- Civil Society Organisations, Governance and the Caribbean Community by Kristina Hinds
The literature of regional integration and multilevel governance has mostly focused its attention on the case of the European Union. The process of societal cross-regional interactions is less studied in areas which have a long history of regionalization without formal regional organizations, or what Hettne and Söderbaum (2000) call the Regional Complex. The book Civil Society Organisations, Governance & the Caribbean Community by Kristina Hinds provides a much-needed analysis of the role that civil society has in the processes of regional integration in the Caribbean.
This book is divided into eight chapters and three themes. First, the author introduces the concept of civil society for the Caribbean and a description of the Caribbean political culture, governance, and participation. The book later delves deeper into the areas in which civil society has been involved in regional governance in two regional organizations: the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Finally, Hinds uses two countries as a case studies to draw insights from the connection between civil society and governance in the countries of Barbados and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
In chapter two, Hinds provides a clear conceptualization of what the term Civil Society Organizations (CSO) means, especially in the context of the Caribbean. She clarifies that civil society organizations must be treated separately from those organizations that lie between the state, the market and civil society, such as organizations that receive funding from corporations or the state.
Hinds explains the historical development of civil society in the Caribbean at the end of the Cold War. While civil society has been seen as the key to bringing about democracy, she argues that what we have observed is the “NGO-ization” of civil society. It is precisely these organizations that become the focus of the international development efforts in the 1990s. Organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank and the United Nations focused on providing assistance to these NGOs as a way of supporting economic development and good governance. However, such NGO-ization [End Page 176] requires the professionalization of civil society into highly technical and bureaucratic entities, undermining other manifestations of civil society.
Caribbean civil society tends to lack the high degree of technical expertise that international agencies expect. One reason lies behind the development of society in the Caribbean, where the majority of the population was enslaved, and thus excluded from membership in “civil society.” However, other forms of less formal but vibrant expressions of civil society date back to resistance movements against slavery. Hinds explains that civil society in the Caribbean has challenged the notion of formal organizations or even “polite-civil” expectations. Meanwhile, formal CSOs represented the white planters and merchants’ interests.
Hinds explains that during the colonial era, civil society functioned as a community-based organization to support formerly enslaved people. Labor unions were prescribed during colonial rule and trade unions did not emerge until early 20th century. However, early on, local movements engaged with wider international movements, such has the Garveyite Movement (which expanded from Jamaica, through the Caribbean and later Latin America), the United Negros Improvement Association, Pan-Africanism, and Black Power in United States. In the same vein, there was a development between local women organizations and regional organizations, such as the Caribbean Women’s Association. Hinds clarifies that civil society in the Caribbean varies greatly among the region’s countries. However, these descriptions apply mostly to the English-speaking Caribbean.
In chapter three, Hinds provides a theoretical framework by which we can analyze the involvement of CSO in decision-making. Furthermore, she explains the historical context in which the incorporation of CSOs into governance has evolved. Hinds argues that CSOs are fundamental for a participative and collaborative style of governance. Since the 1990s, the international community has equated good governance with broader inclusion of civil society. For example, she posits that there are four stages of participation of CSOs in governance. The...