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St Vincent on the UN Security Council: More Valuable than Coin | Sir Ronald Sanders

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St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves (left) with others elected to the UN Security Council. (Photo: UN)

By Sir Ronald Sanders

WASHINGTON, United States, Tuesday June 18, 2019Make no mistake about
it, the election of St Vincent and the Grenadines – one of the world’s smallest
states – to a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC),
is both an important and timely event.

The election, primarily by the world’s developing states, has
occurred when there is increased intolerance of small states by larger and
powerful governments determined to enforce their objectives on the rest of the
world.

This intolerance is manifest in many ways, including the
continuous efforts by governments of big countries to secure changes in voting
methods in inter-governmental organisations that would disenfranchise small
states. Big governments have, in the past, tried to impose “weighted
voting”, a process by which votes of countries that pay the most in sums of
money to international organisations, count at a higher value than others.

Of course, these countries conveniently ignore the fact that each
member state of inter-governmental organisations pays its subscriptions based
on a percentage of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The same percentage
of a rich country’s GDP may be larger in volume terms, but the comparative
burden on its taxpayers is no greater than on the taxpayers of smaller
economies.

Recently, in the Organisation of American States (OAS), there has been an attempt to nullify votes of “abstention”, casting them as “absent”. So far, this attempt has been resisted by 12 of the 14 CARICOM countries, supported by a few like-minded Latin American states. But, should this maneuvere succeed, it would turn international practice on its head, allowing a small group of countries that do not comprise more than a half of the member states to win a vote and so impose their minority will.

Casting a vote of abstention is a valid position for any
government. It indicates that a government believes that particular
proposals may not have sufficient merit or substance to be supported or that
the proposal has enough value not to be rejected out of hand. 

It leaves the door open for supporters or opponents of a proposal to convince abstainers of the worthiness of their positions. And that is what the business of diplomacy is about. It is a hard graft of discussion and negotiation, of persuasion and bargaining based on convincing evidence.

Abandoning that process and declaring, instead, that a government
which abstained from a vote is “absent” and, therefore, its vote does not
count, is an alarming attempt to disenfranchise a nation in international
decision-making.  

This latest attempt to side-line small states follows a litany of
positions, adopted by comparatively larger and more powerful countries. These
include: the imposition of taxation requirements; assaults on citizenship by
investment programmes in small states that compete with similar programmes in
North America and Europe; cutting off small states from participation in the
global trading and financing system by withdrawing correspondent banking
relations; paying lip-service to the arguments of island-states about the
deathly threats posed to them by climate change; using coercive methods to turn
governments of small countries from standing-up for principles such as
non-intervention in the internal affairs of states; turning a deaf ear to the
one-sided terms of trade that give powerful countries large surpluses in money
terms while offering no incentives that would help to balance trade and improve
the lives of people of small countries; closing the door to concessional
financing desperately needed to maintain and improve economic development; and
depriving small states of a voice in the major global decision-making bodies.

For all these reasons, the election of St Vincent and the Grenadines to the UN Security Council, for a term beginning in September, is of enormous importance to every small state in the world. It gives small states a voice at the table of decision-making – a chance to resist further incursions on their rights as sovereign states, and the opportunity to show that small size is no obstacle to contributing meaningfully to resolution of issues that confront the world.

Large and powerful countries deserve the right to be at the centre
of global decision-making, given their GDP, their large trade volumes, their
worldwide investment and their financial contributions to a range of global
challenges, including peacekeeping, combatting diseases that can cross borders,
and alleviating the worst aspects of poverty. But that right is not
exclusive; it should not deny the legitimate voice of the small and vulnerable.

When the United Nations was conceived, leaders of states committed
themselves to a world “governed by justice and moral law”, one in which they
asserted “the pre-eminence of right over might and the general good against
sectional aims”. Over the last 50 years, the world has witnessed a
withdrawal from those commitments if not a reversal of them.

As one voice on the UNSC, St Vincent and the Grenadines might not
be able to stem the tide of intolerance for small states, but it can
demonstrate that the intolerance is misplaced and that small does not mean stupid,
ignorant or incapable. Indeed, the history of the United Nations is
replete with the contribution of small states to the enhancement of the UN’s
work and for the beneficial conditions that apply to all humanity. Among
those are Malta’s introduction of the concept of Law of the Sea, and Guyana’s
definition on the concept of “aggression” that now informs international
interpretation of that term.

The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, under the
leadership of its Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, spent many years doing
the hard grind required to win the seat. His government has been steadfast
in upholding the principles of international law and justice which protect
small states from abuse. In doing so, it made enemies of the powerful who
might have preferred it to acquiesce to their objectives. That enmity was
evident in the failed last-ditch effort to cause St Vincent and the Grenadines
to lose its election bid.

The cost of the campaign and work that must follow during the tenure of St Vincent and the Grenadines at the UNSC was not cheap by Caribbean standards, but it is invaluable in the participation which it gives to people of all small countries. Not everything is measured in coin; upholding rights, arguing for fairness and justice are value beyond money.

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Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto.

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Construction of 603-Room Ramada in St Kitts on Schedule for September Opening

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BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Thursday July 18, 2019 – Hotel development company Caribbean
Galaxy Real Estate Corporation says construction of the second phase of the Ramada
Hotel in White Gate is proceeding rapidly and the facility is on track for its
September grand opening.

Phase II of
the project is increasing the size of the hotel from 273 to 603 rooms. The
completed facility will comprise 19 structures housing a luxury clubhouse,
garden villas, spa villas, condos, a swimming pool, a state-of-the-art gym, and
a spa. In addition, there will be a restaurant, pavilions and a water park.

Prime Minister
Dr Timothy Harris said the number of people employed in the twin-island
federation will significantly increase as the hotel is staffed for its opening.

He said the spin-off activities generated by the new Ramada Hotel are expected to open up opportunities for tour guides, taxi operators, dining establishments, craft vendors and shops.

Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris (left) with Galaxy’s Vice President of Overseas Development Tang Jiang

At the recent Caribbean Investment Summit, the Prime Minister said investment agents from countries around the world were “amazed at the high-quality infrastructure on St. Kitts and Nevis and the progress being made on major projects in the Federation.”

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CARICOM Commission On the Economy Re-Established

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Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of Barbados on Investment and Financial Services, Professor Avinash Persaud will return as Chairman of the CARICOM Commission on the Economy.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday July 18, 2019 – CARICOM has re-established a
CARICOM Commission on the Economy, with Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of
Barbados on Investment and Financial Services, Professor Avinash Persaud,
returning as its chairman.

Barbados’
Ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong said that Professor Persaud presented
an interim report at the recent 40th Regular Conference of CARICOM Heads of
Government in St Lucia, that gave broad outlines on how the commission
identified the problems facing the region, and what solutions they believed
were appropriate for economic development.

“Professor
Persaud was very clear that we now have to pursue a people-centred
developmental model, where the emphasis will have to be on education, skills
and innovation. He was very clear that we have to take concrete measures to
solve the problems of intra-regional transport, [and] freight, as well as
people. And the fundamental thinking of the commission is that we have to
create greater access,” he said.

“The buzzword
he used, or the central word was…’access for our people’. Our people must have
enhanced access to financial resources; enhanced access to the banking system,
to education, to training, to health services; [and] access to every
citizen.  We must now, in going forward,
pursue a people-centric developmental model 
based around the idea that we must enhance access of the individual
citizen to education, to entrepreneurial [and] financing opportunities; access
in ownership of wealth, [and] access in every dimension.”

The commission
is expected to report in six months, with a fully fleshed out action plan based
on those broad principles.

Last year, CARICOM Heads of Government reconstituted a high-level commission on the economy led by Professor Persaud of Barbados, comprising experts with regional and international reputations to help CARICOM 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.

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Unemployment Down in Jamaica | Caribbean360

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KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday July 18, 2019 – The Statistical Institute of
Jamaica (STATIN) is reporting further reduction in the unemployment rate to a
new record low of 7.8 per cent.

STATIN’s April
2019 Labour Force Survey said the figure is two percentage points lower than
the 9.8 per cent recorded for the corresponding period last year, and 0.2 per
cent lower than the out-turn for January.

Director
General, Carol Coy, said the number of unemployed persons as at April fell by
25,900 or 19.7 per cent to 105,900, relative to 2018.

She was speaking at STATIN’s quarterly briefing yesterday.

Director General of the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), Carol Coy at yesterday’s briefing. (Credit: JIS)

Coy said the
male unemployment rate declined by 1.8 percentage points to 5.5 per cent, while
the corresponding figure for females fell by 2.1 percentage points to 10.6 per
cent.

“The number of
unemployed males decreased by 13,000 to 39,900 in April 2019. Over the same
period, the number of unemployed females was 65,600; this was a decline of
12,900,” the Director General outlined.

Additionally,
she said the unemployment rate for youth, aged 14 to 24, fell by 6.4 percentage
points from 25.9 per cent in April 2018, to 19.5 per cent this year

“The
unemployment rate for male youth declined by 6.4 percentage points to 14.5 per
cent, while the rate for female youth declined by 6.6 percentage points to 25.8
per cent,” Coy said.

She pointed
out that the overall employed labour force increased by 29,900 persons or 2.5
per cent to 1,244,500, over the 1,214,600 for April 2018.

Coy further
indicated that the number of employed males rose by 18,200 persons to 691,500,
while the number of females in jobs increased by 11,700 to 553,000.

The total
labour force increased to 1,349,900 persons, which is 4,000 more than 2018.

In addition,
the number of males qualifying for jobs rose by 5,200 persons to 731,400, while
the corresponding figure for females decreased by 1,200 to 618,500 in April
2019.

Meanwhile, Coy
advised that 736,900 persons were classified as being outside the labour force
in April 2019.

The number was 4,800 or 0.7 per cent fewer than the outturn in April 2018, and was predominantly males.

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