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March 27, 1998

Given the unstable economic situation plaguing many Caribbean countries, a real risk is for the region to use "its strategic location between North and South to enhance its profile as a hub and gateway for money laundering..." The warning has come from Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas, Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), delivering the keynote address a Caribbean youth leadership conference in Washington Friday.

Emphasizing the quality of leaders the Caribbean will require in future, Ambassador Thomas, who hails from Trinidad and Tobago, challenged the participants to consider the vital questions of character, commitment and selflessness that go into sound leadership. "Today, with so much drug money circulating, the challenge to leadership is to be capable of confronting those issues with a firm commitment to the value of human dignity, not only of the individual, but also of the collective social unit."

"Everywhere in the Caribbean today, governments are changing with the young educated leaders assuming the reigns of leadership,"Ambassador Thomas told the conference, which was hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a prominent think-tank. He said more and more, young people are called upon to take the reigns of leadership in Caribbean countries, in step with the demands of the times.

Other important challenges before the region's leaders the OAS deputy chief identified as environmental preservation and social development. On the latter, he said that "the Caribbean finds itself in this era at a dangerous crossroad in terms of it social evolution."

The conference, using the theme "Forging New Ground: Leading the Caribbean into the 21st Century," was jointly sponsored by the CSIS Americas Program and the OAS and drew on CSIS Caribbean Leadership Program members from various Caribbean countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Barbados' Education, Youth Affairs and Culture Minister, Mia Mottley, and Dominica's Communication, Works and Housing Minister, Earl Williams were among the main presenters.

Discussion panels were organized around: Preparing for the Future: Youth and the Promises of Leadership; Leading in the Caribbean: Governance and Democracy; Leadership and Youth in Times of Change and Opportunity; and The Caribbean in a Changing Environment: Economics, Trade and Business.

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