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Feature address by Dr. the Honourable Lincoln Douglas, Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism

On the occasion of the National Consultations on:
The Draft National Policy Framework for Multiculturalism and The Draft National Cultural Policy

Centre of Excellence, Macoya – October 29, 2012
Rovanel’s Resort, Crown Point, Tobago – October 31, 2012
9.00 am  

 

Salutations:

  • Members of Cabinet
  • Government Ministers and Members of Parliament
  • Ms. Desdra Bascombe, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Arts & Multiculturalism
  • Mr. Vel Lewis, Deputy Permanent Secretary
  • Mrs. Ingrid Ryan Ruben, Director of Culture
  • Representatives of Local Government Bodies
  • Key stakeholders of arts and cultural associations and agencies
  • Members of the Media
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Greetings ladies and gentlemen and welcome. It is my pleasure to address you on the occasion of this public consultation on the Draft National Policy Framework for Multiculturalism and the Draft National Cultural Policy.

Culture is an important component of any society. It is an important part of any state. It, therefore, becomes an important element of any government’s responsibilities. Culture facilitates the growth of the individual, the family, the community and by extension, the country. While ‘Culture’ is a noun that is most popularly described either as ‘the sum total of a people’s way of life’ or as ‘the creative arts’, let us not forget that ‘Culture’ is also a verb. That verb is often defined as ‘to grow’ or ‘to cultivate’.

In light of these facts, I imagine that there is an intrinsic link between culture (whether seen as the arts or a total way of life) and development. We firmly believe that if we grow the sector, we grow the country. It we nurture the culture, we nourish our people.

Consequently, our interest as the Ministry with responsibility for culture is in deepening the developmental parameters of state activities in the Cultural Sector, in order to improve its contribution to the entire national community.

This is where the National Policies in Culture comes into play. Our approach to policy-making has been multifaceted. We have disaggregated the various components of the policy process.

Ladies and gentlemen, policy is about results. It is about action. It is about making a difference. It is also about vision, collaboration and planning. Fiscal 2013 is the main year for the implementation of the final drive to complete the National Policy Agenda with regard to Culture. The main components of this drive are as follows:

The Philosophical: Wherein we establish the fundamental nature of the sector as we see it, clarify the basic objectives that we want to set, and identify who the main actors are in this process.

The Strategic: Where we detail the legislative, policy, research, funding and training agendas.

Evidence Based Analysis: Grounding of the strategic planning process in policy research that focuses on analysis of quantitative data and assessment of the sector’s developmental needs and on-going state initiatives.

Consultation and Collaboration: Engaging stakeholders to help develop and implement plans.

Rationalisation of state activities: Enhanced collaboration between state parties in order to maximise synergies and minimise duplication.

The draft policy statements in Multiculturalism and Culture embody the philosophical stance and outline the basic approach to strategic planning. The various appendices and addenda provide supporting information.

Ladies and gentlemen, these consultations will raise national discourse on these philosophical components of our policy agenda. They are the initiation of a yearlong series of consultative research activities which will include implementation of the National Cultural Mapping Exercise and the development of a National Strategy for Cultural Development.

These initiatives will be executed to fulfil commitments made in the Public and Social Sector Investment Programmes of 2013 which fall under the portfolio of the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism.

Following these consultations, there will be a National Cultural Mapping Exercise which will lead to the establishment of baseline information on the sector.

This is a series of surveys designed to collect quantitative and qualitative data on the Culture Sector. As years go by, this will assist in monitoring the growth of the industry and the impact of policy decisions we make today. The exercise will also collect stakeholder views on the state of the sector, including its developmental needs.

The results of this Mapping exercise will be used to support the development of the National Strategy for Cultural Development inclusive of the Strategic Development Plan for Cultural Industries. Preliminary drafts of these will be discussed at a Roundtable of Public Sector Stakeholders in the Culture Sector which will bring all major state agencies together to finalise the holistic strategy.

2013 will see the finalisation and publication of the research. Consultations for development of new projects and policies that respond to issues raised by the research will have been conducted by this time. These processes are to be entrenched in the annual work programme of the Culture Division.

As for today’s activities, ladies and gentlemen, it is my respectful view that Multiculturalism is best viewed as a strategy to bring people together in the name of building a cohesive nation. Our diversity stretches across all forms of phenomena inclusive of varied artforms, ethnicity, geographical location, age, gender, income, and other demographic factors.
Consequently, the state must develop methods to consciously treat with as many of these varied manifestations as it possibly can. In so doing, we must ensure that each manifestation receives the treatment it deserves.

We must also reinforce that while there may be a multitude of manifestations, there is only one Trinidad and Tobago Culture. We all belong to this culture. This overarching culture includes all the manifestations developed, nurtured and practiced by the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

Each citizen has the opportunity, in accordance with constitutionally enshrined rights to freedom of association, expression and religion, to engage in the manifestations of their choosing. But make no mistake about this: as varied as we are, we are all one. That oneness is neither uniform nor homogenous. That oneness is multifaceted and cohesive.

The Cultural Policy focusses on gearing the state towards cohesive, rationalised, data-driven policy articulation and implementation. Its focus is on clarifying the scope of the Cultural Sector, setting the main developmental priorities, and outlining the basic operational methodology for implementation of same.

The inclusion of this methodology in the policy statement allows for the incorporation of effective administration, policy articulation, collaboration and developmental work in the Ministry’s recurrent processes and annual work plan.

Following two days of consultation in Trinidad and Tobago respectively, A Report on the Consultations will be produced by the fifth of November, 2012. This will also be circulated via Culture Division’s website and Facebook page.

A Cabinet Note detailing the updated policies in Culture and Multiculturalism, as well as the outcomes of the consultation process, will be forwarded to Cabinet for approval by the nineteenth of November, 2012.

Upon final Cabinet approval, the policy documents will be published online and in the national print media. 2013 will see the continued implementation of the National Cultural Mapping Exercise. As I have mentioned before, this survey will be used to help craft the National Strategy for Cultural Development.

After listening to this structured way forward, ladies and gentlemen, I am sure you will appreciate that this event is just the beginning of an ongoing series of exercises that will result in a significant boost of the government’s strategies to empower the Cultural Sector to develop the economy AND the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

We hope that you take the opportunity to participate in each phase of this collaborative exercise and I look forward to partnering with you in the development of the Culture of Trinidad and Tobago.

Thank you and may God bless our nation.