The Caribbean Commission began as the Anglo American Caribbean Commission on March 9, 1942, a cooperative effort of the United States and the United Kingdom to deal with the World War II emergency. Reorganized in 1945 as the Caribbean Commission, France and the Netherlands were included, but the life of the organization was terminated in 1957.
Concerns by British and American authorities about reports on the state of Caribbean misery—especially the Moyne Commission Report (1938), war conditions, and the impact of German submarine activity on the region made colonial defense a priority for the United States and Britain. In return for a ninety-nine year lease to establish naval and military bases in the region, fifty antiquated American naval destroyers were given to Britain. American bases were established in seven British Caribbean territories.
Each country had three representatives on the commission, one of which was designated cochair. The commission functioned as two national sections. The British Section was the Barbados-based Colonial Development and Welfare Organisation and the American section was administered from Washington, D.C., as a part of the Department of State.
Charged with the responsibility of attending to social and economic issues pertaining to the region and advising their respective governments, the commission undertook a survey of ways to cope with the basic social and economic problems of the region and formulated war emergency measures. From 1942 to 1945 the commission held seven formal meetings and organized two conferences.
The commission established two auxiliary bodies. The Caribbean Research Council was established in August 1943 to advise the commission on mutual problems of the member nations. The membership of the council included representatives from Britain, the United States, and Holland. The council established committees on agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and nutrition and later added committees on public health and medicine, industrial technology, building and engineering technology, and social services. The second auxiliary body was the West Indian Conference, a forum for the discussion of regional matters, which was first held in Barbados, March 21-30, 1944.
Over the fifteen-year period of its existence, the commission successfully directed the region's war survival strategy, identified a ten-point development program for the region that focused on the most critical issues in Caribbean development, and developed programs around them. Unemployment relief was offered through the American bases and a labor recruitment scheme. A Venereal Disease Control Center was established to provide free blood testing, and there were increased opportunities for education and training. The commission offered greater attention to regional matters, it provided the opportunity for the United States to play a larger role in the social and economic life of the region, it helped to foster increased contact between the American and British colonies, and it promoted greater information exchange and communication among the British West Indian territories. Ironically, one of its major contributions was that it provided an avenue for the growth and expression of nationalism in the region, a factor that contributed to its own demise.
Anglo American Commission, "International Action and the Colonies." Fabian Publishers Ltd., Research Services No. 75, 1943 (CO 318/452/6 71265).
Corknan, Herbert. Patterns of International Cooperation in the Caribbean, 1942–1969. Dallas, Tex.: Southern Methodist University Press, 1970.
Frazier, Franklin and Eric Williams, eds. The Economic Future of the Caribbean. Dover, Mass.: Majority Press, 2004.
Report of the Anglo American Caribbean Commission to the Governments of the United States and Britain for the Year 1942-1943 (CO 318/421/7 71265 1943).
USA Section of the Anglo American Commission, "A Record of Progress in Facing Stern Realities." Washington, D.C., 1943.
d. rita pemberton (2005)