By Sir Ronald Sanders
WASHINGTON, United States, Tuesday June 18, 2019 – Make 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
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
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
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.
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.
Barbados Prime Minister Says Small States Not Accessing Markets On Fair Terms
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday September 13, 2019 – Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has expressed concerns about small island
states failing to access markets on fair terms.
She highlighted correspondent banking services as an example, as she delivered the prestigious 16th Prebisch Lecture at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, on the topic, ‘Invisible Yet Indispensable’ on Tuesday.
“It matters not that the absence of that correspondent banking will cause
our countries, our regions and our people to be cut off and be quarantined,
just as lepers were in centuries past, from a global community, as we seek to
buy goods and services from outside our borders,” Mottley told her global audience.
“How will our people trade if they don’t have access to a banking system
that allows them to transmit and to pay for services and goods across the
borders? It is pure, unadulterated
hypocrisy and at worst, contempt and insensitivity as to what happens to human
beings, who happen not to live within the borders of the developed world.”
During the near 90-minute address, Prime Minister Mottley said that unless
the fundamental obstacle to our development was addressed, she feared that the
imbalance of power and wealth in the global community of nations would remain.
“Let us not be shy to confront it; middle income countries refused today to
be allowed access to development aid and assistance, purely on the basis of
arbitrary determinations of per capita and GDP formulations that bear no
relationship to the reality of our lives.
“And even when money is promised in the midst of disasters, money promised
and money delivered are two totally different experiences. We must not be naïve
in appreciating that the head start given the developed world to build their
countries and to build out their industrial base was done on wealth extracted
from millions of people across the developing world. It is a difficult conversation but…you cannot
be mature as an adult, or mature as a country and not have difficult
conversations,” she stressed.
Emphasizing the importance of reforming international institutions, Mottley
said this restructuring was overdue, and the task must now be completed.
“The worthiness and pursuit of this reform we all know is unquestionable,
but yet it remains, decades after, unresolved. We need to put it to bed…so we
can get on to the other issues that are truly confronting us,” she stated.
The Prime Minister said countries should not sign up to international treaties, charters, commitments and declarations and then treat them as if they were not meaningful and not apply to them.
Bahamas PM Announces National Prayer Service; Flags to be Flown at Half Mast as Country Mourns Hurricane Dorian Victims
NASSAU, The Bahamas, Friday September 13, 2019 – Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has announced plans for a National Prayer
Service to honour the lives lost when Hurricane Dorian slammed into the
northwest of the archipelago a week and a half ago.
The Government has invited the Bahamas Christian Council to plan the
National Prayer Service, which will take place next Wednesday, marking the culmination
of a National Day of Prayer and Fasting.
Flags are also to be flown at half-mast on all public buildings to mourn
the dead. The date of a National Day of Mourning will be announced at an
“We are a nation in mourning,” said Prime Minister Minnis in a national address.
“The grief is unbearable following the devastating impact of Hurricane Dorian,
which has left behind death, destruction and despair on Grand Bahama and Abaco,
our second and third most populous islands.”
The Prime Minister acknowledged that there are many deaths and many still
missing. The number of deaths is expected to significantly increase but the confirmed
number is currently 50.
“Many are grieving the loss of loved ones. Many are in despair wondering if
their loved ones are still alive,” said Minnis.
“To those who have lost loved ones, I know there is absolutely nothing we
can say that will lessen your pain and your loss. Our sympathies go out to the
families of each person who died. Let us pray for them during this time of
The Prime Minister assured that accurate and timely information will be
provided on the loss of life as it is available.
“We will first and foremost put the priority on notifying families and
giving them the help they need to grieve,” he said.
Efforts are ramping up to collect the dead bodies, with the help of
international aid agencies.
“We are being transparent and responsible in this process,” Minnis said.
The Government is also providing counseling to those who need help to get
them through this difficult process.
“We will need as many spiritual resources as we will need physical
resources, to rebuild lives and to recover,” Minnis said.
“Hurricane Dorian is an historic tragedy,” he added, noting a report by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) that described the storm as “the strongest Atlantic hurricane documented to directly impact a land mass since records began, tying it with the Great Florida Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.”
Hurricane Dorian affected the northwestern Bahamas for about 68 hours, with the southern eye-wall planted over Grand Bahama, for about 30 hours.
Hurricane-Hit Bahamas Under Tropical Storm Warning as New System Approaches
NASSAU, The Bahamas, Friday September 13, 2019 – Less than two weeks after Hurricane Dorian slammed into the northwest of
the Bahamas, that part of the archipelago is bracing for more bad weather with
the approach of a potential tropical cyclone that has triggered a tropical
The warning which is in effect for the northwestern Bahamas, excluding Andros Island, comes as the system being referred to as Tropical Cyclone Nine, carrying maximum sustained winds near 30 miles per hour, is forecast to move across the central and northwestern Bahamas today and could develop into a tropical storm by then.
The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said the system is forecast to produce two to four
inches of rain and, isolated maximum amounts of 6 inches, over areas that are already waterlogged following the Category 5
Hurricane Dorian downpours that left some communities underwater. However, no significant storm surge is expected.
In its latest advisory at 11 a.m., the NHC said the system was located about 280 miles east southeast of Freeport in Grand Bahama and
190 miles east southeast of Great Abaco Island, and barely moving northwestward at 1 mile per hour.
“The system…is expected to resume a slow motion toward the
northwest and north-northwest later today. On the forecast track, the system is
anticipated to move across the central and northwestern Bahamas today, and
along or near the east coast of Florida Saturday and Saturday night,” it
“The disturbance is forecast to become a tropical depression or a
tropical storm later today or Saturday.”
While more than 1,000 people are still reported missing after Hurricane
Dorian – down from the 2,500 said to be on the list on Wednesday before it was
cross checked with the list of people in shelters and evacuees – only 50 people
have been confirmed dead.
But officials acknowledge that number will rise as the search and cleanup continues in Abaco and Grand Bahama.
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