The Charter of Barbados
The following is an excerpt featuring the five Articles of the Charter of Barbados that was debated in the House of Assembly today.
We, the people of Barbados, in this 55th year of our constitutional Independence, reaffirming our commitment to the fundamental rights and freedoms won by those who came before us, vow to safeguard these achievements for all Barbadians and make the solemn pledge in this Charter of Barbados:
Underscoring the sanctity of the pledges we make to one another to ensure a peaceful, just and equitable Barbados whose well-being is grounded in the enfranchisement of all citizens;
Recognising that we are entering into a new chapter of our Independence, having taken the decisive step of choosing a Barbadian as our Head of State and intent on crafting our own Barbadian Constitution;
Unrelenting in our support for a democracy in which the sovereign power resides in the people in whose name and for whose benefit the powers of Government are to be exercised;
Recognising this land, its surrounding waters and its peoples as the uniquely unifying elements that nurture the soul of our Bajan society;
Celebrating with gratitude the indigenous inhabitants of this island, then known as Ichirouganaim, and vowing to honour their memories and preserve the material evidence of their civilisation in our possession;
Recalling the different journeys and diverse motives of our ancestors, some arriving to this land in search of new frontiers and exploits; most by compulsion and against their will, the vast majority of whom were uprooted from Africa, and having survived the horrors of the Middle Passage were condemned to toil under mass enslavement, one of the greatest crimes against humanity;
Embracing our diversity while acknowledging we are one people bound by love, respect and a duty of care for one another and our kinship as Barbadians.
Underscoring the fact that we are all equal by virtue of our humanity, in the eyes of the Creator and according to the laws of this land, regardless of our ancestry;
Conscious that the work of dismantling past and present inequities, and the building and sustaining of strong communities in their place requires us to confront legislatively, morally and sensibly, the problems and difficulties faced by our most vulnerable citizens through our daily choices and actions;
Appreciating the legacy of all those numerous Barbadians whose actions distinguished them as true patriots and whose lives of achievement and service enrich our history and continue as examples for us to follow;
Cherishing the foresight of the fathers of our democracy and Independence, in securing our right to vote, so that we may claim our destiny as an independent nation that affirms the principle that we shall be “friends of all and satellites of none”;
Convinced of the critical role the further integration and unity of our Caribbean community must play in fostering closer ties within our hemisphere, and peace and friendship with all the peoples of the world;
Taking into account the growing interdependence of the global community, and the international collaboration necessary for solving our greatest challenges;
And reaffirming our solidarity in the vision of a truly free, independent, fair and just Barbados for all;
Resolve to adopt the following:
All Barbadians are born free and are equal in human dignity and rights regardless of age, race, ethnicity, faith, class, cultural and educational background, ability, sex, gender or sexual orientation.
We must always remember the courageous and long struggle of the indigenous peoples of our region and of our enslaved African ancestors who fought against the oppressive and inhumane institution of slavery in which this country was settled. We are grateful for the legacy, bequeathed to us, of their cultural, artistic, entrepreneurial and scientific achievements carved out of the bleak wasteland that was colonisation and slavery.
Our people have survived the trauma of enslavement and many withstood extreme brutality, so we will never forget that freedom and equality are the most fundamental features of our national identity. We therefore reject, in our community, all forms of oppression, intolerance, discrimination and abuse, whether economic, mental, verbal or physical, and we commit to healing this nation and its people from the shame, pain and injustice of slavery on which it was founded.
Towards a just society
We commemorate the courage and sacrifice of all those who, through the centuries, fought for freedom and justice, especially those who took part in the rebellions of 1675 and 1816 which were instrumental to the emancipation of the enslaved in 1834; and those of 1876 and 1937.
We recognise the contribution of those who came to our shores as indentured servants from Britain and Ireland, and all those who followed later under other circumstances from Asia, Europe and other parts of the world.
We commit to working in good faith to heal the wounds inflicted on our people through centuries of enslavement, racism and oppression, in order to reconcile the fractures such inhumanity produced, and to seek reparatory justice and the economic enfranchisement of the systemically oppressed.
We reflect the intent and spirit to define our national identity and to guide our conduct towards the realisation of our social vision. This vision entails the creation of a truly just and fair society in which all citizens can find personal and collective satisfaction through empowerment, in order to develop their individual talents to the fullest benefit of our nation.
We acknowledge the multi-faith heritage of our society, and we appreciate the value added to our religious and spiritual culture by the diversity of all faith communities and spiritual entities, and their continuing capacity to have a strong and lasting influence on the quality of life in Barbados.
We value the cultural diversity brought to our shores by those people who were uprooted or those who arrived from near and distant lands for religious, economic and other varying reasons. Together we stand proudly as an integral part of the Caribbean civilisation that has given vibrancy to our own national identity.
We recognise the many ways in which languages and cultures were used historically as tools to separate the peoples of the Caribbean. We commit to strengthening our connections throughout our region and the wider world through learning and embracing the many languages represented. We acknowledge that language cannot be separated from the values of respect, tolerance and cooperation, and are germane to the national vision of nurturing global citizens with Barbadian roots.
Everyone in Barbados has a duty to care for each other and to ensure that our relationships are at all times characterised by courtesy, civility and mutual respect. We remain conscious that every generation is indebted to those generations that preceded it and is morally obligated to the one that follows.
We commit to resolve our conflicts in the spirit of tolerance, respect and acceptance of the diversity found amongst persons and within institutions.
We pledge to forge a more humane and inclusive society based on the principles of love and respect for our fellow man, and understanding that our differences contribute to making us who we are.
We affirm that our single greatest responsibility of one to another is to safeguard and protect the dignity of our common humanity – to be the true keeper of our brothers and sisters, especially the elderly, youth, differently abled, the incapacitated and other vulnerable people in our society.
We shall seek to strengthen ties between Barbadians of all ages in order to enshrine the dignity of and respect for one another. Understanding who children are and the critical role they have in our present and future, we shall prioritise, protect, guide, nurture, heal and love all our children, confident that raising them with such care would provide them with an example of how to raise their own children, and in effect create the foundation for emotionally stable and responsible citizens and residents. We uphold family as a key institution through which our present and future generations are and shall be nurtured.
Our progress shall be defined by our duty of care to one another which recognises economic enfranchisement, access to food and nutritional security, affordable and efficient public transport, water, sanitation, universal quality education, quality health care, affordable housing and the provision of social protections aimed at eradicating poverty and providing for the most vulnerable people within our society.
This is integral to ensuring an acceptable standard of living, an enhanced quality of life and affording full participation to all citizens in the overall development of our country. We are each other’s keeper.
We pledge to ensure that our successive elected governments remain mindful that the Barbadian definition of growth and progress must always be people-centred. We therefore commit to eliminating poverty through policies of social inclusion, equality of economic opportunity, ensuring access to essential services and the provision of social protection for the most vulnerable in our society.
We commit as individual Barbadians to the giving of time, energy and resources to our communities and national organisations so that they may increase their influence as positive change agents in the society.
We pledge to make the best use of opportunities for our further education, both formal and informal. We shall encourage industry, a spirit of innovation, entrepreneurial endeavour, sporting excellence, artistic creativity, media literacy, critical thinking, responsible use of technology, pluri-lingualism and the development of a culture of life-long learning within our society. We commit to taking pride in all that we do.
We commit to building a progressive and cohesive society through the empowerment and full engagement of our youth and communities in the pursuit of personal excellence, and the social and economic development of Barbados.
We acknowledge the critical role Barbadians by birth, by descent, by marriage and by choice have played in our national development, and we recognise the invaluable contribution of the Barbadian Diaspora. We reflect, with pride, on the past and present accomplishments of all Barbadians, wherever they may be, who remain rooted in our Bajan values and traditions, and who give life to the character of who we are as a people. We commit to facilitating the continued development and accomplishments of our people.
We acknowledge the invaluable contribution of the Social Partnership of workers, employers and Government, and of the Social Justice Committee to the stability and good governance of Barbados. We shall strengthen and expand this form of social consensus as an instrument of policy to protect the interests of workers, investors and consumers, while improving the competitiveness of the economy as part of our national development.
We urge that relations within the workplace be based on fairness, mutual respect and dignity so as to enhance the goals of the organisation and the well-being of its constituents. Workers and the trades unions are indispensable partners in our economic prosperity. Equally so are those who take the risks to invest in the production of goods and services.
We pledge in our employment relationships to strive at all times to create an environment of decent work, to follow established industrial relations best practices, to maintain service excellence, to ensure quality of production, and in general to work together with pride to increase the productivity and efficiency of the enterprises with which we are associated.
We commit to working towards a more efficient and more transparent public sector that places our citizens, residents and visitors at the centre of service delivery, which meets their expectations and facilitates the equitable growth and development of our country.
Every Barbadian has the right and a duty to participate in the economic, political and social life of Barbados as an expression of active citizenship. Every Barbadian has the right to vote and seek public office in accordance with the laws of this country.
We acknowledge the establishment of a Barbados Parliament in 1639 and the Charter of Barbados made at Oistins in 1652. We affirm the fact that a Parliament has met without interruption since 1639.
With its changing composition over the years, it has been a tool of oppression against the masses, and later an institution of empowerment and enfranchisement. Parliament enacted legislation to end slavery, to give us the right to vote, to protect the rights of workers, to undertake an aggressive reform of ownership of our tenantries, and to establish our political Independence and republican status.
We celebrate the unique part played in our history by each of our National Heroes for the betterment of some aspect of the lives of Barbadians, and for their contribution to our national development, through the expression of courage, sacrifice and the attainment of excellence.
We cherish the legacy of all those numerous Barbadians, heroes in their own right, whose actions distinguish them as true patriots, and whose lives of achievement and service enrich our history and continue as examples for us to follow.
We champion in our nation and across the world democratic freedoms, human rights, the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of all conflicts.
We affirm, principally by our own self-discipline and respect for the rule of law, support for our law enforcement agencies as they endeavour to rid our society of all crime, whether of violence, human trafficking, illegal drugs, financial crimes, including bribery and other forms of corruption, lawlessness and abuse. We acknowledge our duty as individual Barbadians to work with and support our law enforcement agencies.
We shall promote the right of access to information, and the right to freedom of communication and expression, provided always that there is protection of a citizen’s personal data, and that social or other media shall be respectful of the rights and reputation of citizens.
We agree to adhere to the basic tenets on which the rights and liberties of a representative democracy are founded in order to ensure there is a full understanding of the role and function of civil society, and the values that bind us as a people. We commit to active citizenship by participating in aspects of national development.
Everyone has the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment, and has a duty to participate in its preservation, conservation, enhancement and regeneration. We appreciate the defining importance of our land and sea to our identity and way of life, and therefore also pledge to protect the free and unrestricted access to all our beaches and public spaces, which is an inalienable right of every Barbadian.
Environment, sustainable development and resilience
We acknowledge the climate crisis and our duty to be world leaders in the promotion of and agitation for global recognition of this clear and present danger to our lives and livelihood. We pledge to adopt innovative policies and programmes to adapt and mitigate against our inherently vulnerable circumstances to build resilience and ensure our survival as a people and country.
Our public policies shall promote sustainable development through the protection and enhancement of the environment in all aspects of our economic and social progress.
We commit to be responsible stewards, to respect and protect our unique and vulnerable natural and built environment, ensuring that the actions taken to secure the needs of our present generations also safeguard the rights of future generations of Barbadians to meet their own needs.
As a small island state, we recognise the vulnerability of our economy and society to external factors. We therefore commit to expanding our support of locally produced goods and services for our local consumption and exportation.
We realise that by establishing ourselves as both creators and consumers of high-quality products and services, we will secure that level of national development which will benefit the entire society.
We acknowledge the historical trauma associated with our relationship to the land and sea. Hence, it is our responsibility to repair this relationship for current and future generations of Barbadians, and to ensure that it is defined through ownership, enfranchisement and access. We fully appreciate the importance of our land and sea to our livelihoods and quality of life, and we shall forever embrace the quintessential heritage of our island home.
We commit to the protection of our land, air and marine environment, in particular our gullies and coral reefs, through progressive public policies which support education, research and innovation, leading to their regeneration for the benefit of all.
We commit to expressing our Barbadian culture and heritage, and our values with unbridled confidence, and we acknowledge that our authenticity as a caring, just, respectful and inclusive people is at the heart of our social, environmental and economic development.
Barbados is part of a global community and strong international relations with other states is vital to national development. As a small island state we must exist harmoniously with others and work collaboratively to preserve global public goods. We will honour our international obligations while championing the causes that are important to safeguarding the future prosperity and stability of Barbados and the Caribbean.
Engaging the world
Historically, Barbados has made significant contributions to global dialogue on matters pertaining to small island developing states, rooting its foreign policy on the principles of dynamic, moral strategic leadership.
We further commit to strengthening our international relations, recognising that the challenges and solutions of sustainable development are the collective responsibility of our global village, and must be addressed through dynamic and ethical leadership, global action and collaboration among states.
Barbados reaffirms its commitment to the principles and values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. We commit to multilateralism as a platform for advocacy to achieve the global public goods, and as a platform to build consensus on the major challenges confronting the global community.
We commit to deeper cooperation among countries of the Global South, recognising that we must move beyond our traditional North Atlantic diplomacy. We commit to creating mutually beneficial relationships with countries in the developing world to facilitate technical cooperation, market diversification through commercial diplomacy, and cultural and social exchanges.
We reaffirm our support for regional integration through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recognising the critical importance of this institution to the advancement of our Caribbean civilisation.
We, the people of this great nation Barbados, encouraged by the resilience and ingenuity of those who came before us, stand on the threshold of a bright future, and we boldly embrace and solemnly affirm the aspirations contained in this Charter of Barbados.
May the hope it engenders permeate the length and breadth of this nation and distinguish it as a land of equal opportunity and enfranchisement, fairness and social justice, peace and security, and solidarity and cooperation.
May the commitment we now champion, progressively foster and nurture the ‘Soul of our Nation’ from generation to generation.