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A. Carmona: Address to Latin America Summit 2018

 Address to Latin America Summit 2018, São Paulo, Brazil, August 2–5, 2018

Ours is a world confronted by myriad social, economic, political, and environmental challenges, some of which we either never envisioned or treated with indifference. They are now threatening human survivability, sustainability, peace and security. This forum allows us, representatives and experts of varied competencies, to meet, not to engage in problem stating but rather in a type of solution-oriented dialogue aimed at deconstructing and mitigating the world’s afflictions. Implementable solutions must be devised and employed to augment the quality of life and ensure the sustenance of peace for all.

There is a growing concern, even crisis, in the type of global leadership that is being exhibited. We are living in times that require bold, courageous and transformative leadership that inspires and motivates, if we are to bequeath to future generations a better world than the one in which we live. There is a disturbing and growing subservience to the selfish needs and partisan objectives of the political party rather than to the common good of the nation-state. As I have stated before, a progressive, transformational democracy must always be guided by service leadership rather than power leadership. Service leadership must always trump power leadership. A proper democracy must be participatory dialogue at work. It is not grounded in a “Let no man bark” philosophy. That participatory dialogue must be grounded in mutual respect engaging what I will term “the art of disagreement.” Leaders must treat people like people. This approach militates against strife and discord.

Service leadership generates peace. We must be in the business of holding hands rather than only shaking hands. We must not fall prey to the ravages of cult politics or identity politics: “See what my political party can do for me, or what I can do for my political party and if I have the time, maybe do something for the country.” Cult politics and identity politics encourage and support an unholy alliance with silence in the face of patent wrong. It breeds spinelessness and sycophancy. We need a global leadership with core philosophies of transparency, accountability, integrity and good old-fashioned honesty. This global leadership must adhere to the tenets of genuine inclusivity, creating an environment of gender equality and parity where women are treated with respect and seen as equal partners in every sphere of society.

When placed in the hallways of influential institutions or in the corridors of power, the common good must always be first. The citizens of the world are responding negatively to what constitutes representative politics, in the parliaments, senates and the congresses of the world. Politicians need to be reminded that these fora are not battlefields for scoring points. They are about the people’s business, the people’s concerns and the people’s demand for answers and solutions to carry the nation-state forward.

There are leaders who shine light in the darkness with their messages of hope, perseverance and action for a better and greater world. We have several such leaders in our presence. I am also heartened by the Peace Forum Initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron in November 2018. A state of universal peace must not be taken for granted. This conference alludes to the need that peace has to be worked on daily, more so in the light of overindulgent nationalism as opposed to patriotism that is proving to be a threat to globalization and universal peace by its divisiveness. We need not fear the positives of diversity and acculturalization.

Major state powers are engaged in saber-rattling, and we pray that the swords do not leave their sheaths, for untold catastrophe awaits Mother Earth. Apart from potential nuclear fallout, there are ongoing trade wars. Protectionist barriers that inhibit free and fair trade are being set up, despite the existence of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which has been established to settle trade disputes objectively and according to a rules-based system. We can only speculate or examine history to conclude about the likely consequences of unbridled and unsettled trade wars. Could these developments, if they are allowed to escalate in an era when there are attempts to erode multilateralism, lead to military conflicts with dire consequences for even those who are not responsible for these actions? Countries large or small therefore have a vested interest in engaging a more proactive international diplomacy under the umbrella of international mediation for sustainable international peace, harmony and order.

The role of the fourth estate, the press, in sustaining international peace is pivotal. The press is a watchdog of peace. A free and fair press is the bulwark of democracy. “Fake news” has become an anathema to this. The press must be vigilant in sourcing real and reliable news and information and not become a victim of “armchair journalism.” The objectivity, integrity and professionalism of the press must be grounded in unadulterated truth in fulfilling the mandate to inform, educate and transform.

The nations of the world must align their national development strategies to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), critical to its 2030 Development Agenda for Sustainable Development. It presents a veritable road map, a plan of action for human, social, economic and environmental development at all levels and sectors and is an incontrovertible recipe for sustainable peace. I recall challenging the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago to put down their political manifestos and adopt wholesale the 17 SDGs if real, genuine national development concomitant with international benchmark standards and practices is to be achieved.

When I delivered a keynote address at the United Nations Environmental Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, in December, 2017, I opined that Goal No. 13, Climate Action, must be vigorously pursued to avoid the proverbial precipice that awaits us with climate change. A holistic relationship between humanity and the environment must exist for a healthy, sustainable, pollution-free planet that would protect water supply and other diminishing resources and ensure peaceful use of those resources. The dangerous impacts of climate change are being increasingly linked to human displacement, migration, conflict and the disruption of international peace. I referred to two projects at that forum that confront this reality of climate change.

In Trinidad and Tobago, there is a 50-year-old wildfowl trust, the Pointe-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust—the second oldest of its kind in the world—that has been engaged in pioneering work on wildlife conservation, replenishing different animal species at the Trust- including the scarlet ibis, the black-bellied whistling tree duck, wild moscovies and the blue and gold macaws. These species have been decimated by climate change, virulent pollution and obscene hunting practices. It is no longer about protecting man from beast and the environment, but rather about protecting beast and the environment from man.

The Pointe-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust daily opens its doors to our future leaders in the form of preschoolers, secondary and tertiary students. Teachers and professors make the Wild Fowl Trust part of their biology and environmental studies classes on which school-based assessments are conducted, thus nurturing present and future champions of our Eenvironment. The environmentally conscious and informed student of today will be the policy-makers of tomorrow. The Wild Fowl Trust sets the tone for progressive, environmental education and future action. This model can be replicated by countries, especially small island developing states, to push the environmental agenda to the forefront of national development.

On November 27, 2017, I launched a carbon neutral initiative—the first of its kind in the Caribbean—at my alma mater, Presentation College San Fernando, in Trinidad. It was in a collaborative initiative with an NGO, the Carbon Zero Initiative of Trinidad and Tobago (CZITT), under the executive stewardship of Mr. Donald Baldeosingh. The project allowed students to be involved in improving energy efficiency, water conservation, recycling, waste management, and conservation. It involved the installation of solar power in the school, the planting of trees and reforestation. With this one undertaking, thirteen-, fourteen-, fifteen- and sixteen-year-old students are in harmony with seven of the seventeen UN SDGs: Goal 6, Clean Water and Sanitation; Goal 7, Affordable and Clean Energy; Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities; Goal 12, Responsible Consumption and Production; Goal 13, Climate Action; Goal 14, Life Below Water; and Goal 15, Life on Land.

It demonstrates the telling impact of creating child advocates taking on the battle against climate change, environmental degradation and social ills. Yes, the child advocate—not a person who advocates on behalf of children, but rather, the child who becomes an advocate against social ills and for the environment, for antilittering campaigns, for beach clean-ups, for ameliorating climate change, for saving the whales or elephants or plants or even us from ourselves. The battle against pollution, Ladies and Gentlemen, will be won in the classrooms of the world where our future leaders are.

At the Nairobi Conference, the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) installed the 2017 Champions of the Earth and Youth Champions of the Earth ceremonies. Among champions named were Chinese businessmen and women, then Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Paul A. Newman, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which won in the Science and Innovation category for efforts in invoking the Montreal Protocol involving phasing out 99 percent of ozone-depleting substances. This will lead to the healing of the ozone layer, which will return to 1980 levels by mid-century. I met Youth Champions of the Earth who were engaged in groundbreaking environmental projects, and I implore leaders of the world to encourage that type of innovation and invention among young people in their respective countries.

Education must remain a priority in terms of governmental financial allocation and accessibility, notwithstanding global financial constraints. Investment in primary, secondary and higher education so that they remain accessible and affordable with core philosophies of critical thinking, innovation and invention today will yield phenomenal results tomorrow. One component of modern-day education should be volunteerism. Many of us sitting here did not attain our social conscience on assuming office but rather through the powerful influential impact of volunteerism.

There are deep-felt concerns about the encroachment of the executive on the independence of the judiciary around the world. This can challenge the status quo of peace for it is widely recognized that the last bastion of any democracy is the judiciary. A proper, legitimately functioning judiciary is the custodian of the rule of law. Due process, natural justice and the rule of law must always prevail as these are fundamental and perennial underpinnings of sustainable peace and order in any society. As a former UN prosecutor, I have seen the impact of abuse of political power in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda on peace, order, good governance and the very sanctity of human life: crimes that scar a nation, crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the institutional tour de force against impunity and for sustaining and perpetuating peace in this world of ours through its invocation of its universal jurisdiction and universal justice. The ICC is the international guardian and guarantor of the rule of law. Every nation must inevitably subject itself to the jurisdiction of the ICC for there can be no peace without justice.

Issues of crime and terrorism continue to plague this world of ours. The proliferation of guns continues to impact negatively the peace and sovereignty of the nation-state and the nucleus of any society, the family. There has to be better and more effective global collaboration on stemming the tide of gun proliferation in our respective countries.

Solutions to crime have traditionally been grounded in a reactive approach in terms of harsher punishment and sanctions in an effort to get tough on crime without attempting to examine the root of the problem or trying to understand why so many of our citizens turn to violence and even why crime remains an option. I do not wish to give you a treatise on trickledown economics.

The 81st plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly in 2000 adopted the Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice: Meeting the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century. In that declaration, the member states of the United Nations decided to “introduce, where appropriate, national, regional and international action plans in support of victims of crime, such as mechanisms for mediation and restorative justice.” The declaration went further to “encourage the development of restorative justice policies, procedures and programmes that are respectful of the rights, needs and interests of victims, offenders, communities and all other parties.”

As a prosecutor and subsequently as a criminal judge, I remember feeling a sense of futility when the same prisoners appearing before me became a recurring decimal, walking through that revolving door of the criminal justice system called recidivism. I would reflect, “Are we going to lock them up over and over and over?” creating a life of dysfunction, where a human being becomes a human animal without purpose, because we need the statistics of incarceration to prove that we are doing something? The futility of that approach has made me a firm proponent of restorative justice, a justice that heals rather than bleeds.

One benefit of restorative justice ensures in great measure a diminution of recidivism. As a former senior criminal Judge, I formulated what is known in Trinidad and Tobago as the Bail Boys Project (Carmona’s Model) as I acknowledged that the man-child is in crisis. We were all losing, our young men between the ages of 17 and 30 generally to murder, gang warfare and drugs. Young men on bail were dying violent deaths. The Bail Boys Project I created is a working component of restorative justice. Many of the Bail Boys have been given an alternative shot at redeeming themselves.

The Bail Act allowed for predetermined conditions when an accused person is placed on bail. Instead of having them report to police stations where they were often harassed verbally and sometimes demeaned, the accused reported to probation welfare officers who exposed them to psychologists and experts that dealt with anger management, substance abuse, self-esteem issues, sex education, parenting, fiscal management and proper accounting practices. The Probation Welfare Office at my request sought jobs for the accused and got reports from employers on their industry. They were placed on curfews, required to reside at specific addresses. If illiterate, one of the conditions of bail was to attend literacy classes and, if literate, to enroll in courses that were beneficial to them. Absenteeism would constitute a breach of bail condition and possible revocation.

Their support system included girlfriends, parents, brothers, sisters and friends. On a monthly basis, I reviewed their performances in the presence of relatives and friends with the probation officer sitting next to me in the court. A reward system was in place for obeying conditions of bail by relaxing curfews for special holidays, birthdays and celebrations. At the start of the Project, out of 35 to 40 hard-core criminals, only three or four became repeat offenders. Some got married, formed small contracting firms, even offering their services to the Court to employ prisoners. In some instances, gang members moved from the streets to successfully completing upper secondary and tertiary education.

The world is in need of healing, and we all need to become active advocates for mediation and alternative dispute resolution. I wish to humbly suggest that the time has come for mediation and alternative dispute resolution training to be added to all places of employment and more importantly be placed on the school curricula from preschool to tertiary levels. You see, Ladies and Gentlemen, zones of conflict and discord are neither discriminatory nor geographic. They are everywhere—in the classrooms, offices, streets or homes and all around the world—and we have somewhat become novices in resolving conflict.

The United Nations has advocated as part of its agenda that no one should be left behind. There is a need to actualize this philosophy in relation to that community of persons with disabilities, who are far too often treated unequally and unfairly. All societies need to ensure, sustain and support the personal and collective independence of persons with disabilities. The right to proper infrastructural access to public buildings, the right to live independently and the right to real opportunity are all social fundamentals. The cry of persons with disabilities often is, “We want opportunity, not charity, the opportunity of jobs, yes real jobs, that do not patronize our competencies, qualifications and capacities.” Yes, opportunity that will facilitate the differently abled person becoming the CEO of any company or the member or Chairman of a board in the public and private sectors. Persons with disabilities must be allowed to realize their full potential and achieve their dreams.

Health and access to health care are human rights. Many developing countries are suffering from the malaise of unhealthy living and bad lifestyle choices. In the Caribbean region, child obesity is a pandemic with some 35 percent of Caribbean adolescents overweight or obese. This brings the inevitable, evolving trend of our children developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs)—hypertension, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases—in their early years. With a fatality rate of 80 percent of our adult population because of the said NCDs, it is impacting national productivity and resources that can be better spent elsewhere to assist in national development. We in the Latin American and Caribbean Group region need to get back to the basics of healthy food and active lifestyles—not the sedentary type, overpowered by the abuse of technology.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are at a juncture in our history where we must reflect and take stock but also take immediate action. I wish to thank the organizers, sponsors and stakeholders of this Latin America Summit 2018, and I fervently hope that summits of this nature occur consistently around the world because you are not only making a difference, you are making the difference.

I thank you.



To go to the Latin America Summit 2018 Schedule page, click here.