News Releases

UWI Leads UNICA efforts in Haiti

For Release Upon Receipt - March 10, 2010

St. Augustine

On March 15, 2010, members of the Association of Universities and Research Institutions of the Caribbean (UNICA), including Rectors of three Haitian universities, will meet at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus to explore strategies for the reconstruction of Haiti, with primary focus on its education system.

The UNICA conference is themed “Partnering for Sustainability” and will be hosted at the Institute of Critical Thinking at the St. Augustine Campus from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. The conference will focus specifically on mobilizing Caribbean Universities and Research Institutes to partner with Haiti in the rebuilding effort, with an emphasis on its tertiary sector. By collectively addressing Haiti, it is hoped that the conference will give UNICA members and other participants the opportunity to strengthen partnerships and reaffirm the important role of UNICA in the sustainable development of the Caribbean region.

Following the devastating 7.0 earthquake that rocked the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has taken the lead in developing the UNICA response to Haiti. Some of the support initiatives already being considered by UNICA-member universities include the reconstruction of schools and universities, scholarships to Haitian students and a rotation of shared faculty.

“Since the earthquake, The UWI has been working at several levels to provide assistance – humanitarian, sensitizing the various stakeholder groups about Haitian issues and positioning ourselves to help with the mid- to long-term recovery and reconstruction,” said UWI Vice Chancellor, Professor E. Nigel Harris.

The UNICA conference follows another meeting held in Jamaica on Wednesday, February 24, 2010, to mobilize the support of Caribbean universities to assist in the medium and long term reconstruction effort in Haiti, with particular emphasis on Haiti’s tertiary education sector. Diplomats representing seven countries with UNICA-member universities, including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, and Venezuela, as well as representatives of UNESCO and UWI attended. In an update on the damage to the education sector as a result of the earthquake at that February 24 meeting, Charge d’ Affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Haiti, H.E. Max J.C. Alce advised that “40 university professors and 1300 teachers are dead, 4000 students have died, 13 university faculty buildings have collapsed, 2394 schools have been destroyed.” He also emphasized that Haiti would need continuous help for some time to reconstruct its education system.

For more information on the UNICA conference, please contact The Events Unit of the Office of the Campus Principal at 868-662-2002 ext. 3937.


About UWI’s Response to Haiti

Following the magnitude 7 earthquake, The UWI has been working at several levels to assist with the mid to long-term recovery and reconstruction of Haiti.

  • The UWI’s Disaster Risk Reduction Centre has updated and broadened its database of expertise at the University (including construction engineers, physicians, psychologists, agricultural specialists and others) and is partnering with the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to provide medium and long term assistance in the reconstruction effort.
  • The UWI campuses are embarking on an effort to offer scholarships to over 100 Haitian students. UWI is also considering sharing its faculty with Haiti.
  • Bank accounts have been set up in campus countries. The collection currently stands at US$12,600, which will be transmitted through an appropriate agency to be used to directly assist Haiti’s displaced.
  • Staff and students continue to participate in collection drives for clothing, food items and toiletries. The Cave Hill Guild of Students in particular, has led a nationwide drive in Barbados and collected 125 barrels, 868 bags of clothing, 133 cases of water and 32 boxes of medical supplies – the single largest non-Governmental contribution to the Haiti relief in Barbados.
  • Other planned initiatives include public fora, lectures and panel discussions to sensitize the general public and any internal community to the situation in Haiti.


About UNICA and the UNICA Conference

Founded in 1967, The Association of Universities and Research Institutions of the Caribbean fosters cooperation among the higher education institutions in the Caribbean region. UNICA is an independent, voluntary organization that facilitates academic contacts and promotes collaborative projects involving institutions and academicians from across the entire region. UNICA supports the regionalization of higher education in the Caribbean and each year the Association gathers the highest rank officials of the universities in the Caribbean region to participate in its Annual General Meeting.

The UNICA Conference theme for this year is “Partnering for Sustainability.” The Rectors of four Haitian Universities, members of UNICA have been invited to share their experiences and identify areas in which the UNICA response will be most useful. Participants will then be expected to share information about their institutional response to the recovery and rebuilding effort in Haiti and on this basis, a plan will be discussed for a collective response of UNICA in partnership with our Haitian colleagues.

UNICA, the largest consortium of Caribbean universities established forty-seven years ago, is well-poised to play a significant role in harnessing the region’s talent and to work in tandem with the International community to assist Haiti. This effort can serve as a model for collaboration in providing leadership for sustainable development in the Caribbean as a whole. Dialogue will be encouraged on possible new objectives and priorities for UNICA in today’s tertiary education environment. Participants will be expected to discuss specific ways in which UNICA could make a tangible impact on/a contribution to sustainable development in the Caribbean. Areas to be highlighted may include (but are not limited to) teaching, research, innovation, advisory services, capacity-building, public-private partnerships and community engagement.

The 2010 UNICA conference will be followed by the UNICA Executive and Annual General Meetings on March 16, 2010, to be held at the Trinidad Hilton Hotel. It is hoped that the UNICA Conference and meetings will propose strategies for increasing the relevance and responsiveness of UNICA as a regional association, thereby enabling UNICA to play a more prominent role in guiding and supporting the regional development agenda and the well-being of its member institutions.

For a listing of UNICA members, visit   


About UWI

Over the last six decades, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged University with over 40,000 students. Today, UWI is the largest and most longstanding higher education provider in the English-speaking Caribbean, consisting of four campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and the new Open Campus. UWI is an international university with faculty and students from over 40 countries and collaborative links with over 100 universities around the world. Through its seven Faculties, UWI offers undergraduate and postgraduate certificate, diploma and degree options in Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Pure & Applied Sciences, Science and Agriculture, and Social Sciences. As an icon of Caribbean integration and culture, UWI remains committed to enhancing every aspect of Caribbean development and improving the well-being of the people of the Caribbean.



  • Events Unit of the Office of the Campus Principal

  • Tel.: 868-662-2002 ext. 3937
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