to expose students to various intellectual perspectives about The Bahamas and its development.  In fact, the college and the Independence Commission are to continue working beyond the conference to develop collaterals and multimedia materials for national consumption.

Prime Minister Perry Christie is expected to officially open the event on Wednesday, June 12 and Winston Dookeran, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, will deliver the keynote address.

Lead partners for the conference are the National Independence Commission, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.  Sponsors include, Colina Insurance Limited and BTC.

Detailed information on the conference is available online at: www.cob.edu.bs/conferences/bahamasat40.

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