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The changing face of today’s world

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Tue, Apr 17. 2012

Tomorrow, Prime Minister Gonsalves will begin the second leg of his multi-state overseas engagement, which takes him to South America and then an exhaustive trip to the Middle East, just three months after his visit there at the end of 2011.{{more}}

Those visits, and previous ones by the prime minister, can teach us a lot about the changing face of today’s world.

The first stop for Dr Gonsalves was the historic port of Cartagena on the Caribbean Sea coast of Colombia. There, our Prime Minister joined 33 of his counterparts from the western hemisphere in the Summit of the Americas, a gathering of the Heads of State and Governments of the nations of the Americas. Regrettably, at the insistence of the Government of the United States of America, this Summit continues to exclude the representatives of a Government right on the doorsteps of the USA, the Republic of Cuba.

Ever since the rupture in political and diplomatic relations between these two nations, following the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the US has pursued an openly hostile policy of trying to isolate Cuba from the rest of the hemisphere. This was partially successful when US-supported military dictatorships ruled the roost in Latin America and when the 14 member-states of CARICOM were still under colonial yoke. But the progression to independence and, with it, sovereignty over international relations on the part of CARICOM nations on the one hand, and the restoration of democracy in the rest of the region on the other hand, have dramatically changed the picture.

Thus, in spite of the 2012 Summit being hosted by a close ally of the US Government, Colombia, its President, Juan Manuel Santos, described the isolationist policy of the USA towards Cuba as “anachronistic” and hemispheric leaders made it clear that the just-concluded Summit would be the last such from which Cuba is excluded. It is a clear indicator of the shift in the balance of forces in international relations, as it also demonstrates the resolve of independent nations to determine their own foreign policy directions.

Another manifestation of the character of the changing world is the second leg of the Prime Minister’s visit. In the early post-independence days, small countries like ours were simply satisfied to play it safe, and confine their relations to so-called “traditional friends”. However, the combination of such “friends” turning their focus elsewhere, the growing economic and political clout of developing nations, and the realization that developing nations must cooperate for their own survival, has created a radical shift in international relations.

SVG’s own successful efforts to mobilize resources for the building of an international airport without substantive contributions from Britain, Canada or the USA, speaks volumes of the “new international order” that developing nations have been advocating for over three decades now. It underlines the importance of an independent, principled foreign policy direction, in which the interests of our country and people are paramount, and not those of any ossified allegiances.

The Summit in Colombia and the continued reach-out to the Middle East States, in keeping with the principled support for the oppressed people of Palestine, remind us of the realities of the new world, in which nations are no longer satisfied to be cowed into submission by once all-powerful ones. It is time that we, as they say in coffee-producing countries like Colombia, “wake up and smell the coffee”.

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