Surviving Small Size: Regional Integration in Caribbean Ministates

Synopsis

In 1987 St. Vincent's Prime Minister James Mitchell called on his fellow Prime Ministers in the Eastern Caribbean to merge their separate countries into a single state. He argued that individually they had exhausted the possibilities of separate independence and they could only pursue regional and international development and indeed economic survival by pooling their scarce resources to combat common problems. By the end of the year all the Leeward Islands rejected the initiative although it remained very much alive among the governments of the Windward chain, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and the Commonwealth of Dominica. During the next eight years, efforts of the Windward Islands to merge were debated but the initiative for unification ultimately died.

Through extensive interviews and analyses of primary documents, Lewis paints a compelling picture of island and regional jealousies and conflicting economic priorities, which prevented the Windward and Leeward Islands from cooperating and which ultimately destroyed the movement for political unification in the Windwards. Ultimately, the unification movement failed because the process was dominated by elites and was not democratic. Lewis's thorough analysis provides guidance for future efforts at regional unification. The most important non-economic grounds for regional unity lay in the cultural sphere: the critical need to express and conceptualize a West Indian identity based on a shared historical cultural experience arising from slavery. By emphasizing a shared West Indian identity, a democratic process, and a need to act as a sovereign entity to combat globalization and economic weakness, political union inthe region may become a possibility.

The book is of interest to a wide group of scholars, policymakers, Caribbean historians and all those interested in development strategies and regional integration.

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