Reflections on Future of Guyana in Caribbean Community
University of Guyana (UG) Professorial Lectures series commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Guyana’s Republic Status and UG’s 57th Year
By Edward Greene, Chancellor, University of Guyana
This presentation is drawn from research being undertaken for a manuscript/book on Reflections on the Future of the Caribbean. Preparations for the presentation have inspired me to expedite the process for completing the manuscript for publication. The presentation has been limited to the underlying factors that Guyana can collectively advance as part of the CARICOM Community of sovereign states. At the same time, we realize that the actual reflections on future role that Guyana can play in CARICOM require greater refinement, elaboration and speculative prescriptions. Your comments will be appreciated.
Introduction: The Why and How of Reflections
Our reflection is what we see in the mirror. Other things that bounce back at us are also reflections — light waves, sound waves, shadows of images, even our thoughts. Reflections in this sense denotes the process whereby in any complex group or association or system, activities at one level reflect outcomes taking place at a deeper level. Or to put it another way, changes taking place in the relations of production must be reflected in changes and movements in the political sphere. Or we could say that the upsurge in the women’s movement in the 1970s reflected the movement of women into the workforce and the socialization of women’s work (not the other way round!).
But there is another and more philosophical way to think of reflections. As they apply to the identity of an integration movement for example, they revolve around contradictions that arise from the sharpening of diversity. Hegel, the German philosopher wrote about this. He was of the view that contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality: “it is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity”1.
Hence what we want to do in this conversation is to look into the mirror, take note of the images that bounce at us, like how politics relate to economics and social change and how diversity affects the identity of groups and associations. As we note, all these images have built-in reflective contradictions. Given the history of association, reflections on the politics and economics of Guyana are manifested in the developments and contradictions of CARICOM.
Guyana in CARICOM is important
Guyana’s embrace of CARICOM is underpinned by the fact that it was one of the founding members of CARIFTA in 1968, one of the signatories to the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973, that established the Caribbean Community, the host of the inaugural CARIFESTA in 1972, one of three original signatories to the CCJ as the Region’ s court of final appeal and the site of the CARICOM Secretariat. It is also a major contributor to the most celebrated West Indies cricket team, under its most successful captain, Sir Clive Lloyd.
Throughout the years, Guyana has provided leadership in CARICOM especially on agriculture and sustainable development, including low-carbon emissions, among other things. It is in Guyana that the African, Caribbean
and Pacific (ACP) Group was formally launched in 1993, which led to the establishment of Lomé 1 that ushered in a new form of international trade and economic relations on the principle of sovereign equality rather than imperial relations. It is two Guyanese, Havelock Brewster and Clive Thomas that wrote the seminal work, The Dynamics of West Indian Economic Integration in 1969 that introduced scholars, policy makers and practitioners to the prospects of sustainable regional development.
Looking into the Mirror Through the Thoughts Some Caribbean Thinkers is an
Important Part of this Conversation
In the 1980s, Guyana, one of 36 countries, mainly in Africa was designated a highly indebted poor country (HIPC) facing an unsustainable debt situation. Today with the advent of an oil economy, Guyana is projected to be among the richest countries in the region and the hemisphere. What does this dramatic change mean for Guyana within the Caribbean Community? A knee jerk response is best expressed in the poignant lyrics of the song by Busta (a local calypsonian), “Guyana got oil: everybody want to be we friend” But the question is best answered through the reflections of some thought leaders who have pronounced on the kernel of the regional developments. First, that integration for the Caribbean is not an option but an imperative; and, second, based on History, Guyana’s umbilical connection to CARICOM.
Let us look at Integration as an Imperative
In his book, My Political Journey3, The Most Honorable P.J. Patterson, former Prime Minister of Jamaica clearly reflected on the work of Brewster and Thomas that defined some core principles leading to the benefits of regional integration. Despite the experience of Guyanese (the Guyana Bench at the Grantley Adams Airport, Barbados) narrated by Busta, these principles remain true today. Among them:
Growth and human development that allow people and inputs to move to more productive
opportunities, and allow finished goods and services to reach broader markets.
Harmonized frameworks for cross border mobility of goods, services and people.
New exploration of regional economic policy by increasing market scale, larger labour
pools, and diversified resource and production bases.
The Most Honorable P.J. Patterson, while identifying its failures and defects, stressed some major accomplishments of CARICOM which are often disregarded in the rush to castigate the regional movement. He points to:
Its record in the areas of functional cooperation, especially education, health and responses to natural disasters. Outstanding examples of which are The Caribbean Examination Council and the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV (PANCAP) designated as an international best practice by the UN for coordinating positive regional responses to HIV and AIDS. [ Let us acknowledge the outstanding leadership of Dereck Springer who has recently demitted office as Director of PANCAP]
The establishment of the Single Market and the stimulus to regional commerce including the creation of common external tariffs which has resulted in dismantling the barriers to trade and commerce within the Community.
The establishment of the CCJ, empowered to exercise original jurisdiction and offers the option of a Court of final jurisdiction which so far, has been taken up by only five countries including Guyana.
To these must be added the important roles of CARICOM Institutions like the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency (CDEMA), Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (5Cs) and Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
Another reflection that illumines the imperative of integration is provided by Sir Shridath Ramphal in the first memorial Rex Nettleford Lecture, at the beginning of the last decade in 2011, in Trinidad and Tobago. He referred to Nettleford’s great purpose to promote self-knowledge and a creative sense of self-worth in the Caribbean person, a self- confident sense of identity in community. Sir Shridath’s eloquent lamentation offers a relevant caution to our ‘reflections on the future’ of regional integration. He said, “The several tiny pieces of our archipelago so preoccupy themselves with island home that together they are losing their vision and abandoning their project of a Caribbean homeland”. Sir Shridath’s appeal to the Rex’s memory “to help to recall us to our destiny” looms large in the reflective thoughts and corrective actions required to fashion a viable regional economy, of which Guyana, even with its prospects of a buoyant prosperous new economy, will be a major beneficiary.
Guyana’s umbilical connection to CARICOM is indeed its Destiny
To achieve this destiny, it is clear that the Community must exist not merely in the words of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, but as a tangible entity seen by its people as a vital part of their lives. Sir Shridath helps us to reflect on what the Community may have been today if Guyana had not inexcusably abstained from joining the Federation in 1958: “it would have been a state that commanded our national pride and respect of the international community while keeping our several island cultures and values”.
Yet it is Guyana together with Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados which initiated the Caribbean Dialogue in 1965 that led to the revival of regional integration with the establishment of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA). And it was the Prime Minister of Guyana with his counterparts in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago together that signed the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973, aptly referred to in West India Commission Time for Action (1990) as a landmark in the History of West Indies people.
Reflections of CONTRADICTIONS AND CHALLENGES
In the history of integration there are several contradictions and challenges that impede the movement toward a mature union. Among the major ones are (a) using separateness against each other; (b) pitching sovereignty against community; and (c) engaging in the ‘variable geometry of integration”.
Using our Separateness against each other
Eric Williams’ notorious arithmetic 1 from 10 leaves naught in 1962 is an illustration of fragmentation that ended the Federal experiment. At the same time, he was the same scholar- politician who advocated for a unified front in dealing with the outside world in diplomacy, foreign trade and foreign investment. In his book, From Columbus to Castro he pronounced that the countervailing power of small individual units vis a vis strong outside governments and companies requires nothing less than “a single Centre of decision making.” This I believe is the overarching confrontation posed by Hon Mia Mottley, recently, about the US Secretary of State’s visit to Jamaica. The stand taken by the Barbados Prime Minister triggers a reflection on the regional disagreement about what was done after the internal coup in Grenada in October 1983 when some countries — Barbados, Jamaica and the OECS territories — concealed their intentions to support the US invasion that prompted the famous calypsonian Gabby’s appeal to the then Prime Minister, Tom Adams: “Is it necessary to have so many soldiers in this country” with the refrain “Left, Right, Left, Right, Government Boots… Stop them soldiers from marching “[Incidentally this was produced and directed by Guyanese, Eddie Grant in his studio]
Overcoming this separateness was also the essence of reflections by Sir Arthur Lewis on the earlier Caribbean movement in the Epilogue to Sir John Mordecai’s book, the case for a West Indian Federation (1968)7. His view was that “The West Indies need a federation as the ultimate guardian of political freedom in each island.
Federation is needed to preserve political freedom”. At a later period, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Patrick Manning was to revive the issue. First, in 2004 when he floated the idea of a political union of Trinidad and Tobago with Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And in the second instance in 2008, he advanced the notion of a political union of Trinidad and Tobago with six Eastern Caribbean countries. In both cases, the proposals were deemed to advance a form of separatism with a top down “exclusive” approach to political integration without consulting the people. In response to the 2004 formula, P.J. Patterson, Jamaica’s Prime Minister rejected the proposal by saying “Jamaica will not be caught by a non-ball”. Owen Arthur, Barbados Prime Minister in 2008 likened the call for political union to “a song with an exciting melody but no lyrics” The reflective thoughts in both cases reinforced a commitment to the principle of a community of sovereign states.
Sovereignty over Community
Sovereignty over community provides another reflection of contradictions. CARICOM countries have never agreed to harmonize their external relations, as have the 28 countries of the European Union (EU), — now 27 with Brexit formalized last week. The EU countries conduct their collective policies through a single European Commission under the direction of a Council of Ministers of the member states. CARICOM governments have clung to the notion, “CARICOM as a community of sovereign states”. In affirming this position in their external relations, they have placed the rights of “sovereignty” over the obligations of “community”, allowing each of them to pursue short term benefits from external sources at the expense of the longer term gains they would get from being seen, indeed and in fact, as a solid and unshakeable group.
Anthony Payne’s Political History of the Caribbean which offers a full account of the period from the end of Federation to the beginning and early years of CARICOM, fully illustrates the bitter recriminations including the feeling of betrayal by the Prime Ministers of Guyana (Burnham) and Trinidad and Tobago (Chambers) that almost led to the break-up of CARICOM. Payne’s study reveals that Jamaica under Edward Seaga had aimed to replace CARICOM with a lesser organization embracing non Caribbean countries. Michael Manley who replaced Seaga in 1972 brought Jamaica back to its roots and ANR Robinson, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, according to Sir Shridath, “helped CARICOM to return to its intellectual moorings”. He was correct. Robinson’s, paper, “The West Indies beyond 1992” presented to CARICOM Heads of Government in Grand Arnse, Grenada July 1989, provided yet another reflection. It referred to structural constraints on small development states, the awareness of a common Caribbean identity to avoid the Caribbean becoming a backwater, and the need to prepare collectively to improve the region’s place in the international community of nations. This resulted among other things in the establishment of the West Indies Commission.
To solve these problems, The West India Commission’s Report Time for Action recommended a central executive committee to ensure implementation of the agreements of CARICOM Heads in their “collective” sovereignty. It made the case for active involvement of the private sector and civil society in the region’s decision making structure. But these recommendations joined the long list of already forgotten CARICOM declarations, “the implementation deficit”.
The Variable Geometry of Integration
Turning to The concept of variable geometry or multi-speed integration as explained by Guyanese scholar, Prof Denis Benn [it] is applicable to all integration systems and is particularly a feature of the CARICOM Community. In this case, members are all committed to the same objectives contained in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. But some members opt for a longer time frame within which to achieve these objectives. An example is the Bahamas, a member of the Community but has opted out of the CSME. In other instances, tensions have arisen from time to time. Among these are (a) the relationship between CARICOM and OECS established in 1981 under the Treaty Basseterre which involves a number of supranational arrangements; (b) Suriname and Guyana as members of the South American Union (UNASUR); and (c) Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia St Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti as members of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA). In each case, these variations in integration have led to strains on the regional movement. More recently, there was a significant lobby for another kind for Jamaica to establish closer ties with Northern the Caribbean countries, namely the Dominican Republic and Cuba, including in the negotiation of trade agreements with third States.
It is revealing that The Golding Commission to “Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks”, February 2018 noted: “the value of regional integration…is as relevant and useful and perhaps, even more urgent today than it was at [CARICOM’s] inception” Among its novel recommendations to placate the contradictions between “collective” and national” sovereignty are to include instituting sanctions for willful non-compliance of commitments made, and the establishment of a Central Dispute Settlement Body similar to that of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which would offer non-judicial options for settlement of disputes. These recommendations are pending.
From these reflections it is clear that the Community although preoccupied with the implementation of the CSME, requires a much broader unifying framework. As we shall argue, it requires elevating the cultural symbols and an inspiring rallying call against separation and fragmentation. Can Guyana in its new and emerging role in this decade offer a lifeline to CARICOM, also for its own survival.
GUYANA in CARICOM
The umbilical connection between Guyana and CARICOM, extends beyond the initiation of the Community, to the role that it must play in the survival and sustainability of the Community. This is fully illustrated in a series of reflections on the future. They include: the general charge from the current CARICOM Chair and more specifically on elements of CARICOM’s sustainability revolving around: (a) building compelling reasons for others to want to do business in the Caribbean; (b) modernizing the structures of decision through e-governance, digitization and digital literacy; (c) understanding the pivotal role of Guyana Oil allied to the Caribbean Regional Energy Programme; (d) establishing Guyana as a model for Climate Change by aligning oil and gas with a green economy; (d) investing in human capital and (e) making people the Center of sustainable development.
Both Prime Minister Mottley’s general charge and the specific elements, each provide a topic for a separate conversation. So, I will briefly sketch the contours on each.
Call to Action in the New Decade
Prime Minister Mia Mottley call to action in her 2020 New Year’s message as CARICOM Chair, established priorities for the Region. The overarching message is making the region more competitive. It focuses on specific issues such as the acceleration of free movement of people and provision for migrants; movement toward a single domestic space through enhanced air, sea and telecommunications links; greater engagement of the private sector and labour in advancing economic development; greater collaboration among member states in tackling climate change, renewable energy, the blue economy, and ICT.
While this menu by Prime Minister Motley forms a useful basis for future engagements in the Community, reflections on the future of Guyana in CARICOM require special considerations.
Both Guyana and the Community share the common objectives of making the region more competitive. An important element of this is an efficient single market. Accordingly, President Granger during his tenure as Chair of the Community (Feb 2017) bemoaned the fact that “there is still heavy penetration from major external manufacturers and this penetration is undermining local manufacturing capabilities and the very purpose for which the market was established”. The same could be true of Guyana’s oil economy. So, what are some of the specific structural factors that could enhance the purposes for Guyana in CARICOM allowing them co-jointly to embark on a greater degree of people centered sustainable development.
First is to Build on the Compelling Reasons for others to Do Business in The Caribbean
The Caribbean is in close proximity to U.S. It is the third largest market in LAC region for U.S exports behind only Mexico and Brazil. Since 2008 the Caribbean Market has been expanded to include the Dominican Republic under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). It represents a market of about 23.5 million people which collectively imported over $18 billion of U.S. goods in 2018. In addition, legislation has been introduced in both houses (the House of Representatives and the Senate) to extend the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) until September 2030”. Guyana in 2000 became a beneficiary of the CBTPA, a program that provides enhanced tariff treatment for certain imports from the region, including goods made with U.S. yarns, fabrics, and threads.
Of specific importance to CARICOM’s economic welfare and its ability to attract a higher level of foreign direct investment, is the assessed ease of Doing Business. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 Study, 11 of 16 Caribbean economies implemented business facilitating reforms and Jamaica was the top ranking CARICOM economy at 71st. “No economy in the region has appeared among the top 10 improvers in the last four years and no Caribbean economy ranks among the top 50 best places globally to do business”.
When the ratings on doing business are juxtaposed with those of the Transparency International 2019 Corruption Perception Index — with a maximum score of 100 for no corruption — Caribbean countries achieving a score above 50 include: The Bahamas (64), ranked 29th, Barbados(62) ranked 30th, St Vincent and the Grenadines (60) ranked 39th, Dominica (55) and St Lucia (55) both ranked 48th and Grenada (53) ranked 51st. Guyana with a score of 40 compared with 29 in 2016 and ranked 85, is listed as one of the 5 improving countries.
Guyana in CARICOM Turn the Tables: e- governance, Digitization and Digital Literacy
The 2019 IDB report indicates that 90% of Caribbean government business transactions are carried out on a face to face basis, requiring multiple visits, queuing then waiting at a counter, filling out forms, and writing letters. An average transaction relating to education or health care takes 5 hours, reporting a crime takes 4.8 hours, tax payments 4.7 hours, and an enquiry about a social entitlement the same. Even the most common transactions relating to vehicles, takes 3.5 hours. In Jamaica 45% of all such transactions required three or more visits and was little better in Barbados where 43 per cent of similar enquiries involved the same amount of time. There was no comparative information for Guyana.
Both 2019 Report of Transparency International and the 2019 IDB Survey address the issue of corruption and illegal payments made to resolve issues relating to the provision of government services. It indicates that 18% of respondents paid to ensure access to a public service to which they were entitled. The figures were particularly high among those surveyed in Guyana at 27 per cent, but significantly lower in Barbados at 9%. The largest percentage of such payments across the region related to utilities. Alarmingly, the report notes in passing what most know, that ‘15% of people paid a bribe to obtain a document of one kind or another’.
What is also recommended for CARICOM to reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies and government’s inability to deliver basic services is widespread digital literacy, the skills and education that enable this, full and reliable high speed 4G connectivity, and financial inclusion so that all can make and receive digital payments. It also requires consistently positive online experiences that encourage confidence at a grassroots level. It needs too, significant financial resources and a significant development programmes if the region is to achieve the levels of integration between government and its citizens.
Guyana Oil and a Caribbean Regional Energy Programme
The IMF projects that oil production in Guyana will account for 44% of GDP by 2024 [and 6.5 percent in non-oil expenditure, critical, in particular to meeting health, education and infrastructure needs]. In this regard, there are ongoing discussions for avoiding the Dutch disease, escalating public debt and establishing a National Resource Fund, following the onset of Oil. These programmes need to recognize the value of supporting a regional energy sector that will promote competitiveness of companies operating in the sector. An Energy Conference in Trinidad and Tobago, on the theme “Shaping the Caribbean Energy Future”, is now in its final stages. Its focus is on pertinent sub-themes: local content, the energy transition, enhancing the gas value chain, fiscal reform, industrial relations and digitization. All these contribute to configuring a regional energy development programme. Guyana’s active involvement in this type of regional enterprise, may expand its view of “local content” by benefiting from regional expertise, experience and ethos of an integrated CARICOM market.
A laudable new initiative, the CARICOM Energy Innovation Challenge, has been launched by The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat and the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE). The Challenge – which is open to teams of primary and secondary school students – invites submissions detailing students’ interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) and the importance of a STEAM lab to their school, community and everyday life. Secondary school students are being asked to design novel concepts for use and management of the STEAM Centre. This is indeed an illustration of people centered engagement in sustainable development!
Climate Change and the Green Economy
The issue of Climate change is intricately linked to economic development in Guyana as elsewhere. Given the regular disruptions due sea level rise and flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes, the stakes are quite high in getting agreement on the implementation of the Paris agreement to reduce carbon emissions to 1.5c. A case has been made for a Pan Caribbean Partnership on Climate Action which involves greater coordination in research, policy, institutional arrangements, public awareness and financing for resilience. In this regard, Guyana can be a model for Climate Change by aligning oil and gas with a green economy. A critical factor to be further explored is optimizing wealth creation of the petroleum sector for emerging local and regional producers to identify the opportunities, gaps and challenges that hinder citizens from actively participating in the sector. Allied to this are accelerating the growth of national capacity and strengthening the bonds of inclusivity in the context of a Guyana’s Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2040 (GSDS).
The elements of this vison coincide with the international agreement to which CARICOM Countries are individually committed. The Voluntary National Review (VNR) reporting required by the UN, for monitoring countries performance toward achieving the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), offers a good opportunity for CARICOM Member States as a collective to share good practices and lessons learned from activities. These respectively apply to integrating the SDGs into national planning and budget systems, strengthening public institutions and public policies to deliver public services for ensuring sustainability and implementation of development initiatives. To make this process effective, emphasis must be placed on institutionalizing a system of adequate data to support planning and policy formation and targeted interventions. The CARICOM Secretariat Regional Statistics programme can be enhanced to perform these tasks. It already undertakes capacity building and compiles regional data bases for use by businessmen, policy makers, researchers and students. Implementing these data driven systems lend themselves to more expeditious outcomes and mutual benefits.
Investing in Human Capital: A Heart of Functional Cooperation in CARICOM
The Vision of the, ‘Unlocking Human Potential’ (2017) produced by CARICOM is an exceptionally useful template for human resource development. According to Myrna Bernard, one of its architects, it makes recommendations for deliberate action in several spheres and at several levels, to ensure that Caribbean citizens, especially children and youth, but also inclusive of older adults, are provided opportunities for development of the skills and attitudes needed for success in their personal as well as professional lives. This is of specific importance in the current environment, given the rapid changes in skill sets needed to take advantage of opportunities in a world now driven by technological change. These changes have resulted, for example, in a reordering of the importance of crucial skills for success in both personal and working life. The World Economic Forum (WEF) hierarchy of 10 most important skills and competencies needed in employment in this decade, lists complex problem solving as #1 followed by critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; judgement and decision making; service orientation; and cognitive flexibility. If the Caribbean is to become globally competitive, its systems for CARICOM-wide HRD strategy must take cognizance of trends such as:
• A Policy Model for Equitable Basic Education Access, with focus on the early years.
• A Caribbean wide Open and Distance Learning Policy.
• A Caribbean Register for External Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education.
• Standards for Teaching Innovation and Educational Leaders.
CARICOM Commission on the Economy
So, we now look forward in anticipation to the report from this Commission established in 2019. Its objective is to craft a new economic developmental strategy, and to break the syndrome of low growth and economic stagnation that many member states have been experiencing since the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008. While Guyana enters this new decade with unprecedented prospects of accelerated growth, its sustainability like all CARICOM States must revolve around a people-centered developmental model, where the emphasis will have to be on health, education, skills and innovation. It must also take concrete measures to solve the problems of intra-regional transport, [and] freight, to create greater access to opportunities across the CSME. It is heartening to note that the provisional report from the CARICOM Commission on the Economy recognizes that a “comprehensive action plan” for the full implementation of the CSME, must include Multilateral Air Services Agreements; an investment code; an incentives regime; an integrated capital market; the mutual recognition of companies, trademarks, and business names; and a range of instruments to intensify the production of food as to reduce the foreign food import bill.
I have deal with major, but by no means comprehensive indicators required to trigger the movement toward a more internationally competitive Caribbean Community. I did not deal with the possibility of Guyana being the breadbasket of the Caribbean, or the recipient of need skills for the new economy from other countries or the absorber of migration to bolster its small population size to meet the expanding economic demands or the expansion of its unique eco-tourism opportunities. But even with the constraints of time this conversation cannot be ended without reflections however briefly of Guyana in the Regions foreign policy designs, broadening the arc of diplomacy o include non-state actors and striving to achieve the CARICOM mission of ‘a community for all’.
Cohesive, Coherent and Coordinated Foreign Policy is essential
The community has to be mindful that geopolitical rivalries specifically among China, Russia and the USA, are contributing to the revival of the cold-war that threatens the Caribbean as a zone of peace. Besides the upsurge in the domestic crime rates, there are the transnational threats of organized criminal activities — illicit trafficking in drugs, arms, ammunition and humans, terrorism, and money laundering — that transcend national borders. These are perceived as the greatest threats to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) security.
Guyana being chair of the Group of 77, beginning January 2020 has an opportunity to enhance the profile and influence of the Caribbean Community on the global stage by advocating for the emerging priorities. These include global financial stability, global economic stability, climate change, energy and the environment, technological innovation and cybersecurity, trade and investment and women empowerment. In addition, the sectoral meetings of G-77 in areas such as food and agriculture, energy, trade and finance, science and technology, industrialization and sustainable development, allows for increased partnerships relevant to the region participation by and in a variety of member states. There are other success factors that must be considered to enhance the roles of Guyana in the leadership structures of the UN. Among them are reinforcing the need for the Region’s adherence to a coordinated foreign policy, one of the pillars of CARICOM; recognition that the purpose of foreign policy is to utilize sovereignty to engage in multilateral/bilateral arrangements; sustaining and promoting the Caribbean as a zone of peace; standing firm on the AOSIS agenda for Climate action and building coalitions of the willing Broader Arc of Diplomacy.
The Community also needs to take into greater account that in today’s world diplomacy is no longer the preserve of state actors. Non-state actors – NGOs, civil society, corporations, think tanks, influential personalities, the media, faith-based organizations, etc. – play an increasingly influential role in the conduct of diplomacy and international relations and should be tapped as supportive advocates. In this regard, in the absence of regional think tanks, greater efforts should be made to establish working links with regional academia working in the areas of development and of international relations. Using a wider lens, CARICOM can draw on the wealth of talent attested to by the over 40 Anthony Sabga Caribbean Laureate Awards of Excellence, of which University of Guyana (UG) Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Paloma Mohamed is one, and on whose Board sits UG’s Pro Chancellor, Retired Major General Joseph Singh.
Linked to the expanding groups of non-state actors in the diplomatic arena there is growing cynicism of the Caribbean citizens about the regional movement. Nowhere is this more evident than the results of the referendum in Bahamas in 2016, where the population rejected the government’s supported proposals to constitutional changes on citizenship and on gender quality. In Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, referenda on whether or not to support the CCJ as a final court of appeal were roundly defeated, notwithstanding that the Antigua and Barbuda Government had a solid majority and Grenadian government rules without a single opposition member.
This brings us back to the reflections of the Most Hon. P.J. Patterson, Sir Shridath Ramphal, Sir Arthur Lewis, Sir John Mordecai, Professors Clive Thomas and Havelock Brewster and the reflective contradictions of ‘separateness’, ‘sovereignty’ and the ‘variable geometry’. These provide the images on which to build our reflections of a future that beckon us to a more prosperous and inclusive Region. It is a future that must act on the recommendations of the strategic plan, Eye on the Future proposed by the Caribbean Youth Ambassadors and presented to the Special CARICOM Heads of Government Conference in Suriname in January 2010, for greater involvement of youth and inclusion of their welfare in the region’s decision making. It must recognize also, creating mechanisms that bind people together: like involving civil society, reasserting the Charter of Civil Society, recognizing functional cooperation as an enhancement of a Community for All and making free movement a reality. It must also reconsider the value of an Association of Caribbean Parliamentarians including representatives of government and opposition. These accord with the Rex Nettleford’s reflections of a self-confident sense of identity in community that “recall us to our destiny”. Failure to embrace these reflections in the future of Guyana in CARICOM will impede the regional mission. Indeed, the region would have lost the imagery of its soul. It is a loss that we cannot afford.