…Carifesta to take centre stage in TrinidadRegional officials on Thursday converged at the Caricom Secretariat for the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) meeting, aimed at capitalising on cultural strength to achieve sustainability.Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocqueThe two-day event will also focus on the Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta) XIV, the flagship event, which is slated for August in Trinidad and Tobago with a packed agenda.According to Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, the culture of the Region is essential in sustainable development, because the creative sector employs hundreds of persons while maintaining regional identity.“The theme for this meeting: “Leveraging Caricom’s cultural assets for the sustainable development of the community”, reiterates the commitment of the Region to develop our rich and diverse cultural assets. These include natural and build heritage, the intangible such as our cultural expression and our cultural knowledge and skills,” LaRocque explained.A scene of Carifesta XIV“The global creative economy employed nearly 29.5 million people and generated more than US$2 trillion in revenue or three per cent of the world’s GDP [Gross Domestic Product] in 2013. Significantly, the creative sector employs more persons, aged 15 to 29 than any other sector. In Caricom, studies indicated that the creative industries account for 708 per cent of GDP in St Lucia.”According to LaRocque, culture also provides a platform to recognise more benefits from the Region, but Member States must foster a conducive environment for the sector to grow.“There is a need to create the necessary enabling environment for the creative industries to be more competitive and to increase their contribution to employment and growth,” he noted.During the discussions, Trinidad’s Minister of Community Development, Culture and Arts, Nyan Gadsby-Dolly was the feature speaker, and she emphasised the need for a paradigm shift on potential cultural assets which can be used to gain economic success.Trinidad’s Minister of Culture and Arts, Nyan Gadsby-Dolly“The inclusion of high-reaching goals for our cultural sector in our national development plans is critical for guided development of our cultural assets in progressive directions … Leveraging our cultural assets as a Region means constantly exploring opportunities to export our cultural products and services internationally,” Gadsby-Dolly declared.She noted that Carifesta has always been an important cultural advantage, but the music industry was also a sector to be looked at, as it was capable of providing employment.“The continued success of [the music] industry requires our collective intervention in ensuring that these genres remain relevant, both to the Region and to the world. That persons across all social tiers can derive employment opportunities and that the Public and Private Sectors can increase gateways for the international proliferation of our music genres.”From August 16 to August 25, Trinidad and Tobago will come alive with cultural exchanges, film festivals and exhibitions to showcase the diversity of Caribbean countries, including Guyana. In 2021, Antigua and Barbuda will be taking up the mantle as host country.