Reflections on Multiculturalism, Migrations Arrivals: Finding A Place Revisited Multimedia Edition Commemorating 15th Anniversary; 100 Years of End of Indentured Labour Trade; 172 Years since arrival of Indians in Trinidad, 79 Years arrival of Indians in Caribbean
However, much of this is yet unassessed, understudied, undervalued, undocumented and unaccounted for in the contexts of global migration and cultural evolution. They are also under tremendous development pressures and face other challenges common to small island developing states, she said.
Trinidad and Tobago was among countries supporting the introduction of the new programme of the UNESCO at the 195th session of the board in Paris to recognise the international impact of migration of post emancipation indentured Indian immigrant labour.
In supporting the Mauritius initiative entitled The International Indentured Labour Route Project, geared to enhance knowledge around its landing point of Indian immigration, the Aapravasi Ghat, Rampersad, the Trinidad and Tobago Representative on the 58-member board, pointed out that the Caribbean was a critical dimension of labour migration to post slavery societies, noting that more than one million Indian and other Asians crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the Americas in the immediate post-emancipation period.
She said her research shows the islands may hold the key to broadening and deepening understanding pre-Columbian migrations in the Americas as it has been in the colonial and post slavery migrations from Europe, Africa and Asian in its location off the tip of South America and as the most southerly of Caribbean islands.
Rampersad, a heritage educator, researcher and journalist, who has been researching and advocating for greater national and international efforts at safeguarding what she calls “the other Magnificent Seven of South Trinidad and the Global South,” said the heritage assets of small island states like Trinidad and Tobago, remain vulnerable to other pressing development agendas.
She has written in her blog to the Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar asking them to prioritise their safeguarding within the national development agenda and readers are circulating online petition in support.
Piloted by Mauritius, which also agreed to provide extra-budgetary funds to support its implementation, the decision to introduce The International Indentured Labour Route Project was universally supported and adopted by the UNESCO Board, along with other programmes to safeguard vulnerable heritage assets in other countries, following the negotiation of the text which came before the Programmes and External Affairs Commission. The Commission, one of two decision-making Commissions of the Board, was co-chaired by Rampersad.
Rampersad suggested to UNESCO that as the project unfolds, the Board also explore not only the synergies with the Slave Route project but also the potential of private-public sector and NGO partnerships within both and how they may broadening and deepening the proposed refocus on oceans and small island developing states so as “to accommodate equity and balance and the cultural diversity and heritage dimensions in the United Nations post-2015 sustainable development agenda.”
The Mauritius initiative drew from a decision of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee that considered “the importance of an International Indentured Labour Route Project to complement the Slave Route Project and the General History of Africa which will be implemented in the context of the International Decade of People of African descent.”
Rampersad is the UNESCO national focal point on World Heritage and its trained facilitator for the English-speaking Caribbean on the Convention for the Protection and Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (2003). She has also been part of Commonwealth and UNESCO initiatives to recognise culture-centred development through these and other conventions that drive the cultural and creative industries sectors as the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005).
Rampersad noted that the new programme, which has already been highly commended by Africa, Asia/Pacific, European and Latin American and Caribbean delegates also presents possibilities towards heightening the dimensions of international cooperation promoted in the UNESCO conventions against trafficking in cultural property (1970), World Heritage (1972), intangible cultural expressions (2003), diversity of cultural expressions (2005) and underwater cultural heritage (2006).
In an interview on the initiative, she said: “Ebola is today waving its passport of global citizenship and has more clearly brought home to us the realities of the borderless world in which we really exist. As children of both slave and silk routes, though far removed from some of our societies of origin – and I say this acknowledging the also marginalised indigenous communities of our region, we in the Caribbean have naturally existed in trans-boundary spaces with intertwined heritage that span all the continents of the world. While in some of our societies these remain vibrant and effervescent and spawning new cultures through fusions, in others they are significantly in danger of disappearing from various pressures, still unmapped, understudied, underassessed and undervalued in the contexts of our global village.
“In turn, we have also spawned other diasporas, offspring of our complex Caribbean societies, in other parts of the Americas, in Europe, in Africa and in Asia itself, that are not just parallel to but intimately intertwined with the storyline of our post slavery evolution.”
In acknowledging synergies between the Slave Route Project and the new project, the Board “recognised the need to develop professional capacity in fields as history, anthropology, archaeology and heritage towards creating an international database on indentured labour… about such a major historical event and build greater understanding and cooperation among peoples.”
The UNESCO Executive Board also lent support for a series of activities to celebrate UNESCO’s 70th anniversary; initiatives related to prioritising education and culture in the UN post 2015 development agenda, introduced new international prizes and revived some which were suspended owing to financial and other challenges.
The Board is chaired by Mohamed Sameh Amr of Egypt and the UNESCO secretariat is headed by Director General, Irina Bokova.