The First Caribbean Conference of National Trusts took place in Barbados in May 2014 and provided an excellent
opportunity to learn and network with the region’s National Trusts (including Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, Bermuda and Canada) amongst others.
The Conference provided a great opportunity to strengthen the ties between the National Trusts of the Caribbean, to build regional capacity and develop a local network. Delegates sought to share experience in protecting, restoring and reusing historic sites, in promoting the nomination of World Heritage Sites and in sensitising governments to the value of our heritage.
We learned that not all National Trusts are the same. Some, such as the National Trusts of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica are government agencies. Others, such as Bermuda and Montserrat are strict ngos. While several of the ngos receive small state subventions, all are largely independent and seen as a trusted partner and conscience of government heritage policies.
It was inspiring to hear from the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust about their work to engage the local community in finding an alternative to whaling. Now the chief whaler has hung up his harpoon, his whaling gear is in a museum and he runs fantastic whale-watching tours. A great success story! Let’s hope their plan to move an ancient petroglyph out of the path of the coming airport has a similarly positive outcome.
So, the Trusts have different structures. They also focus on slightly different things. Some organisations such as Citizens for Conservation in Trinidad and Tobago concentrate efforts on advocacy, awareness raising, lobbying and advice. Others, like Belize and Curacao, are grant giving.
The Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) is Belize’s National Trust and provides funds for supporting conservation and promoting environmentally sound management of the country’s natural and cultural resources. PACT is a bold and innovative strategy for non-traditional revenue generation, primarily financed from the collection of a conservation fee of BZ $7.50 (US $3.75) paid by visitors to Belize upon their departure and a 20% commission from cruise ship passenger fees. Many of those present saw this model as something to replicate back home.
Most are involved in historic property stewardship, some in land management. All have a role to play in raising awareness, in winning over hearts and minds to the conservation cause, summed up by the Saint Lucia National Trust “we will use our essential and often fascinating conservation and environmental work to inspire and engage people more deeply in our activities, encouraging people not only to ‘join’ but to ‘join in’ our vital cause. We want the Trust to be less of an amenity and more of a movement”.
With all of us wondering about the future of a membership-based organisation focussed on visiting historic house museums, this challenge to better communicate our cause resonates across the globe. Many of the Trusts meeting here are struggling with funding and looking for innovative ways to engage the public, the business world, philanthropists and governments to secure the resources that we need for our work.
So, we are all different but we share many of the same goals and challenges. Alongside financing our future, the other common themes were the threat of external development pressure on the places we love, winning hearts and minds, bearing in mind whose culture it is we are trying to preserve – particularly thorny in the Caribbean – and finding the right use for historic buildings that balance conservation goals with community engagement and return on investment.
As Professor Henry Fraser noted in his introduction to the event, “sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”. Now we feel that both hands can work together to weave the common threads into a strong, National Trust tapestry.
(Taken from Catherine Leonard’s blog.)