The region pays tribute to Sir George Alleyne, out-going PAHO Director
Guyana Chronicle
April 22, 2002

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“It is significant how catalytic Sir George has been in moving the process of health reform in the region…”
--CARICOM Secretary General Edward Carrington

By Stacey Davidson
A towering intellect, a public servant possessing strength of character and dedicated to the cause of effective advocacy of health as a critical factor to economic development in the region. These were just some of the many phrases voiced by his colleagues as they paid tribute to Sir George Alleyne out-going Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).

Among those paying tribute to this Caribbean icon at Le Meridien, Pegasus on Friday evening, were Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, and CARICOM head Responsible for the Regional Portfolio of Health and HIV/AIDS; Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations; Dr Douglas Slater, Minister of Health and the Environment of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Secretary General of CARICOM, Mr Edward Carrington.

The tributes by other distinguished regional and international personages with whom Sir George has interfaced during his term of office, were published in a special booklet circulated at the ceremony.

Mr Carrington, who was the chairperson for the evening’s proceedings hosted by the Caribbean Community, and which coincided with the Sixth Meeting of the Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD), noted that the “professional trails blazed by Sir George, with regards to the importance of health in development, continues to provide for others who have responsibility for managing regional organisations, examples of how commitment to principles as a guide to action is an unassailable attribute”.

The Secretary General jocularly declared that the Barbadian Sir George had “arrogantly arrogated unto himself the distinction of winning every conceivable prize throughout his illustrious studentship and thereby etched (for himself) indelibly into the records of the University of the West Indies (UWI) a specially high place on its honour role”.

He added that Sir George’s philosophy could be seen in the context of the effects of structural adjustment on the health sector in the Caribbean, which were essentially, but not totally, negated as a result of advocacy and application of regional health policies, and many other important achievements in this domain.

“Indeed, it is significant - in reading through the various tributes and from our own records - how catalytic Sir George has been in moving the process of health reform forward, and what an impact his thinking has had on the policies and practices and the gains in health in the Caribbean and the Americas,” Carrington remarked.

The CARICOM Secretary-General further noted that Sir George provided the most penetrating comments and suggestions that were incorporated in the final version of the Nassau Declaration, ‘The Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region’, adopted at the Conference of Heads of Government in the Bahamas last July.

This document, according to Carrington, is a landmark for future action and could secure the health of the region and contribute significantly to the Caribbean’s continuing economic growth, development and competitiveness in the global arena.

Mr Carrington advised that as the Caribbean moves towards the establishment of a Single Market and Economy (CSME), it is important to be guided by Sir George’s “insightful views” on this and other related issues on health and development.

Dr Slater in his tribute reminded Sir George Alleyne that it was he who advised that the inaugural meeting of COHSOD held in Jamaica in 1988 which focused on health, would be useful for national COHSODs to play a role in the development of a mission statement, which could be refined by the CARICOM Secretariat.

“You will be pleased to know, Sir George, that since 1988 in consultation with National COHSODs, a formula has evolved which is gradually helping to mould an inter-sectoral approach to the work of COHSOD,” Dr Slater noted.

He also pointed out that COHSOD VI has approved an integrating theme, ‘Investing in Human Capital with Equity’. This theme was subsequently modified at last year’s meeting to ‘Investing in Human Resources with Equity’.

In his response, a very emotional Sir George Alleyne attributed his success to his wife, on whose support and advice, he always relied. He assured the gathering that even though he would be retiring, his work is not yet done.

“I believe that I have become clearer about the fight to be fought in health, and I have seen it very clearly from the vantage point of a Pan- American perch.

“The fight is, of course, to ensure that all of our citizens have access to those sanitary and social measures that are necessary for them to enjoy health in the pristine sense of the word - health meaning to be hale - to be hearty and to be whole.”

He reiterated that the struggle must continue to give body and strength to the work of the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH).

According to Sir George, there are aspects of cooperation that are not being used to the fullest.

“There are still too many good practices that are being developed in one place, but not being disseminated widely.

“I confess to being disappointed that lessons in management of services and reform of services are not being disseminated. But on the other hand, I take pride in many of the significant achievements you have made over the years.”

The respected regional scholar reflected on the turbulent times of the Caribbean and recalled the riots of 1937, which he said, are sometimes referred to as “disturbances”.

“I suppose in that environment and in those times were sown the seeds of my social conscience.”

Sir George Alleyne is the first Caribbean national to serve as Director of PAHO. Other PAHO posts held by him were: Chief of the Unit of Research Promotion and Coordinator in the Division of Human Resource and Coordination; Director of Health Programmes; and Assistant Director of PAHO.

Guyana Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy presented Sir George Alleyne with a gift of an album of photographs of all his visits to this country.