In the last quarter century, the world has undergone a fundamental reconfiguration due to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later in 1991. These events were dramatic, in that they signaled the end of the Cold War and the so-called East-West divide that had existed since the end of the Second World War.
As a result, the international system has changed, so much so that if it were possible today to bring back to life a few people who had died in 1985, they would have great difficulty recognizing the current global landscape.
They would want to know why there is one Germany instead of two, where has Yugoslavia gone, what happened to the Soviet Union and why apartheid no longer exists in South Africa. They would also question how communism has largely vanished from the global landscape and how countries such as China, which still professes to retain the communist system, have opted for capitalist economies.
If these persons were living in the Caribbean, they would have wanted to know why inflows of aid from the United States to support development projects have virtually dried up and why some regional exports like bananas no longer enjoy preferential treatment.
Since President Trump vowed to put “America first” and “make America great again,” the world has entered a new phase of uncertainty. The isolationist stance of the Trump administration, along with a weaker Britain, which resulted from its decision to leave the European Union, have fueled discussion among experts that the world seems poised to undergo a fresh round of radical changes.
Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, the vast majority of Western nations have largely looked to the United States and Britain, to a lesser extent, for leadership. Indeed, it was this Anglo-American alliance which was basically responsible for putting in place the current economic and diplomatic arrangements which have shaped international relations. However, President Trump’s isolationist policies and a weakened Britain could rupture the post-world war global structure which has become increasingly weak. The unexpected Brexit vote has made the international system more fragile.
There is uncertainty in London and Washington. Neither Britain nor the United States can boast of having strong and stable governments. And neither appears to have the leadership that is required to steer the world in the right direction. This lack of global leadership could spur uncertainty and destabilize the global order.
The Brexit vote has galvanized the European Union, and the election of Emmanuel Macron as president of France has revitalized the Franco-German alliance by making it more dynamic. At the same time, a climate change alliance has emerged between China and the EU as China seizes the opportunity to extend its sphere of influence around the world by positioning itself as the leader on environmental issues.
Further, President Trump’s decision to pull America out of the Paris agreement on climate change, clearly indicates that the world is poised for an uncertain period ahead. China and Germany will likely replace the US and Britain as global leaders. Are Guyana and the Caribbean countries paying close attention to these developments, especially in terms of possible implications for the region?
That said, these countries are essentially passive players on the world stage. They admittedly have no effective power to change the course of world events, even when the region’s interests are affected, such as the case with climate change and trade. However, they are not entirely powerless either.
The important point which these challenges underscore is that the best hope for the region, in terms of boosting its ability to cope and survive, lies in the strengthening of regional unity and a deepening of the integration process within the Caribbean. This must be achieved, or else the region could find itself with its back against the wall and totally overwhelmed by external events. It is time to give greater meaning to the seemingly stalled regional integration process so as to reduce the impact of global changes.
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