Professor Kenneth Hall, pro vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies and principal of the Mona campus, has said that despite its small size, Jamaica has made significant contribution to the world community.
Professor Hall, in his contribution to the panel discussion titled: ‘Jamaica in the International Arena: Leader or Follower’? on Tuesday (Jan. 24) at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), cited the many achievements of Jamaica on the international front, from being the headquarters for the International Seabed Authority, serving as president of the United Nations Security Council, chair of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, twice chair of the Group of 77 and China, to being the host country for the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM).
Other significant contributions made by Jamaica to world history highlighted by Professor Hall include: the country’s instrumental role in the 1970s attempt to address the North-South divide with the formulation of the New International Economic Order (NIEO) by the Group of 77 and China and establishing roles in the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).
Noting that the country was an international leader, the Governor General-designate said: “Jamaica acquired the reputation of a country pursuing a foreign policy on the basis of principle, and as one of the most articulate advocates of a new international economic order, based on the principles of equity, fair trade and economic rules.”
According to the professor, who was a former deputy secretary general for CARICOM, one of the reasons that Jamaica has been “a leader in organisations, in the formulation of ideas, in the creation of coalitions,” is the foresight of the country’s leaders, whom he said have identified and taken advantage of leadership opportunities, guided by a clear philosophical vision.
Professor Hall, who was also Professor of History at the State University of New York (SUNY), credited late former Prime Minister Michael Manley, as the person with whom the country’s “prominent leadership role started”. “He based his approach to international relations on a notion of sovereignty, which was in sync with a conception that all countries, regardless of their size, were equal in the international system,” he stated. “These guiding principles”, he continued, “were used to determine the rules of participation and to explain the emergence of Jamaica as an advocate for shaping a north-south relationship, which took into account the special needs of developing countries.” As the professor explained it, Jamaica, guided by these principles, “was able to carve out new spaces for itself.” And, with the change of leadership in the 1980s, Professor Hall maintained that Jamaica, then led by Prime Minister Edward Seaga, kept its prominence, especially in view of the global trend towards political conservatism, evidenced by the election of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Britain, President Ronald Reagan of the United States (US), Chancellor Kohl in Germany and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in Canada.
“By aligning himself with the Reagan administration in particular, he (Mr. Seaga) was able to create significant opportunities for leadership.. as an important agent for American policy in this hemisphere.” According to the professor, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who “emerged as an important voice in world politics” in the 1990s continued the country’s international leadership, especially as it related to regional integration. “Jamaica became more active in .regional integration in CARICOM, in negotiations towards the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the establishment of the Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM), in the negotiations with the European Union, its participation in the G77 and China, and in particular with the restructuring of the international financial institutions and the United Nations,” he said.
The panel discussion was organized by the Government Communications Group and was held as part of activities to mark Diplomatic Week. Other panellists were Sir Shridath Ramphal, Chancellor Emeritus (UWI), who spoke on: Jamaica in a Globalised World: Leader or Follower? and Senator Delano Franklyn, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, who spoke on: Jamaica in the International Arena: a Foreign Policy based on Principle.