Statement by Hon. Frederick Stephenson, Minister of National Mobilization, Social Development, etc. of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
It is indeed an honour for me to address this Ministerial Meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non Aligned Movement, held in the city of Caracas. Permit me to extend on behalf of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines our warmest and fraternal greetings to you Mr. Chairman and to the Government and people of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and to congratulate you on hosting this meeting, in a time of enormous challenges facing your country.
I wish also to echo the sentiments expressed by speakers before me regarding the excellent arrangements made by your Government for this meeting and for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation in this land of Bolivar and Chavez.
Specifically Mr. Chairman, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines commends you on your stellar leadership during Venezuela’s chairmanship. Excellency, you can count on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines continued support during the remainder of your tenure.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines addresses this Ministerial Meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of NAM as the smallest country ever to be elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, an historic feat which could not have been attainable without the invaluable support of practically all Member States of this
Movement. For this, we remain eternally grateful to all those 185 states who reposed their confidence in us and we unreservedly pledge to undertake those responsibilities within the Security Council with humility and a with a heightened sense of purpose and determination.
Mr. Chairman, almost sixty years ago during the height of the cold war, the founding fathers of this organization in their infinite wisdom, convened in Belgrade to map out a path of non-alignment grounded in the Bandung Principles and based largely on those enshrined in the UN Charter: respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, respect for human rights, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, promotion of mutual interests and cooperation, settlement of internal disputes through peaceful means and non-aggression against other states, among others.
As we approach the end of the second decade of the 21st century however, the enduring principles upon which this organization was founded, are being undermined and eroded in every corner of the globe.
Never before in the history of the Non Aligned Movement have the sovereignty and independence of so many of its member states been threatened by those forces which appear to hold little regard for international law and brazenly ignore the principles of the United Nations Charter which govern relations between states.
These worrying trends have never been more starkly evident than in the host country, Venezuela, where the blatant attempts at usurping the power of the legitimate and constitutionally elected President and Government of Venezuela (regrettably with the acquiescence of a number of NAM member states), borders on highway banditry.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines therefore reiterates its support for the process of dialogue in Venezuela. We reaffirm our commitment to democracy, respect for human rights and the rights of Venezuelans to determine their future without coercion, political and economic blackmail and threats of aggression from other countries.
The well-chosen theme for this Ministerial meeting “Promotion and Consolidation of Peace through Respect for International Law”, must not be a mere slogan to appear on the official records of the meeting, but must serve as a clarion call for the Non Aligned Movement and its individual member states, to consistently promote peace and reconciliation, in words and in action and to uncompromisingly demonstrate an abiding respect for international law, while fervently adhering to the principles of the United Nations Charter, in theory and in practice.
The meeting arrives at a time when the international rule-based order is under siege. International law is being manipulated and compromised; the multilateral system is being undermined and even the credibility of the United Nations charged with the responsibility of safeguarding world peace and security, is being questioned.
Indeed, we are living in dangerous and unpredictable times. The Bandung Principles, are being tested. The NAM by its heterogeneous composition is not without its limitations, nonetheless we must not allow detractors armed with narrow-minded political, esoteric interests, to undermine the principles and purposes on which this organization was created. We must reject all attempts that run counter to the principles of the Movement, international law and multilateralism.
Upholding international law is an existential issue for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. As a small island developing state with no standing army and constrained within narrow borders, we owe our existence as a sovereign, independent nation state, to a universally accepted body of international norms and principles founded in the United Nations Charter.
The only force on which we depend to safeguard our democracy, our sovereignty and our independence is international law, without which, small states such as ours will be shunned aside with impunity and will not be able to survive within the international community of nations. How can we then advocate for peace and stability and conduct our relations with other states, if not within the context of international law?
Accordingly, it is Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ solemn duty to uphold these principles and guarantee that they are applied and adhered to in the international community, as universal fundamental truths to which we must all vigorously abide.
Every and any violation of international law is an indirect assault on our own survival. This principle is immutable, and no amount of heavy-handed coercion or ham-fisted inducements will cause us to abandon our overarching existential interests, in pursuit of short-term appeasement.
Mr. Chairman, too many of our member states are embroiled in internal conflicts and strife. Too many are ravaged by the scourge of terrorism. Scarce resources to aid in socio economic development have had to be diverted into war, where tens of thousands of lives are lost and millions displaced from their homes.
It is no secret that many of these conflicts are externally induced, with the flag of “democracy” being loosely bandied about as the raison d’etre of intervention, while in reality, geo political and strategic interests are being projected and advanced through economic and military dominance, at the expense of peaceful development.
Our responsibility and the debt we owe to humanity reside in a commitment to exercise our rights as independent, sovereign nations coming together under the umbrella of the NAM to raise a single, but powerful voice within the international community, to condemn all forms of intervention, aggression, intimidation, religious intolerance, xenophobia, occupation, political and financial black mail, extremism and terrorism whenever and wherever they occur.
Mr. Chairman, equally, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines continues to unequivocally reject the imposition of national laws and regulations with extraterritorial reach and all other forms of coercive economic measures, including illegitimate, unilaterally imposed sanctions against countries such as Cuba and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. By any measure, the economic blockade against Cuba is an unmitigated failure. These sanctions serve only to visit suffering on the peoples of both Caribbean nations and serve as a backdrop to a smattering of pandering politicians, who value their individual electoral fortunes above international law and the weight of overwhelming global condemnation.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines laments the fact that international agreements, such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, the products of prolong, robust and intense
negotiations, can be swiftly and unilaterally jettisoned. If there was ever a time for the Non Aligned Movement to close ranks and to strengthen its collective resolve, that time is now.
Mr. Chairman, it is against this backdrop that the Non Aligned Movement, despite the range of political and ideological differences of its constituent parts, now has to recommit itself to defending the principles of international law and multilateralism, recalibrate itself, reshape its priorities, rethink its strategic direction and redefine its purpose and goals, in order to secure its relevance in these changing times.
As Saint Vincent and the Grenadines assumes its seat as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, we reaffirm our steadfast commitment to uphold, preserve and promote all the purposes and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, as well as to ensure the continued viability of all the provisions of international law, which together form the core of our multilateral work and inspire our collective efforts to maintain peace and security, achieve inclusive economic growth and sustainable development for the ennoblement of humanity.