Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, listens to UNDP Resident Representative of Barbados, Magdy Martinez Soliman, during a recent courtesy call in the Senate Ante Chamber. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

The role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Barbados’ development was a key talking point when Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, met with UNDP Resident Representative of Barbados and the OECS, Magdy Martinez Soliman, in the Senate Ante Chamber, recently.

Minister Jordan, in acknowledging that Government viewed CSOs as “bearing some of the weight of country development”, said the passion these organizations exuded was worth leveraging and Government had to tap into it.

“Governments cannot do it alone.  We have gone past that model and we need to engage civil society….  We have to use that passion to further the aims of these organizations and by extension further the objectives of the government and the country, generally,” he stressed.

He also pointed out that Government believed there were things which civil society could do more effectively and in a less costly manner than other entities. 

Commending the UNDP for working with the Caribbean Policy Development Centre to develop a white paper that calls for legislation for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Minister added that Government would be seeking to build the capacity of CSOs, with continued assistance from the UNDP. 

This will be done through working collaboratively with other partners to examine a suite of programmes relevant to NGOs.

Mr. Martinez Soliman, in stating his approval of the model Barbados was pursuing, said his own experience showed it was about providing in kind the infrastructure that CSOs need.

“It’s not only about the tables and the chairs, computers and telephones.  It’s also about the book-keeping and the project proposal writing.  You would have a little staff that would assist them from managing their budgets and keeping tidy accounts to being attentive to any calls for papers,” he said.

Assuring the Minister and his team that he stood ready to assist, the UNDP Representative remarked: “We’re delighted to provide any input we can, and if it calls for partnering with the IDB, we are great friends.  At any stage, if you want us to just give you an opinion on documents or advocate for something, we think that will be actually a good thing to do.”

While both agreed that CSOs are usually under financed, Mr. Martinez Soliman urged the Ministry to undertake a needs assessment with UNDP’s assistance. 

He said: “CSOs by definition really don’t have money and worse than that when they have it they don’t know if they will have it next year, so that’s the cyclical and unpredictability of it. They never know if they can hire people and so on.”

The two officials also acknowledged that it was imperative for CSOs to share experiences and information in various fora while working together on areas of need, as this would facilitate their development along a more sustainable path.

Discussion also centred on labour issues, the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill 2019 and the Sacramental Cannabis Bill 2019. 

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