Paucity of Caribbean citizens in the top echelons

Sunday, May 12, 2013

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Former Prime Minister P J Patterson, speaking at the launch of Ambassador Rudy Insanally's new book Multilateral Diplomacy for Small States, bemoaned the fact that people from Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries are no longer in top posts in international organisations.

Mr Patterson is quite correct on that score. But what is now important is to conduct an analysis of why this has happened.

In the past, Caricom citizens held top posts in international organisations, bringing the region much pride and the inevitable benefits.

Jamaica's G Arthur Brown was deputy administrator at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Grenada's Sir Alister McIntyre was in the number two slot at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Jamaica's Lucille Mair served as secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Palestine from 1982 to 1987.

Guyana's Sir Shridath Ramphal had three terms as secretary general of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Barbados' Sir George Alleyne had two terms as head of the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), and Winston Cox was deputy secretary general at the Commonwealth Secretariat. Trinidad and Tobago's Christopher Thomas was assistant secretary general at the Organisation of American States (OAS).

At very senior levels, there were Jamaica's Richard Fletcher and Trinidad's Euric Bobb at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Jamaica's Dr Gladstone Bonnick at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), better known as the World Bank, and Trinidad's Ewart Williams and Jamaica's Sam Stephens at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

These days, it is difficult to find Caricom citizens in top positions, except for Dr Carissa F Etienne of Dominica who is director general of PAHO; Albert Ramdin of Suriname, who is assistant secretary general at the OAS; and Judge Patrick Robinson of Jamaica, who is president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The dearth is explained by the complete lack of strategic planning by the political leadership and Caricom Secretariat in positioning our regional citizens for top jobs. The successes of the past were based on individual merit rather than strategic campaigning.

Caricom countries will support an established candidate, but Mr Patterson is going further to the identification and positioning of persons, not only for elected positions, but also posts in international organisations.

The heads of governments have been talking about this issue for the last 40 years, and we are sure they will discuss it at the next meeting.

The question is, what will they do about it?




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