Antigua and Barbuda
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Antigua and Barbuda lie on the edge of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, in the Leeward Islands. Since gaining independence, the Bird family have been dominant in national politics, and it was not until 2004 that a President emerged from outside of the family. Many of the most serious issues affecting children’s rights relate to juvenile justice, in the context of which, life imprisonment and corporal punishment are both legal.
Antigua and Barbuda are among the Leeward Islands on the edge of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The uninhabited island of Redonda is also under the control of the State. The islands have a tropical climate, though they are on the hurricane belt. The capital city is St John's.
Population and Language
The country is home to almost 90,000 people, a figure that has fluctuated over the past thirty years, but has settled into sustained growth. The annual population growth rate has been between 1 and 1.5 per cent since 2005. Most Antiguans are descendants of slaves brought to labour the sugar fields during the slave trade, but around 10 per cent of the population is made up of Hispanic immigrants, largely from the Dominican republic.
English is the most widely spoken language.
History and Politics
The first settlers of the islands arrived around 2400BC, and these settlers were gradually replaced by the pastoral Arawak people in the first century AD. Europeans first made contact with the Island in 1493, upon Christopher Columbus' second voyage to the Americas, though it was not until 1632 that the islands were settled by Englishmen from already colonised St Kitts. From the late 17th century into the 18th century, the country was cultivated to grow sugar, in large part by slave labour from Africa. When slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834, the economy actually continued to develop, but as the sugar industry declined, so did national prosperity. In the 1940s, the Labour movement started to develop which paved the way for those seeking independence. By 1967, Antigua and Barbuda became associated states of the Commonwealth, and in 1981 gained full independence as a unitary state.
For most of Antigua and Barbuda's post-independence history, it has been under the political control of the Bird family. Vere Bird, of the Antiguan Labour Party became the first independence Prime Minister in 1981 and was succeeded by his son, Lester, in 1994. In 2004, Baldwin Spence, the leader of the United Progressive Party, became the first Prime Minister from outside the Bird family for more than 50 years. The Head of State is formally Queen Elizabeth II as represented by the Governor General, Dame Louise Lacke-Tack.
Antigua and Barbuda is an upper middle income country though it has a narrow economic base heavily reliant on tourism, which accounts for around half of the country's GDP. Tourism is also the dominant source of employment, with estimates that the industry may employ as much as 75 per cent of the population. The islands are also a centre for offshore financial activities, for which the US notoriously identified them as “one of the most attractive centres in the Caribbean for money launderers”. The State has been in conflict with the U.S. For many years with regards to its online gambling industry, a conflict which led to the World Trade Organisation ruling of 2007, in which the WTO found that the U.S. Had failed to relax restrictions on off-shore gambling in compliance with a previous ruling.
Antigua and Barbuda is part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which is a single market area as well as a mechanism to coordinate foreign policy.
Media and Civil Society
Antigua and Barbuda has a range of daily and weekly publications that carry a range of opinions, including those critical of the government. Freedom House has noted, however, that media outlets “are concentrated among a small number of firms affiliated with either the current government or its predecessor”. The first private radio station, Observer Radio was launched in 2001, five years after the initial application was made. Media freedom appears to be largely unrestricted, though Reporters Without Borders reported on the unexpected expulsion of two journalists in 2007, though it was not established that there were adverse political motivations behind the deportation.
There is limited civil society activity in the country, though the State enacted the Freedom of Information Act in 2004.
Human Rights and Children's Rights
Among the most serious human rights issues facing children in Antigua and Barbuda are those in relation to the justice system. The State has a very low age of criminal responsibility and national law allows for corporal punishment and life imprisonment to be imposed as penalties for persons under the age of 18.
- UNDESA, Population Statistics 2011
- The Economist, "Vere Bird: Obituary" 15 July 1999
- The World Trade Organisation, Dispute DS285
- Freedom House, "Freedom in the World 2010: Antigua and Barbuda"
- Reporters Without Borders, "Two CARICOM journalists expelled withotu justification" 15 June 2007
- CRIN, "Antigua and Barbuda: Inhuman sentencing of children" 2 December 2010
- OHCHR, "Antigua and Barbuda Homepage"
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "Antigua and Barbuda Country Profile"
- The Commonwealth Network, "Antigua adn Barbuda Commonwealth Yearbook Country Profile"
- BBC, "Antigua and Barbuda Country Profile" 14 December 2011
- Reporters Without Borders (see footnotes)
- The Economist (see footnotes)