UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. Tuesday, July 14, 2020 – A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and the European University Institute (EUI) is expected to deepen ties between the Caribbean and Europe and help The UWI protect the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in the European Union ( EU) .
Signed virtually on July 14, 2020 by Prof. Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI and Prof. Renaud Dehousse, President of the EUI, the agreement includes the establishment of a research centre, which will help to promote inter-regional and intra-regional development and encourage discourse on how transnational and global issues impact the Caribbean Region and Europe.
The partnership foresees collaboration in areas of studies and research common to both institutions, with a view to focusing on sustainable development, multilateral trade, gender equality, security, environment and climate change, migration, energy, regional integration processes and transnational governance.
Last year, Sir Hilary saw the economic and financial vulnerability of CARICOM as a consequence of Brexit and began to pursue a strategy to position The UWI in the EU as a strategic response. Noting that the region needs greater policy support within the EU, in light of the EU downgrade of the region’s finance sector, and poor responses of regional entrepreneurs to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), he noted that The UWI had to step up to create an academic research and business advisory hub in the EU. After a year of negotiations the EUI agreed to host a joint UWI-EU centre. “It will be anchored in Florence, Italy and will provide services to our foreign service community, business groups, advocacy leaders in issues such as public health, climate change, economics equity for small island nations”, Sir Hilary explained.
Referring to the relationship between Europe and the Caribbean over 500 years as “one of the most intense historical experiences between two parts of the world and the basis of modernity as we know it”, Sir Hilary said “It is a relationship that has to be sustained within the context of its positive contributions, mutually to Europe and to the Caribbean and of course to the wider world. So, it is perfectly normal therefore that universities ought to be coming together within this context to sustain the benefits and to provide a vision for the future of this relationship.”
Pointing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), defined by the United Nations, he said that “they have certainly created a context within which universities are asked to become activists in the pursuit of these very laudable goals that are intended to move our cultures and our civilizations ahead within the finest values of humanity, transcending issues of trade and also focussing interest on culture and broadly speaking, development.”
Noting that joint activities by universities are very significant in effective achievement of the SDGs, Sir Hilary said that The UWI, for example, has been selected by the International Association of Universities to provide global advocacy around some of these sustainable goals, in particular, goal #13 which focuses on climate smart issues.
“As we seek therefore to bring our activism in line with our teaching, our research, our advocacy, and the creation of partnerships that will enable all of us to make a greater contribution to the world and to humanity, this context is very, very significant. So we are honoured and it is a tremendous pleasure for us to begin this partnership agreement with the EUI. We are of one mind, we have a common vision. Against the background of a heritage of over 500 years, it is logical therefore that we should be a activist on many areas of trade, of cultural exchange and of course within the context of the sustainable development goals”, Sir Hilary declared.
Prof. Dehousse said that given The UWI’s excellent reputation, “the partnership with them is a kind of bridgehead in the broader Caribbean and Latin American world and represents an opening towards a region of the world in which we are still developing contacts.”
He noted that the EUI was created in 1972 with an academic definition “to be a producer of research in the social sciences and humanities and to train a new generation of scholars who would then practice in the various member countries of what was then the EEC”. However, with the expansion of their role in the EU it has become essential for “the opening up of this institution to the rest of the world because Europe’s problems today are no longer confined to what is going on within its borders witnessed of course via the recent pandemic, but the list is long of issues which are acute issues in Europe but also represent challenges which other parts of the world are confronted with.”
Prof. Dehousse explained that, “In that context it is absolutely indispensible for us to open up towards other regions of the world, open up to other kinds of actors who are not necessarily like ourselves, where institutions of higher education and research may be interested in the knowledge that is generated by those institutions.”
He expanded, “we think it is indispensible for us to develop activities, research training and outreach with partners in the various regions of the world and as it happens we are fully aware that we do have a lot in common on which we can build. We share a similar interest for regional integration and the comparison of regional integration experiences, we share a similar interest in transnational governance. We have a certain tendency to think of ourselves as not only as regional actors but as regional actors with a global outreach so with all that heritage in common it would be a shame if we were not able to develop joint activities of different types all of which are listed in the agreement we have signed.”
Work has begun on the implementation of the MOU at both The UWI and the EUI. The SRC, through its Deputy Director, will be instrumental in advancing the collaboration with the EUI under this MOU.