Our United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seat
Editor: In just over six months, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will assume a seat on the ‘World’ table of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to represent not only a geographical region but Small Island Developing States (SIDS) the World over. This is unquestionably a momentous achievement for SVG, one that has enormous national pride being exuded by many and suppressed by a few for what in all good conscience could only be personal reasons.
This ascension ought not be limited to the historical context of SVG’s relative size, but rather it must be viewed in terms of the enhanced reputation and standing of our Country and the ability of its leadership to project the competence and ability required to adequately represent so many countries with common interests. In this regard, we need to pause and consider exactly how we got to this point.
Successful leaders, not only inspire their charges to succeed, but most importantly, they always have a positive outlook and a vision that is shared. This achievement could only have resulted from visionary leadership that saw possibilities where others saw obstacles. Without fully understanding the process and the circles of influence, it would have been quite easy for many to predict that this UNSC campaign would have been an exercise in futility.
The UNSC seat is not to be regarded lightly, it carries with it just as much prestige as it does responsibility. What we can also anticipate from the lofty perch of the Council is increased exposure and name recognition courtesy news items and Internet searches and there will surely be increased opportunities for bilateral and multilateral approaches to tourism development and investment opportunities among others. It is therefore important that with six months to go before taking our place on the Council, the focus should be on preparing for this assignment, including our expected role and responsibilities.
SVG’s objectives would surely not have included changing or even challenging the governing principles and decision-making processes of the Council, the permanent members will still have the sway. What should however change would be the effectiveness of the non-permanent members in presenting, defending and negotiating issues tied to their respective interests. This will best be done by continuing to exercise diplomatic expertise, skill and influence in dealing with those permanent member interests that intersect with those of the non-permanent members such as geopolitical, migration and climate change issues.
It is also interesting to note that in recent years, non-permanent members have been playing an increasing role in negotiating the content of UNSC documents and also in setting interim agendas and presenting their own proposals for solutions. This means that our government now has the responsibility not only to engage Vincentians but also the people of the region in stimulating discussions at the local and regional level in determining what is eventually taken to the table, including how it presented as part of a negotiated position.
As the dust settles on this country’s achievement, UNSC issues especially those that impact Small Island Developing States (SIDS) should now form an important part of the narrative in Government and Parliament as well as institutions of learning, NGO’s and other formal and informal Community groupings so as to achieve consensus on the identification and prioritization of emerging issues and interests.
Some standing issues for SIDS might include continuing the drive towards broadening the definition and scope of security to include environmental matters, access to clean water and climate change. Both China and Russia, two heavy carbon emitters who were once regarded as opposing the inclusion of climate change as a UNSC item, now seem to be showing some inclination to bend on the issue and with strong bi-partisan support still expected to come from the US Congress, support from the USA will still be a possibility.
It is now up to us to ride this wave and make the best of this rare opportunity to promote our people our country and the countries in our region. Let us not seek to demand short-term tangible benefits, since there are really none. This is however our chance to shine for the next two and a half years and to develop a lasting reputation of being a resourceful, intelligent and competent people capable of determining and protecting our interest and achieving all our sustainable development goals.
G E M Saunders