In the age of globalization, technology and a chaotic social-media world, Guyana has to take steps to protect its image and reputation in international affairs. Since independence, the country has achieved a stellar reputation in international affairs, especially at the United Nations (UN) and during its active participation in the Non-Aligned Movement. Regionally, under the leadership of the late Forbes Burnham, Guyana championed the cause for free trade in the Caribbean which led to the creation of CARIFTA in 1965 and which became CARICOM in 1973.
Today, with a United States President who seems to be very irrational, and who is incapable of restraining himself from even the slightest possible tweets or name-calling, small countries like Guyana needs a stable, conscious, thoughtful and farsighted government with a sound foreign policy to guide it safely through the rough waters of the international system.
Guyana needs leaders who are strong in their convictions and are willing to change and adapt to changing circumstances on the world stage. While some believe that there is such leadership, others are of the view that the APNU+AFC coalition government has not demonstrated that kind of skillful and robust management to deal with an unpredictable White House approach to international politics.
Guyana needs a government to enhance its role to seek new partnerships for trade and investment and to assist it in its border controversy with Venezuela. This should and must be the cornerstone of our foreign policy. We do not need a foreign policy that is akin to a particular ideology, but one that is flexible and adaptable to serving our best interests abroad.
As such, our current foreign policy positions need to be reassessed, and there is evidence of that so far, particularly on the position Guyana took when it voted against President Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the UN. That was a necessary and courageous position for Guyana to take, since the US has ignored the two-state resolution.
Crime and corruption also need to be addressed and dealt with locally, and there is no doubt that they are important and could impact negatively on the country’s reputation.
The question we need to ask ourselves is: can Guyana oppose the Trump administration without a backlash from the White House and can it hold its own in an ever-changing world, preserve its partnership with its traditional allies, and expand its relationship with other countries on the basis of what is best for the country?
To withstand sanctions, if any, from the Trump Administration due to the vote at the UN, strengthening our partnerships or creating new ones with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and others, must be on the forefront of our foreign policy positions, mainly for economic reasons. We need to meaningfully partner with these countries for trade, expertise and investment.
Guyana’s foreign policy was soundly hatched in the late ‘60s and solidified in the ‘70s with the push for CARICOM to formally have a free trade deal with the European Union, like what it had with other regional bodies and countries. The country also maintained as much as possible the traditional America-led Western alliance that we have grown up with, and that has provided peace and security since 1945. All these and more are all positions that the current administration should consider this year, and going forward, have a clear plan on how to address and/or implement them.
Because much more than what is patently obvious to everyone, and no matter what the government does or does not do, Guyana’s future is going to depend substantially on external factors, which are beyond our control. That is a sobering thought, considering where we are at this moment in time. Steady heads are what Guyana needs to navigate a fast-changing world.
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