Despite its small size, Jamaica continues to be an aggressive force on the international front, showing outstanding leadership in its understanding of the challenges posed by globalization. This was emphasized by Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, Sir Shridath Ramphal, yesterday (January 25), at a panel discussion organized by the Cabinet office to discuss the topic: ‘Jamaica in the international arena – leader or follower’.
Sir Shridath, a former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, pointed out that Jamaica “has demonstrated that leadership at a variety of levels – in the United Nations, in the Commonwealth, in the Councils of Latin America, in the G77 and China, in the G90 and of course, more specifically, within the councils of the Caribbean”.
He pointed out that Jamaica was also a leader in promoting solidarity among developing countries. Sir Shridath encouraged CARICOM states to play a more active role in the international arena. “It will not be enough merely to be part of the squad; we must be, and be seen to be on the pitch,” he stressed. He warned that the Caribbean must exercise collective responsibility in securing its place in the global economy, “because no one is looking out for us”.
Meanwhile, Professor Kenneth Hall, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, in his presentation, pointed out that Jamaica’s foreign policy was largely hinged on activism in the post 1972 era and has led to our “participation in global affairs being more than perfunctory”. Professor Hall, who spoke on the topic, ‘Historical Perspectives on Jamaica’s contribution to the International Community’, said that, “given a history that would predispose such a country to limited participation in the international arena, Jamaica has been a leader in organizations, in the formulation of ideas, in the creation of coalitions that have shaped the structure, content, orientation and broad outcomes of the new international community”.
Citing examples, he said the country was elected twice to be on the United Nations Security Council, and had chaired on two occasions, the Group of 77 and China. The years 1962 to 2006 were explored by Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Delano Franklyn, who addressed the topic: ‘Jamaica in the international arena: A foreign policy based on principle’.
Senator Franklyn emphasized that since independence, Jamaica has had exclusive control over its foreign policy. “Despite the vicissitudes in the foreign policy . the positions taken by the country can generally be described as principled,” he said. This “principled” approach was demonstrated in, “the resolute position against apartheid and [Jamaica being] in the forefront in the struggle against apartheid”, the Senator said. He noted that support for the United Nations and its Charter has also been very solid. Senator Franklyn said the country had always voiced its concern about the widening gap between the rich and poor countries, which was a consistent position taken by Jamaica.
The panel discussion was the third in a series of monthly discussions put on by the Cabinet Office. Moderator for the event was Mrs. Sandra Graham, Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister.