Latin American-Caribbean Centre (LACC)

Ambassador Gillian M. S. Bristol


This report summarises the main accomplishments of the Latin American-Caribbean Centre (LACC) for the year 2018/2019. Major accomplishments included are:

  • The UWI Centre at the University of los Andes (Bogota, Colombia)
  • The UWI Centre at the University of Havana (Havana, Cuba)
  • Partnership with the University of Miami
  • Membership in the Hemispheric University Consortium
  • Mexico Chair at The UWI – Mona

The accomplishments highlighted advance The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) strategic goals of Access and Agility by creating opportunities for engagement in research and teaching with Latin American and Caribbean higher education institutions. Ultimately this will contribute to improved international rankings for The UWI.

Other activities by the Centre not included in this report include foreign language programmes, a graduate student teaching assistantship programme, representation of The UWI in regional fora, and relationship building activities.

The UWI Centre at the University of los Andes (Bogota, Colombia)

As of April 11 2019, The UWI has its first ever physical presence in South America, hosted at the University of los Andes (Uniandes) in Bogota, Colombia. After more than three decades of inactivity, the association between The UWI and Uniandes has resumed in an exciting and promising sustainable relationship with the establishment of the Strategic Partnership for Hemispheric Development. The agreement brokered by the Latin American Caribbean Centre (LACC) Director, Ambassador Gillian Bristol, was signed by Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr. Luz Longsworth, UWI and on behalf of Uniandes by then Rector, Dr. Pablo Navas Sanz de Santamaria.

The administrative office of the Strategic Partnership for Hemispheric Development will be housed at the Office for International Affairs at Uniandes, Bogota.

Prior to the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, meetings were held to define concrete areas of collaboration, particularly in the fields of Medical Sciences and Cultural Studies. The UWI’s Faculties of Medical Sciences (FMS) were represented by Dr. Tomlin Paul, Dean FMS, Mona and Dr. Winston De La Haye, Deputy Dean, FMS, Mona. Dr. Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, Director, Institute for Cultural Studies and Reggae Unit, also of The UWI Mona, led the talks on Cultural Studies programmes. Areas of mutual interest identified included research related to zebra fish, medical student internships, Spanish language immersion programmes, and comparative cultural studies. As a result of this interaction, a Master’s degree in Global Comparative Cultural Studies has been developed by Dr. Stanley-Niaah in consultation with the Institutes for Cultural Studies at the St. Augustine and Cave Hill campuses. The programme is under review, with the aim to launch in September 2020.

The UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles has since met with the newly appointed Rector of Uniandes, Dr. Alejandro Gaviria Uribe, who reiterated the commitment of his office to the strategic partnership and the deepening of the relationship between the two institutions. He stressed the importance of collaboration in critical issues of mutual concern for national and regional development, top among them public health and well-being.

The UWI-UH Centre for Sustainable Development

An historic step was taken on December 11, 2019 with the establishment of a joint University of Havana and University of the West Indies Centre for the Sustainable Development of the Caribbean. The establishment of the Centre marks the first time in almost 300 year of existence that the University of Havana (UH) has had the physical presence of a foreign institute of higher education. It is also the first time that The UWI has entered an overarching inter-institutional relationship with the well-renowned UH.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and the Rector of UH, Dr. Miriam Nicado Garcia, at the offices of the Centre at UH, which were also officially opened on that occasion. Witnessing the signing were Ambassador Gillian Bristol, Director of LACC and Dr. Dionisio Zaldivar, First Vice-Rector of UH, who were responsible for negotiating the agreement. Under the MOU the two Universities agreed to collaborate in three broad areas: Solutions to Endemic Health Challenges in the Caribbean; History and Reparatory Justice; and Renewable Energy. To this end, the Centre will design and implement three principal work programmes namely; Solutions-Oriented Research; Education, Training and Skills Development, and Transformative Innovations.

Partnership with the University of Miami

The UWI achieved a milestone agreement with the University of Miami (UM), formalising the longstanding working relationship between the two institutions with the signing of the first ever bilateral inter-institutional Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on October 22, 2019 at the Regional Headquarters of The UWI in Kingston, Jamaica. The agreement which was signed by Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and UM President, Dr. Julio Frenk, speaks to collaborations in education, training, clinical and research initiatives; mobility of faculty members and students; as well as co-sponsorship of research projects and shared funding.

The occasion marked the culmination of a series of negotiations which began in early 2017, under the coordination of the Latin American-Caribbean Centre. Two meetings key to this process were held in June and July 2017 at UM. The final agreement was reached at a subsequent meeting at UM on October 4, 2019 when Vice-Chancellor Beckles accompanied by Ambassador Bristol, met with Dr. Frenk, Dr. Felicia Knaul, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas of UM and Dr. Lourdes Dieck-Assad, UM Vice President for Hemispheric and Global Affairs.

Delegations of senior staff from both Universities witnessed the signing of the MOU and participated in the dialogue marked by a willing and enthusiastic commitment to joint endeavours to address the endemic problems of health-related poverty and underdevelopment in the Caribbean as well as the effects of climate change on sustainable development. Fulfilment of the core objectives of the partnership are intended to have relevant and sustainable impacts on the wellbeing and advancement of target communities. Collaborative research projects already underway by UM and The UWI were presented during the bilateral meeting and covered public health, local impacts of global warming, access to global technology, poverty reduction and youth entrepreneurship.

This partnership is already serving to advance The UWI’s access and agility strategic goals.

Membership in the Hemispheric University Consortium

The UWI is one of the founding members of the Hemispheric University Consortium (HUC) created in 2018 with 14 universities from Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States. The HUC’s objective is to collaboratively address some of the hemisphere’s most pressing problems, such as public health, climate change, sustainability and resilience. HUC member universities are committed to pursuing a higher level of integration through knowledge sharing, research, and understanding.

At the second meeting of the HUC hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles at The UWI, RHQ on October 22 2019, members signed an amended MOU. They agreed in principle to a Charter to govern their partnership, rules of procedure, and a funding mechanism. Presentations were also made on several joint projects already underway.

Membership in this consortium offers the opportunity for innovative research projects targeting specific and current regional issues. While the HUC identified the five main thematic areas which cover the critical development challenges facing the region, the meeting agreed to expand its scope as the need arises:

  • Public Health, Well-being and Human Prosperity
  • Climate Change, Sustainability and Resilience
  • Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Innovation
  • Crime, Conflict and Corruption
  • Technology and Innovation for Education

Participation in the consortium affords The UWI a unique opportunity to pursue its strategic objectives of access and agility. This through rapid engagement in joint research projects with top universities and their scientists to find sustainable solutions to the problems in the region and the world. This was emphasised by the Vice-Chancellor who renewed The UWI’s commitment to the HUC acknowledging it as a “very relevant strategy and effective tool to enable universities across this hemisphere to collaborate in partnership in the search for solutions that will be of a regional and hemispheric nature.”

Chairman of the meeting, Dr. Julio Frenk, President of the University of Miami which spearheaded the creation of the HUC, described it as “a unique mechanism for collaboration across the hemisphere based on the principles of equality, free exchange, mutual responsibility and mutual accountability …” and as a proven “platform for connecting institutions with a like-minded focus on creating knowledge and stimulating exchange around that knowledge on some of the most important consequential problems faced by our region and by the entire planet.”

Twelve of the 14 member Universities present on this occasion and signing the MOU were: Universidad Austral (Argentina); Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil); York University (Canada); The University of the West Indies (Caribbean); Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Chile); Universidad de los Andes (Colombia); Universidad de Costa Rica (Costa Rica); Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (Dominican Republic); Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador); Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico); Universidad de las Américas Puebla (Mexico); and University of Miami (United States).

Mexico Chair at The UWI – Mona

Through the MOU signed in May 2016 between The UWI and the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID), a Mexico Chair was created at The UWI Mona to strengthen cooperation in the fields of education and research in five subject areas: History, Political Sciences, Arts or Mexican Culture, Science and Technology.

Under that MOU, the Mona Campus has hosted two visiting professors from Mexico during the reporting period; Dr. Ruben Olachea Perez and Dr. Victor Manuel Lopez.

In 2018, Dr. Olachea was attached to the Department of History and the Department of Modern Languages in the Faculty of Humanities and Education and completed a successful tenure. Dr. Olachea reported to Professor Matthew Smith, then Head of the Department of History. Reports of the success of that visiting professorship sparked great interest in other Latin American countries and their Diplomatic Missions in Kingston explored with the LACC Director, Ambassador Bristol, ways in which their countries might also facilitate a similar programme. Those discussions are still evolving as national economic and political issues have affected implementation.

In 2019, LACC Director Ambassador Bristol conducted consultations with The UWI Faculty of Science and Technology and the Institute for Sustainable Development, and with the Embassy of Mexico to initiate the proceedings to select a Professor for the next instance. Dr. Lopez was unanimously selected by a Technical Commission – a team comprising academic experts from the Mona Campus, a representative of The UWI and a representative of the Government of Mexico and chaired by Ambassador Bristol.

The Mexico Chair furthers the achievement of the goals of The UWI’s Strategic Plan as it relates to the internationalisation of the university and greater access through professor mobility, joint research and knowledge sharing.