St.Vincent and the Grenadines has developed and implemented a foreign policy that is bold, creative, principled and well grounded. It is well recognized by objective observers locally, regionally and internationally, that this policy has served the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines well, and the country has prospered.
If we take the case of the construction of the international airport at Argyle, this was accomplished because of the progressive foreign policy of the ULP administration. This led to the creation of a group called the “coalition of the willing” consisting of south-south nations, who were committed to providing assistance to the country, for the construction of the airport.
We must always remember, that the central purpose of our foreign policy, has been to enhance the capacity of our nation, to address more efficaciously, its external environment, all in the interest of Vincentians.
We now present the excerpt from the 2019 budget address, which sets out the plans and programmes of the ULP administration, as it pertains to its foreign policy, going forward.
In late 2001, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, then – as now – the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said that: “Our activist and principled foreign policy, formulated and implemented in the interest of our people’s humanisation, has lifted this country’s profile overseas and has brought it substantial material benefits. We are now truly a small nation with a great people. And a government of unquestioned stature, which stands tall as a magnificent example of our Caribbean Civilisation”.
The passage of time has only reinforced the fundamental truths of that profound statement. The year 2001 marked the dawn of a golden age of Vincentian foreign policy, ably led by Prime Minister Gonsalves and Foreign Minister Sir Louis Straker. The Vincentian people are justifiably proud of our principled foreign policy, the material benefits derived, and the lofty stature that our small island enjoys regionally and internationally.
The United Nations
By any standard, 2018 was a banner year for Vincentian foreign policy. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines assumed the Presidency of the United Nations Economic and Social Council,41 the smallest nation ever to lead this prestigious body.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also received the endorsement of the entire Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries for its candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
While success in the June 2019 election for Security Council membership is far from assured, our energetic and principled campaign has also immeasurably raised our international profile and directly benefitted the Vincentian people.
On 26 January 2019, international media covered the statement of a young, dreadlocked Vincentian diplomat, a bilingual child of the Education Revolution, as he addressed the UN Security Council on Venezuela and eloquently elaborated on the fundamental tenets of sovereignty, non-interference and non-intervention.
On multiple levels, it was emblematic of our country’s international posture: young, principled, confident and unafraid to seize the moment.
Our small but energetic diplomatic and consular corps was extremely active in 2018. In addition to strengthening and deepening ties with our precious Vincentian Diaspora, our diplomats worked diligently in the interest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
We expanded scholarship opportunities for Vincentian students around the world. We negotiated funding to construct arrowroot factories and compost production facilities and blackfish processing plants.
We secured donations of police vehicles, ambulances and hospital equipment. We expanded employment opportunities for Vincentian workers around the world – be it on Canadian farms, or British hospitals and naval ships.
Our trade and investment outreach has steered a number of foreign businesses to Vincentian shores. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has used its growing regional influence and international stature to advocate strongly for adherence to international law, concerted action on climate change, and the interests of Small Island Developing States.
Ours is a platform guided by high principle, and not the pressures and inducements offered by those who misunderstand the outsized resolve of this small state. Budget 2019 builds on the signal successes of last year.
In the lead-up to our Security Council candidacy and hopeful election, four additional diplomatic posts are allocated to our United Nations Mission, along with a senior officer to offer support from Kingstown.
As our relationship with the government and people of Taiwan grows and becomes more institutionalised, we have determined that 2019 is an opportune moment to finally establish a Vincentian diplomatic presence in Taipei. Budget 2019 provides for a small staff and the necessary start-up costs associated with establishing a new embassy.
We expect that, in addition to addressing the needs of our growing student population, an Embassy in Taiwan will facilitate greater private sector investment and build upon the strong cooperation that already exists between our two countries.
This year has the potential to be an historic one in the annals of Vincentian and Caribbean foreign policy. Budget 2019 lays the foundation for these continued successes.
It is beyond dispute that our leadership will leverage our heightened influence to the benefit of the global principle, regional advancement, and, most importantly, the Vincentian people.