Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, It is my privilege yet again to participate in this annual exercise of reporting to Parliament and the nation on the stewardship of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade which I have the honour to lead.
The Ministry, and by the Ministry I mean not only the staff at headquarters here in Kingston but the network of overseas missions and consular officers, continues to discharge its mandate with distinction. Commitment, dedication, and hard work have been demonstrated as the Ministry manages the country’s external affairs for the advancement and better quality of life of our fellow citizens.
We continue to face the challenges unflinchingly and with deep resolve, steadfastly executing sound policies and pursuing initiatives as we build on efforts to lay “A Sound Foundation: A Secure Future.”
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the major impetus behind our foreign policy objectives and our work is that indispensable link with Jamaica’s national interest – embracing sustainable development, wealth/job creation and improvement in the overall welfare of Jamaicans. The ultimate elimination of poverty is of paramount importance in this context. This underlying link between policy goals and the country’s development is anchored in the fundamental objective of our support and work for an international environment characterized by global peace, security and order buttressed by multilateralism and international law.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Speaker, Jamaica, as I will elaborate in due course, plays an activist role in the United Nations which is central to the multilateral system. We are also actively engaged in regional, hemispheric and global fora as we join with other states in collective endeavours for peace, security and order in the world thereby enhancing development in its broadest sense.
Global peace, security and the rule of law for Jamaica and indeed smaller developing states are not just desirable because they lay the platform for development, but must also be seen as being indispensable to and inextricably bound to Jamaica’s self-interest of safety and territorial integrity, providing a bulwark to minimize the possibility of military invasion or terrorists’ threats. The inviolability of small developing states such as Jamaica is enhanced by our collective efforts to ensure a peaceful and ordered international environment by strengthening multilateralism and international law.
The quest for the peaceful and ordered environment is a task rendered more urgent by a tendency for unilateral action and military might to settle international disputes rather than the option of exhausting diplomatic and multilateral responses.
Deliberately placing Jamaica’s economic, social, political and cultural development at the heart of foreign policy objectives and management of the country’s international relations have brought immense benefits to our nation-building efforts.
Benefits have accrued in the broad fields of infrastructure, education, investment, technology, agriculture, culture and sport. The list is not exhaustive.
But a better Jamaica, Mr. Speaker does not mean only improved economic circumstances, higher standards of living and the elimination of poverty. Not to be overlooked or forgotten, are pressing questions of educational empowerment, health as instanced by the HIV-Aids pandemic, environmental sustainability, illegal trafficking in drugs and small arms, threats of transnational organized crime and terrorism, and disaster management to name a few. Truly, Mr. Speaker, a varied agenda of issues spread across national boundaries.
As we take on these challenges, we join hands and hearts with our regional and international partners and organizations. Deepening and consolidation of regional integration is a central plank in our evolving response. We continue to build strategic alliances at the bilateral, regional, hemispheric and international spheres as we strengthen cooperation and relations with traditional friends even while forging new bonds to further advance Jamaica’s interest and development.
This is a journey which daily becomes more challenging in a world driven by the inexorable forces of globalisation and its progeny, liberalisation, which pose daunting impediments to our producers, our farmers, and our workers. This challenge is foremost in negotiations underway in the international negotiating trade theatres: the World Trade Organisation (WTO); The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the African Caribbean Pacific/European Union (EU).
Mr. Speaker within this challenging global context, Jamaica has built on its reputation of leadership and performance, an achievement for which we can be proud.
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I must emphasise that Jamaica’s foreign policy objectives have been pursued against the backdrop of an international situation which remains dynamic, complex and uncertain.
To underscore the fundamental theme of my introductory remarks, Mr. Speaker, honourable members, as a small and vulnerable developing country, Jamaica’s foreign policy is of necessity based on a multilateral approach complemented by various innovative partnerships with countries of the South and the North in the search for collective solutions to the challenges of development; global economic governance, global security and global trade relations.
Mr. Speaker, Honourable members against the background outlined, I can now share with you a more detailed account of the Ministry’s activities.
Programme Areas
The Ministry executes the management of Jamaica’s external affairs and the operation of the Foreign Service within the framework of the following six (6) main programme areas, reflecting priority foreign policy issues:
Multilateral Political CooperationMultilateral Economic CooperationExternal Trade Policy and NegotiationsBilateral, Regional and Hemispheric(political and Economic) CooperationPublic, Consular and Protocol ServicesForeign Service Management and Development
Under this programme heading, the ministry’s objective is the promotion of international peace and security as well as the strengthening of a rules-based multilateral system through the development of internal law and strengthening of human rights and the respect for the rule of law so as to provide a sound environment.
In the economic sphere, the Ministry seeks to develop with other local stakeholders, a policy framework for Jamaica’s external economic relations. The ministry will identify opportunities for securing development assistance and increasing technical, economic cooperation and investment with traditional and new partners.
Jamaica’s Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China
Mr. Speaker in January, Jamaica assumed the mantle of Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China for 2005.
The Group of 77 and China is an effective vehicle for pursuing our development efforts in the wider international arena. As the broadest mechanism for consultation and policy coordination among developing countries, the G-77 and China must take the lead in guiding the process of responding to the current and emerging challenges. It is very important in helping Jamaica to overcome the challenges for a better Jamaica, laying “A Sound Foundation: A Secure Future.”
Jamaica was elected to Chair the Group of 77 and China in New York for 2005 at the 28th Annual Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G-77, which was held in New York in September 2004. This is the second time that Jamaica will be chairing the G-77, the previous occasion being 1977-78.
As the largest Third World grouping in the United Nations, with a membership of 132 countries, the G-77 has proven its effectiveness as a coalition advancing the issues and interests of developing countries.
Acting as the main voice of developing countries on economic and social issues in the UN system, the Group has created a platform for a more representative and democratic global order. In this context, the G-77 has enhanced the negotiating capacity of the South, and has played a pivotal role in the development of an international agenda which takes into account the primary social and economic interests of developing countries.
Mr. Speaker, At the handing over ceremony in New York from the previous Chair Qatar to Jamaica, I outlined five priority areas for Jamaica’s stewardship. These are:
increasing the flow of resources to developing countries;improvements in global economic governance;advancing the global development agenda;enhancing South-South cooperation; anddisaster management relief.
At the national level, we have put in place an inter-Ministerial Committee which provides specific proposals to guide Jamaica’s position within the UN, and at the various international and regional meetings for which Jamaica is required to provide leadership.
Since February 2005, Jamaica has led the G-77 positions in a number of important meetings including the UN Commission on the Status of Women; the UN Commission on Population and Development; the annual Spring Meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations including High-Level Meeting involving the Bretton Woods Institutions, (IMF, World Bank) the World Trade Organisation(WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which was led by Senator the Hon. Deika Morrison; and the recently concluded 13th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development to which the Honourable Minister of Water and Housing, Donald Buchanan led Jamaica’s delegation.
Such meetings constitute important opportunities for the Group to bring to the fore those issues which are of importance to sustained economic and social development. This also affords the Group the opportunity to formulate concrete and action-oriented responses to the complex issues and many challenges facing the South and the international community in general.
Jamaica values its membership in the Group and is committed to working with all the members during its stewardship in advancing its concerns, interests and common objectives and in giving greater impetus to generating positive change at the global level in the interest of developing countries.
Mr. Speaker, The year 2005 is a significant one for our Group. Over this period, several international meetings are taking place which will demand the sustained and collective focus of the G-77. Among these are the High-Level Plenary in September which will undertake a review of the implementation of the outcomes of major Conferences and Summits in the economic and social fields. The September Summit provides a crucial opportunity for reform and enhance efforts towards meeting the goals outlined in the Millennium Declaration by 2015.
We underline the link between achieving the Millennium Development Goals and reaffirming and implementing the outcomes of the UN international conferences and summits in the economic, social, environmental and related fields, including those set out in the Millennium Declaration, and those from Cairo (Population 1994), Copenhagen (Social Development 1995), Beijing (Women 1995), Monterrey (Financing for Development 2002), and Johannesburg (Sustainable Development 2002). The role which the G-77 will have to play in the review of these conference outcomes cannot be over-emphasised. In addition, the WTO Ministerial Meeting, the Second South Summit and the 60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly will also be convened in 2005.
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