SVG, the tiniest country to ever dare sit at the ‘high table’
by Tricia Reddock
“We are the audacious bunch, the tiniest country that ever dared to try to sit at the high table.”
With those words, Inga Rhonda King, this country’s Ambassador to the United Nations, boldly prepares to usher St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) onto the United Nations Security Council, the UNs most powerful arm.
This improbable journey began 10 years ago, prior to King’s appointment in 2013, during her predecessor’s Camillo Gonsalves’ tenure. Gonsalves proposed that a reformed Security Council must include a dedicated seat for small, developing island states. This idea propelled SVG’s campaign for a two-year term on the Security Council beginning on January 1, 2020.
The Security Council has an agenda of 68 items encompassing both country specific concerns in places including: The Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Iraq, and Sudan, and thematic, cross cutting security issues such as: terrorism, arms control, children and women in armed conflicts, subsidiary bodies which include sanctions regimes and other issues that threaten nations’ security.
Within that framework, King sees a place for developing small island states like SVG to have a voice in solving the challenges confronting this body “Our purpose is to add value and to help solve these ongoing problems. SVG is a disinterested party, our interests are to promote international peace and security through collective cooperation, to underscore the link between climate change and security and address the consequences. We are also interested in looking at the root causes of conflict and explore more closely the peace/ security and development nexus.
“While climate change isn’t on the SC agenda, issues in the Sahel region (a zone of transition in North Africa between the Sahara to the north and Sudan in the south, stretching between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea) have established a clear link between conflict and climate change,” King said.
In a brash move, King along with her staff of seasoned foreign relations professionals, have absorbed a new group of young, highly educated Vincentians in preparation for their new assignment. Currently the delegation has 15 members, with plans to increase to 18 by January 2020 when their term begins.
The SVG delegation to the UNSC is a diverse group comprising foreign relations experts from various educational disciplines, backgrounds and levels of experience. This team of predominantly women (13 out of 18), are mostly academics and experts in relevant fields..
“Our team was formed as a result of a convergence of balancing our agenda, related expertise and the kind of work that is required. The new members are the product of the Education Revolution. We have a multilingual staff of people who were trained all over the world, speaking Mandarin, Spanish, French, Russian and other languages” explained King.
“Our enthusiastic, intelligent and hardworking team is led by experienced senior staff members who provide guidance, balance, experience and wisdom. Across senior staff, we have decades of experience. There’s my Deputy, Ambassador Nedra Miguel, Councellor Marsena Ballantyne who has served both at the British High Commission in London and the Mission in New York, Oslyn Porter, a senior diplomat with many years experience at the Foreign Ministry, Garth Bynoe, an excellent writer and expert on regional issues, also with several years of experience at the Foreign Ministry and the Embassy to the United States in DC., Janeel Drayton, another Foreign Service Officer with several years of experience and we also have Roxanne Russell (fluent Spanish speaker), Jodine Jackson, and Nathaniel “Pepper” Alexander anchoring this project and providing invaluable administrative support.”
In anticipation of the new assignment, the Mission has recruited conceptual thinkers with strong analytical and writing skills, welcoming a fresh perspective.
“Young people bring fresh perspectives to old problems” King believes. “To that end, we hired Sehon Samuel, Ellis Phillips and Hayley-ann Mark who are trained in International relations. Our legal experts are Jimesha Prince, a former prosecutor and Isis Gonsalves who has masters degrees in law. Coming on board are Dr Halima DeShong, an academic who heads University of West Indies Gender Institute, and an expert on Women’s Issues, whose research helped frame our nation’s legislation; and Dominic Brisbane who has studied and researched international security and global governance.”
As the Education Revolution comes of age, we are now witness to how the audacity to hope has the nation poised to work with international partners at the highest level, on finding solutions to restoring world peace and security for all global citizens.