SEARCHING FOR MEANING
Remarks delivered by Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony,
Prime Minister of Saint Lucia
Seminar on “Alliance of Civilizations”
September 25, 2006
Most Hon. P.J Patterson,
H.E. Rafael Dezcallar – Under Secretary of State for Foreign Policy, in the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Spain
Secretary General of CARICOM, Mr. Edwin Carrington
Hon. Derek Walcott, Noble Laureate
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great pleasure for me to officially open this Caribbean Seminar on the
“Alliance of Civilizations”. This idea for an “Alliance of Civilizations” was
first mooted in September 2004 by José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, Spanish Prime
Minister, at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. The United
Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, later adopted the idea and has been
working feverishly to develop the practical aspects of “The Alliance”. Thus,
when Caricom Heads met their Spanish counterpart at the CARICOM –Spain Summit in
May of this year, I committed the Government of Saint Lucia to jointly host with
the Government of Spain and the Caribbean Community Secretariat, this Caribbean
Seminar on the “Alliance of Civilisations”.
I agreed that Saint Lucia would host the Seminar on the basis that the Caribbean
can make a valuable and meaningful contribution to the subject, and bring our
own perspectives and experience to bear on the issues that face us.
CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS
The events of September 11th 2001 left the world in shock. Everyone has tried to
make sense of the tragedy that claimed nearly 3000 innocent civilian lives. Of
course, in times of crisis, commentators and analysts engage in a frantic search
for explanations and answers. Some have found the answer in the work of the
political scientist, Samuel Huntington. The Huntington thesis is simple and
attractive. In 1993, whilst the Cold War was thawing out, Samuel Huntington
wrote in the journal of Foreign Affairs:
"It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new
world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great
divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be
cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world
affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between
nations and groups of different civilizations. The Clash of Civilizations
will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be
the battle lines of the future."
Given that the perpetrators of the events of 9-11 attacked symbols of “the
West”, and the religion of the hijackers’ was Islam, many immediately defined
the attack as a “Clash of Civilizations”. Those who espouse that view draw the
battle lines as one between “the West” and Islam. Huntington’s thesis has been
given life and credibility.
This has now led many persons to take it for granted that the central problem in
the world today is the conflict between Islam and the West, with the Middle East
serving as the epicentre. Perhaps the best example of this misconception is in
US Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice’s formal letter to the Spanish Foreign
Minister declaring the United States’ intention to collaborate with the proposal
of “The Alliance of Civilizations” in the hope that the initiative would help to
promote “democratic reforms, peace, and stability in the Near East.”
Amidst all of this, however, some countries are preoccupied with seeking their
own definition and identity. Their issue is simple: Can they too be defined as
A late 19th Century American lawyer and orator, Robert Ingersoll, said that a
“True civilization is where every man gives to every other every right that he
claims for himself”. The search for definition must neither be lost or suffused
because of the preoccupations with the current global issues.
A MISPLACED CONCEPT
This concept “Clash of Civilizations” is misplaced. Unfortunately, the concept
of has shaped international politics and influenced the foreign policies of
major state actors. It has served as a device for generating antagonism between
friend and enemy; constructing friend and enemy, “us and them”, in cultural and
religious terms and has defined the nature of the coming wars. Writers such as
Mark Juergensmyer in his book “The New Cold War: Religious Nationalism Confronts
the Secular State” (1993) and Robert Kaplan, “The Coming Anarchy” (2000),
provides academic cover.
Notwithstanding the insights which the “Clash of Civilizations” paradigm may
have encouraged, its weaknesses too are apparent. There is escalating anxiety
and hostility to the policies and politics of the “Clash of Civilizations”
around the world, irrespective of whether those politics and policies are
expressed in religious or secular discourse. The absolute corrosive nature of
those policies is increasingly apparent; Abu Grhaib, Guantanomo, loss of various
civil liberties …
WHY AN ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS?
“The Alliance of Civilizations” aims to promote dialogue. It eschews
confrontation. It is a more useful way to combat international terrorism and the
risks of a large-scale confrontation. It is politically astute to speak of the
“Alliance of Civilizations” rather than the “Clash of Civilizations”. The latter
seem to invite permanent conflict, permanent instability and permanent
However, if the Alliance of Civilizations fails to recognize and address the
political and economic inequalities around the world, its effects on broader
communal, societal, or international practices and relations will remain muted.
“The Alliance” must provide an opportunity to promote actions to balance the
world’s economic inequalities and foster commercial and economic exchanges of
mutual interest within a context of respectful cultural dialogue. It must ensure
that it delivers a just and positive outcome for all nations, without regard to
size, natural resource endowment, geographical location or cultural history.
CARIBBEAN CONTRIBUTION TO ALLIANCE
You may well ask “How can the Caribbean inform the issues the Alliance shall
deal with, particularly when small countries such as exists in the region are
constantly exposed to the unfairness and lack of interest in our well-being and,
indeed, survival?” At the political level, the voices of small states are rarely
permitted to influence the debates on changes to the international political
order, the reform of the United Nations or the shaping of relevant principles
for international co-existence.
Rex Nettleford provided an answer to the earlier question in 1994, when he said:
“As a microcosm not only of the Americas but also of Planet Earth the
Caribbean is a laboratory for all the tensions (creative and disintegrative)
of the human condition we have come to know these past five hundred years
and as they shall continue to show themselves in the next century.” (1994)
It has always been a challenge to define our human condition, spirit and ethos.
When James Anthony Froude, a History Professor at Oxford (1888) said that the
Caribbean populations were incapable of making progress “except under European
laws, European education, and European authority”, it was the Trinidadian J.J.
Thomas in “Froudacity” who exposed him, describing Froude as a “conjuror of
Unquestionably, the Caribbean’s experience with colonialism and its myth of a
civilizing mission has equipped the region to mediate in matters of
civilizational alliances. After-all, Nettleford has already told us that the
Caribbean is the “melody of Europe and the rhythm of Africa”, whilst Walcott
accounts for the other partners in our Caribbean alliance, when in “The
Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory”, his Nobel Lecture, he declared to the world
that “I am only one-eighth the writer I might have been had I contained all the
fragmented languages of Trinidad”.
Our experience with colonialism has taught us that the most powerful tool which
was used by the colonizer was his claim to be bringing the fruits of progress
and modernity to the subject peoples. In colonial logic, people who were
different were inferior and therefore had to be made similar - and hence equal -
by civilizing them. However, once this equality had been attained, the very
basis for colonial rule would vanish.
However, the colonized were made to be invisible and were not official subjects
in the international community. The violence perpetrated against them in the
name of colonial rule has been seldom scrutinized, understood and repudiated.
I am absolutely delighted that this seminar brings together intellectuals,
politicians and policy makers. Our artists and intellectuals can speak for our
civilization in a way that politicians cannot. What Bob Marley, Derek Walcott,
Neipaul, Sparrow has done in defining our civilization cannot be imitated by any
politician, now or possibly in the future.
I hope that this seminar will play its part in preventing the Alliance of
Civilizations to become, as some have cautioned, “a well-intentioned expression
of a series of more or less reasonable ideas and positive theoretical
Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome all of you to this
Seminar, and to wish you a most fruitful discourse. For all the visitors to
“Helen of the West” I hope that you create the time to sample and enjoy the
warmth of our people.
I thank you.