Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Plan to expand region’s reach


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“He’s a real find for us. We are fortunate to have been able to secure his very valuable services and extensive experience.”
Professor Nigel Harris, vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), was lauding  Dr Andy Knight, one of Canada’s foremost international relations scholars.
The reason he was so ecstatic was straightforward enough: the Barbadian is joining the Caribbean’s premier tertiary level educational institution in January as director of its Institute of International Relations in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We are confident he is going to help us broaden  the reach and the impact of the institute,” said Harris. “He is truly an outstanding scholar.”
Dr Knight, who has taught international relations and political science at universities in Canada, Japan and Switzerland, is chairman of the Department  of Political Science at the University of Alberta  in Edmonton. He is going to the UWI in Trinidad  and Tobago on a five-year secondment.
The Bajan, who grew up in Deacons Road,  St Michael, is convinced he can make a substantial difference at the institute and  in the Caribbean.
“The institute has been in existence since 1966 and therefore it’s not  a fly-by-night educational institution,”  Knight said.
“I want it to remain highly regarded as a solid academic institution. But I also want to see it establish more links with other tertiary institutions in different parts of the world. That’s one of the things I was able to achieve at the University of Alberta and I see this as one of my goals.
“The institute must not be seen simply as an international relations ivory tower, but as a centre  that helps the Caribbean expand international trade ties and helps the small countries of the region punch above their weight. The challenge is how to prevent  the countries in our region from becoming insular,”  the professor said.
It was interesting that he referred to the ability to “punch above” one’s weight. It’s a boxing analogy first used several years ago by Kofi Annan, who was United Nations Secretary General at the time, to describe the impact of Barbados on the international community.
“That was quite a compliment because it shows how small countries can use their leverage to go beyond the limitations of size,” Knight said.
High on the new director’s list of priorities  is the use of modular programmes to expand training opportunities and the institute’s outreach to people  in both the public and private sectors.
“We can have modular programmes for diplomats, ministries of foreign affairs, defence and security,  and for the private sector,” he said. “Modular courses provide training in the inter-connectedness  of today’s world.”
That’s why he sees a far greater role for Caribbean business in both the institute’s course offerings and  its funding, and he intends to pursue that strategy almost from the get-go after taking over  the institute’s leadership.
Dr Knight, son of Sheila Knight and brother of Joy Knight-Lynch of the Barbados Youth Orchestra, is well connected to the international network of tertiary level schools in different parts of the world and he plans to use those ties to the UWI’s advantage.
The Barbadian, whose ground-breaking research  on conflict and child soldiers in Africa helped  to shape UN policies on the reintegration of teenagers in society when the fight was over, has written extensively on an array of issues for scholarly publications and books.
“I see my return home to the Caribbean  as an opportunity to give back something to a region that has given me quite a lot,” he said.
“In Barbados, people must think how the institute can help them build capacity and how it can help  train representatives who go abroad or serve  in the private sector. Barbados should play  a key role in the institute.”

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