Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and other members of the SVG delegation inside the chamber of the UN Security Council. (Photo: Camillo Gonsalves/Facebook)

by *Dominic Brisbane

The phrase “coming of age” is used to describe the period of entering adulthood. For the purpose of this commentary, it refers to the process of political maturity.

The Caribbean region is the world’s oldest example of modern globalisation. European colonialism forcibly positioned the peoples and lands that were supposedly “discovered” through expansionism at the epicentre of the “new world”. Through the atrocities of slavery, native genocide, and other forms of oppression, the Caribbean region was colonised to extract wealth from the plantation economy. This wealth was an important building block of “Western civilisation,” and helped to create what we regard today as “globalisation”.

Beneath the debris of this imperial history, we uncover a number of contradictions. One such disparity is that while today’s Caribbean has been economically and culturally “globalised”, we remain substantially on the periphery of global politics. Whether through the failure of the United Nations (UN) to make substantive amends for Haiti’s 2010 outbreak of cholera, or its inability to curb the imperialistic tendencies of superpowers that bring instability to our part of the world, we remain the unfortunate afterthought of global policy. 

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the primary locus of political power in the world. Charged with ensuring international peace and security, the decisions made at this forum affect the life of every person on earth. Yet, any keen observer will see that some countries have more peace and security than others.

This is not only because these countries are wealthier, larger, or more powerful militarily than others, it is also because global decision-making is often controlled by a handful of wealthy, large, and militarily powerful states. Whether this wealth and power is a result of these global decisions remains debatable, but what is clear is that these decisions often ignore the realities of life in small countries until it serves the interests of the powerful. This is how power works. It propagates itself until it meets worthy resistance either from the outside or from within.  

In this era of climate change, small island states have no choice but to expand their own political power to influence the decisions of the powerful.  This is the only way that we can ensure that the interests of our peoples are given sufficient attention. This is also the only way that some of the previously mentioned historical wrongs could be systematically addressed. Wealth extracted from the Caribbean through colonialism was used to drive the industrial revolution.

Industrialisation produces emissions that drive climate change, which in turn, threatens the very existence of the Caribbean as we know it. Coincidentally, some of the primary beneficiaries of colonially-driven industrialisation are permanent members of the UNSC today. Yet, the countries that have been historically dispossessed, and are continually endangered, through various exercises of power stand on the side lines of this important group.  

A non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council gives small states the power to address climate change alongside some of today’s biggest challenges. Or at least it gives them the power to resist the bad decisions of the powerful through dialogue. We should all welcome St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ success at earning a seat at the UNSC. We will be the smallest, and arguably the least powerful, country to ever sit at this table. In this our 40th year of independence, it also marks our coming of age.

*Dominic Brisbane is a Vincentian academic who studies globalisation and global governance.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

17 replies on “SVG at the UN Security Council — history, power and our coming of age”

  1. Total and utter bunkum!

    We in St Vincent and the Grenadines can neither feed nor house ourselves, yet we are gripped with this profound delusional idea that we are somehow an influence in the world! We call a national holiday for such, when over half of our workforce is out of work. Therefore, what coming of age is this national delusion in following the delusional aspirations of an old man who will soon be going to meet his maker?

    So right was that English Poet Alexander Pope in expressing the idea that “Oh’ how fools rush in where Angels fear to tread”! How is sitting in this talking sop for two years be putting food on our table, repairing our dilapidated infrastructure, evicting the large rats from Kingstown or paying Government employees wages on time?

    They say there are no such fools such as or like old fools!

  2. The author and this our present government seem to be very out of touch with the Vincentian reality. I can’t understand how a decade was spent trying to achieve this and neglecting to achieve matters of far more importance to Vincentians. The fact that unemployment is unacceptably high,levels of income low and the quality of life poor makes it hard to celebrate

  3. Elma Gabriel says:

    As a patriot of SVG how could I not see the positives of our SVG being within the loop of the UN Security Council? The opportunity as a people to position ourselves where we can be understood and respected, a two year association that brings us closer within the focus of Big Brothers internationally.
    Truly, this is the beginning of what can only have been accomplished through the conviction, vision, passion and inspiration of a leadership. There is a saying that ‘discipline begins at home’ and I have always supported the concept to “put you best foot forward.” They envisioned the dangers of ‘climate change’ and pursued.
    Politics is all about networking and yes, this is the age of ‘green politics’ as the greed of yesteryears have destroyed the ecology of the Caribbean and reparation are plaguing the zipped pocket books of the conglomerates, those oppressors. The only way to overcome the resistance of the primary beneficiaries of imperialism is face to face.
    Okay SVG, go on, put your best foot forward not only for us but for a Caribbean Union.

    1. If countries continue to live in the past they will never be recognized, I say to you the writer wake up out of your deep sleep, it’s a new day.

  4. C. ben-David says:

    Too bad that you and Dr. Gonsalves, whose speech you cite, don’t know the meaning of the term genocide as defined by the same United Nations whose Security Council we have just proudly and gloriously joined, in its 1948 Genocide Convention, which in no way applies to the nasty way our British founders treated our Indigenous people.

    Yes, their land was seized, yes, they were defeated in the Second Carib war when they resisted, and yes, many were exiled to Roatán Island off the east coast of Central America.

    But that is not genocide — like the slaughter of 500,000 Tutsis by Hutu militias because of ethnic hatred and a desire to wipe them out completely — and the treatment of the Kalinago was not illegal or even considered immoral when it took place.

    When genocide is expanded to mean any bad political or military behavior, it loses its essential meaning.

    1. Very correct C. Ben! Although there are very accurate facts in the article, there are also many falsehoods. Another falsehood is the Climate Change misinformation used by the Gonsalves Administration to attempt many to feel sorry for us and maybe give us money and allow government to raise taxes.
      It is terrible that our government turns around and uses lies to exploit its own people as much as the super powers exploit weaker countries, such as claims against Huawei.

  5. Cato the Elder, born Marcus Porcius Cato, known also as Cato the Censor, Cato the Wise, and Cato the Ancient, Cato was a Roman senator and historian he once wrote “Wise men profit more by fools than fools by wise men.” Are we being thoroughly fooled? Force yourself to take your dark blinkers off for a moment Elma Gabriel that is if you can, and grab what passes for our bus service into the capital, Kingstown and see for yourself what a fleabag hovel we dwell in.

    Stroll about for a moment along Bay Street, walking for a few minutes pass the myriad numbers of vendors and hawkers that inhabit this hovel, starting from the Custom building past Tokyo and down towards Randy’s. Smell for yourself the overbearing stench.

    See what Vincentians have been reduced to, condemned to live and hustle, living like little feral dogs in this small neglected country of ours, then come back here and address us all about real and true patriotism if you still see it fit so to do.

    One of my favourite philosophers and one who died not so long ago, is that British philosopher Bertrand Russell who wrote “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” What Bertrand should have noted is how narcissist often gets the better of us while chasing their delusional folly.

    My dear Muse, it is not at all difficult to understand why a decade was spent trying to achieve this objective here, if you look carefully into the flawed characters involved and the aspirations of the Ralph Gonsalves regime. This Government never was and never is about Vincentians per se, it is all about narcissistic ambitions, unfulfilled dreams and national neglect.

    Has Ralph not recently told us that his job is boring? Of course it is, it is indeed most boring for a regime whose objectives grossly differs from those of our vast out of work scrunters here. Scrunters who are regularly keeping their young children away from primary school in order to avoid the embarrassment of lack of dinners. To my disgust, as one put it to me just three weeks ago, “I keep them at home because there would be nothing to eat”.

    And returning to you Elma, the U.N Council as you should know, is composed of 15 Members.10 non-permanent and the five permanent member. The five permanent member states are China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Ah dem run things! Things nar go run dem! Whatever puerile decisions this little talking shop arrives at, that goes against the interest of this big permanent five members and their friends, would always be vetoed by anyone of these five permanent members.

    Consequently what on earth is such a poor and impoverished nation as ours doing sitting down chin wagging, wasting valuable time when there is far more important work to be done here at home that directly affect us. Work such as putting our workers back in work!

    My questions therefore Elma is, what is this nonsense of positioning ourselves where we can be understood and be respected? What is this two year association of yours that brings us closer within the focus of Big Brothers internationally? Is such a chair to be valued over and above bread on our table or a decent living environment? “When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.” So wrote William Shakespeare, King Lear. Are you too being fooled like so many others here Elma?

    Indeed, what respect would such a value judgement as this bring us Elma? Surely Elma rather than respect, should this not bring us nothing but ridicule, laugher and derision from those who put their national wellbeing first, over and above foolish grandstanding by a government whose international begging for income support, is well known all around the world. Are you too being fooled by the oversize ego of an old narcissist Elma?

    Søren Kierkegaard that well-known existentialist Danish philosopher once said, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” Either keep your blinkers on Elma or peruse the facts.

  6. Why are people so negative when another representative of a nation pushes an agenda and becomes successful? If it was the other side of the table that was pushing the same agenda, you people would have had nothing to say.
    But I say to all the haters, you can’t do anything better.

  7. The question is , can genocide be commited by one’s own people? Was the Hutu v Tutsi conflict be considered as a bona-fide an act of a true genocide? I beg to differ the extermination of the Tutsi was not a true as act of genocide in the real sense.

    1. C ben-David says:

      Good point, but wrong.

      Yes, they spoke the same language and praticed the same culture and religion but were considered to be and considered themselves as separate ethnic groups and therefore fall under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

      Ethnicity is about self-identity and imposed identity, not necessarily the content of the identity. So, of two brothers living in America who practice the same culture, etc., one can identify as Italian (even if he don’t speak Italian any more) and the other can identify as American. Overs? So, of two very light-skinned sisters living in America, one can call herself and identify as Black and the other can say and believe she is White. Overs?

  8. My Tutsi girlfriend I met in Europe would not quite agree with you. I had to constantly watch over her suffering with every little trickle of news that came from back home. Have a heart, Jose.

  9. Stephen Huggins i am not heartless but have just pointed out an analogy, Ben has also add an interesting and a contrasting take on the issue. Examples of genocide in my opinion is the Jewish holocaust, the slave trade,the Albanian conflict are good example that come to my mind..

  10. Great comments with insight David and James.

    Who paid for the process over ten years to achieve appointment to the security council, because it cost multi millions of dollars to get there? It will also cost several million dollars just to sit on that council, six extra staff, the comrade travelling to carry out the bidding and orders of ALBA. The buffet hotel breakfasts which the ordinary man will require mountain climbing gear to negotiate. I sat close to him in Jamaica, he put me off my breakfast just watching him pig out.

    For sure this is about ALBA, about the protection of Maduro and the Cubans, the Iranians and the North Koreans. So who paid and who is paying? and whom are they paying?

    This is certainly not about SVG, its much bigger than that. What happens on world security that affects little SVG? Think about it, we are being fooled again.

    What surprises me is that even the people who think themselves clever, who comment here, are actually ignorant and unable to see past the end of their nose.

    Bolivia replaced Venezuela at the UN Security Council January 2017, ALBA member Bolivia was on the Council 2017/18, SVG is now taking there place in protecting Venezuela and Cuba

    At the Security Council 01-Jun-2017 00:02:30 Ambassador Sacha Llorentty of Bolivia, President of the Security Council for the month of June 2018, said that the situation in Venezuela “is an issue that does not belong at the Security Council” as “it is not a threat to international peace and security.” That is the kind of rubbish that they will expect from Gonsalves.

    Wake up people and smell the rot. Being on the security council will damage relations with the US, because if Gonsalves follows the initiative of the President of Bolivia who went into the UN and tongue lashed President Trump. Trump was forced to sit through a lengthy tongue-lashing from Morales at a meeting of the UN Security Council that the U.S. president hosted. It’s likely the harshest any foreign leader has ever spoken to Trump in public.

    Remember Bolivians do not rely on things from the US, Saint Vincent does, we rely on our people living and working there to send their families home remissions, money every month. The US has been good to SVG over the years and asked us for nothing, not like ALBA, Venezuela and Cuba The pretence by Gonsalves that they do things for us is quite amusing really, they are leaches who seek only solidarity with one of their own, as he seeks the same comfort.

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