The growth and expansion of colonialism demanded centuries of enslavement of humans in order to address the systemic labor shortages. In the Caribbean many were forced to work on plantations to cultivate the sugar, serve as concubines for slave masters, and endure centuries of sub-human treatment.
Now CARICOM – The Caribbean Community and Common Market – is preparing to submit an invoice to the European governments that reaped the benefits of the enslavement. After a two-day, closed-door meeting
in March, CARICOM representatives returned with unanimous agreement on a ten-point program calling for
reparations for “native genocide and slavery.”
This action was a followup to a December 2013 meeting where it was agreed to set up National Committees on Reparations, to establish the moral, ethical and legal case for the payment of reparations by the former colonial European countries, to the nations and people of the Caribbean Community, for native genocide, the transatlantic slave trade and a racialized system of chattel slavery.
“We are not starting with a blank slate. We are building upon work which all of us have been engaged in
to carry out transformative revolutionary work in the field of education” – Dr. Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Chairman of the Caribbean Community.
The CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC) is chaired by Hilary Beckles, pro vice chancellor at the University of the West Indies and the author of Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide.
Ignoring the troubling history of enslavement has allowed the Caribbean and European nations to co-exist however the CRC has come to realize the tremendous cost of the current relationship. Social inequities have limited the quality of life for many Caribbean descendants of the enslaved in the areas of education, job opportunities, and health-care amongst others.
The current plan calls for CARICOM to convene a conference between the Caribbean nations and the European leaders (Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden) later this year to come together for an in depth discussion on reparatory justice.
If the former colonial powers refuse that invitation, the Caribbean nations intend to pursue legal remedy under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. CARICOM has already retained counsel in preparation for a negative response from Europe.