Conference marks 50 years since West Indies Federation

On the 50th anniversary of the collapse of the West Indies Federation, the University College of the Cayman Islands is hosting a conference to look back on the last 50 years of Caribbean societies and to look ahead to the next 50 years.  

The 50-50 Conference is being held in collaboration with University of the West Indies and International College of the Cayman Islands, and will take place at the University College campus 21-23 March. 

The conference features some 85 to 90 presentations by academics, thinkers and influencers from around the region and beyond. Owen Seymour Arthur, leader of the Opposition of the Barbados Government (and former prime minister), will open the conference the evening of Wednesday, 21 March, with a keynote address on the emerging place of the Caribbean in global political and economic arenas. 


Presentation topics  

Other prominent speakers include former senior Caribbean Ambassador Ronald Sanders, Executive Secretary of the Council of Presidents of the General Assembly of the United Nations Carlyle Corbin, Bermuda Premier Paula Cox, Harvard University professor Orlando Patterson, Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, Cayman Islands Financial Services Chief Officer Dax Basdeo, and University of the West Indies faculty Michael Witter, Neville Duncan and Keith Nurse. 

In addition to those plenary sessions, designed for all participants to attend, the conference also includes smaller break-out sessions where speakers will make 20-minute oral presentations on academic papers, followed by 15-minute discussions with audience members. 

With a stated objective of fostering an environment for meaningful discussion of the divergent paths taken by Caribbean territories since the West Indies Federation dissolved, the conference encompasses presentations on a spectrum of topics, ranging from Mr. Corbin’s talk on the varying degrees of democratic autonomy among Caribbean jurisdictions, to Mrs. Cox’s speech on the “Bermuda Success Story”, to a study by medical professionals on “Water Related Recreational Fatalities in the Cayman Islands”. 

Some presentations will focus on individual territories such as Cayman; for instance, International College’s Melisa Bent-Hamilton and Tony Husemann will discuss “Support for the Sustainable Management of Coral Reefs and Mangroves in the Cayman Islands by Quantifying Their Economic Value”. Other presentations focus on relationships among individual jurisdictions; for example, Mr. Patterson will speak on the topic, “What Explains Success and Failure in National Development? A Re-Examination of the Barbados-Jamaica Debate”. Other presentations take a regional view of the Caribbean; for example, University of the West Indies’ Allan S. Wright will talk on “A Model for Caribbean Tourism Demand Volatility”. 


Cayman connections  

For those not familiar with the history of the West Indies Federation and ramifications of its dissolution, University of the West Indies’ graduate student Oneil Hall will make a presentation on the short-lived union of British colonies, formed by the United Kingdom in 1958 and lasting until 1962. The federation was doomed after the fall 1961 withdrawal of its largest member Jamaica, which achieved independence in 1962. Mr. Hall will focus specifically on the post-federation relationship between Jamaica and Cayman, which chose to remain a dependency of Britain while Jamaica declared independence. 

Some presenters from Cayman include former Leader of Government Business Truman Bodden, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, International College’s Scott and Kathleen Cummings, Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert, Premier’s Office Chief of Staff Leonard Dilbert, former Deputy Governor Lemuel Hurlston, former Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Chair Tim Ridley, former Monetary Authority board member Christopher Rose, Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams, and Chief Policy Advisor for Education Jo Wood. 

The 50-50 Conference follows University College’s March 2011 Conference on Leadership, Governance and Empowerment in the Caribbean, and its March 2010 Conference on Caribbean Literature, Culture and Identity. 

Members of this year’s conference planning committee include representatives from University College, International College, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies of University of the West Indies at Mona, government and the private sector. The opening reception at 5pm Wednesday is hosted by the National Building Society of Cayman. 

Throughout the three-day conference, University College will also host a book fair and cultural displays. The National Archive will arrange a historical display relevant to the conference themes. 

UCCI campus

UCCI Campus.