By Dominic Brisbane
Before I begin this commentary, I offer a public apology for signing the previous pieces as an “academic.” Some readers have expressed disagreement with this since, in their opinion, I used the word “academic” too loosely. Going forward, I will forgo that credential as I prefer any feedback to be a discussion of ideas rather than of titles. The tendency to focus on titles rather than the quality of ideas remain an entrenched legacy of colonialism that distorts our ability to think critically — but I will write more about this in a later piece.
In my last article, I highlighted that our success at securing a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council (UNSC) gives us the opportunity to add nuance and context to the discussions and decision-making at that forum. Through these discussions and decision-making processes, SVG will build many important relationships. This is what foreign policy is about — building cooperative relationships with other countries to solve problems and create mutual benefits.
For the years 2020-2021, the state of SVG will have an opportunity to build close working relationships with the five UNSC permanent members (the United States, China, Russia, France and the UK). In 2020, SVG, Tunisia, Vietnam, Niger, and Estonia will join Indonesia, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Germany and Belgium as non-permanent members of this body. In 2021, this former group (SVG included) will be joined by five incoming members that will replace the latter, outgoing group. Over the two-year period, our nation will have the opportunity to work directly with 19 other countries on some of the most important issues for global peace and security.
Yet, the potential relationships do not end here. Countries who are not on the UNSC may seek to lobby members of the council in order to advance their respective interests. By playing a facilitating role, we can build relationships with those countries that are currently on the sidelines of the UNSC. Still, relationship-building may extend further. The salience (importance) of a country that sits at the UNSC may produce opportunities to work with other organisations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), numerous international human rights organisations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These supporting organisations all play important roles within the UN system and our positionality within the UNSC may yield many opportunities to work directly with these stakeholders.
As some researchers have pointed out, there is also a documented history that shows that UNSC members are more likely to receive loans from the World Bank as the United States tries “to wield geopolitical influence” — by attempting to shape the agenda at the UNSC through these “carrots” that are thought to affect member states’ voting behaviours. In this regard, I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement that “we are not adopting a transactional approach” to our membership at the UNSC. Yet, it is important to highlight that through this important position — at the centre of global power politics — as a sovereign state we can determine the nature of our foreign relations and the principles we exhibit as we pursue those relationships.
Beyond our state-to-state relationships, our country’s representatives at the UNSC will also build important working relationships as they gain professional experiences through the many formal and informal sessions that they will participate in. This will serve only to strengthen SVG and its foreign policy mechanisms. In the longer-term, we will be better equipped to navigate the international waters with a group of international civil servants that have been exposed to the highest levels of global governance. And even beyond this, the opportunities for these civil servants to deepen relations on a personal level — will serve to bring even more attention to SVG and the wider Caribbean region.
But what are the benefits?
In answering this question I ask, rhetorically, “Why build relationships?” Foreign policy is about building relationships in order to solve problems and create benefits. These benefits, whether international financial assistance that help us to build human capacity and infrastructure, trade agreements that create potential market opportunities for local businesses, or tourism that brings investments and foreign currency, are all results of successful relationship-building. So why should we build relationships? That is how we would change the world…
In my next article, I will highlight how SVG can change the world.
Dominic Brisbane is a Vincentian 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.