Surviving Small Size: Regional Integration in Caribbean Ministates

Surviving Small Size: Regional Integration in Caribbean Ministates

Surviving Small Size: Regional Integration in Caribbean Ministates

Surviving Small Size: Regional Integration in Caribbean Ministates


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.


This is no time for bickering
Political squabble or mudslinging
Politicians, be sensible, please
And build the prestige of the West Indies

- The Roaring Lion, "West Indians Get Together"

The OECS initiative put political union on the agenda of the Commonwealth Caribbean in a serious way for the first time since the collapse of the ill-fated West Indies Federation in 1962. The Federation's demise, coupled with the failure of continued attempts to forge new unions among remaining units, seemed to have ended the prospect of political union in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Instead, the focus shifted to economic cooperation expressed in regional integration schemes, influenced by the European Community experience and similar attempts in Latin America and other parts of the developing world. The Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA) was formed in 1969, giving way to CARICOM in 1973. This movement sparked a parallel organization among the smaller, still colonial units of the Federation, with the establishment in 1967 of the East Caribbean Common Market (ECCM), forerunner to the OECS. Attempts to forge a political union among OECS member states thus brought the regional movement full circle to political considerations.

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