Editorial | Patterson Centre has serious job
P.J. Patterson, a former prime minister of Jamaica, has this newspaper’s support in his call for greater collaboration between Africa and the Caribbean in global affairs.
But as Mr Patterson knows, while the interests of countries and regions may broadly coincide, they are often not in perfect alignment. It usually requires hard technical work, painstaking calibration, and sometimes savvy diplomacy for the partners to establish a common front of the type Mr Patterson hopes for, for Africa and the Caribbean. Mr Patterson, in this regard is, or ought to be, in a position to cause the development of an intellectually sound, yet pragmatic, framework for cooperation between Africa and the Caribbean.
Indeed, P.J. Patterson is statesman in residence at The University of the West Indies (UWI) at Mona. That is a platform from which he can leverage his considerable experience in international affairs and the politics of development, as well as his extensive global contacts, to encourage the academy to think about, and offer solutions to, the matter he has laced on the table. However, Mr Patterson has even greater purchase than his title suggests. The UWI has a Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy, named for Mr Patterson. Among its jobs is to promote the ideas of the kind posited by the former prime minister.
That Patterson Centre is now a year old, which, admittedly, is a short span in the life of an institution. But the global environment and the crises that confront Africa and the Caribbean insist upon urgency. It is in that context that this newspaper, and we expect regional policymakers, look forward to the centre’s report on its work over the past year on the programmes and projects on how Africa and the Caribbean should define, and cooperate on, common interests.
Some of these, of course, are obvious. Mr Patterson, in his Marcus Garvey Lecture last week, noted the 75,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines that Jamaica has received via the African Union’s African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP). Jamaica is hoping for, perhaps, another million doses of vaccines under that initiative. Other Caribbean countries have also received vaccines via the AMSP.
This sharing of vaccines is a great act of solidarity by Africa. Like the Caribbean, Africa has had limited access to the drugs. Indeed, only three per cent of Africa’s population has had at least one jab.
Joint advocacy for fair access to vaccines by developing countries, including support at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for waiving intellectual property rights to production of the drugs, is an area in which African and the Caribbean can make common cause. The Patterson Centre should help in this endeavour by making not only an ethical case for vaccine access, but by providing the arguments for why short-circuiting the WTO agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights won’t be the death of innovation and offers long-term value to the global economy. Indeed, both Africa and the Caribbean have been hard hit by the pandemic and need to have their populations substantially vaccinated if they are to have a decent shot of a sustainable economic recovery.
DISRUPTION OF OLD GLOBAL ORDER
Further, as Mr Patterson observed more than a year ago, the pandemic has exacerbated the disruption of the old global order. And it is now clear that the passage of Donald Trump and America’s return to the semblance of multilateralism notwithstanding, things won’t return precisely to previous norms. America’s new president, Joe Biden, may not offer Mr Trump’s strident bellicosity and the great power politics of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He nonetheless shares Mr Trump’s idea of containing China’s growing economic and geopolitical influence. Moreover, the shaping of the world, as was clear from last week’s G7 summit, is primarily to be the function of plurilateral discussions at the rich members’ club. That, Mr Patterson argued in early 2020, must be allowed to be the case. “The reconfiguration of global power and the restructuring of the global economy cannot be left to the market or the dictations of the few determined to continue to shape the future by unilateral decisions without international consultation,” he said.
Developing countries, especially those in Africa and the Caribbean, must be at the table. However, merely having a seat is not enough. They must also have compelling arguments and strategies for leveraging the continent’s and the Caribbean’s combined numbers. This means identifying mechanisms for greater cooperation among the countries of the so-called global South. The Patterson Centre is expected to show how these can be accomplished while sustaining broad global partnerships.
Although the Patterson Centre is ensconced in an academy, its output is not expected to be arcane and inaccessible. It ought, of course, to be deep and rigorous, representing public scholarship around which there can be robust debate. The region looks forward to the coming out of the Patterson Centre.