Caricom better off leveraging its multiple votes in international organisations

Caricom better off leveraging its multiple votes in international organisations

Sunday, January 26, 2020

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Instead of worrying about each member state pursuing bilateral relations with external countries, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) should concentrate on operating as a bloc within international organisations, to increase benefits to the region.

Operating as a group is the practical way to maximise the region's limited influence, by leveraging its multiple votes, as envisaged in the Treaty of Chaguaramas which called for unifying Caricom's foreign policy and external negotiations.

It is disappointing to have to acknowledge that on the whole Caricom has a very mixed record of operating as a group within international organisations where it matters most. In several instances, Caricom has failed to agree on a single candidate to represent the region for an international post.

That happened as recently as the election of the Commonwealth secretary general, resulting in the election of a candidate favoured by the United Kingdom who spent only the first two years in the Caribbean island of her birth.

There are few situations in which Caricom can play a determining role. The Organization of American States (OAS) is one such because the region has 14 of the 34 member states (Cuba does not participate).

This means that any candidate supported by a united Caricom would only need his or her country and three other countries to be elected in a two-person contest. In a three-person contest, Caricom's support would be enough.

The upshot is that a united Caricom can determine who the next secretary general of the OAS will be when the election is held in March this year, especially since there are three candidates vying for the position.

Long ago, Caricom seemingly resigned itself to the view that in a Latin American-dominated organisation, a Caribbean candidate would never be elected as secretary general. Caricom therefore locked itself into an informal agreement that a Caricom person will always have the position of deputy secretary general, a post with little power.

In the past, Caricom has failed to maximise its influence, for example when it split its vote allowing a Colombian candidate to beat the candidate of Costa Rica, another small albeit non-community Caribbean state.

From all appearances, Caricom has not agreed on any one candidate of the three who are now seeking the position of OAS secretary general. However, there is still time.

We hope that in order to play a decisive role in this election the regional grouping can unite behind one candidate when they gather in Barbados for the Heads of Government meeting in February.

As a united bloc, they can trade their support for something in the OAS, for example, a Caricom candidate for secretary general when it next comes up, or development loans, or high-ranking jobs in the OAS, or best of all support for a Caricom candidate to lead some other international organisation or forum.


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