Sunday, May 09, 2010

SVG bid for UN Security Council seat


ST Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), among the smallest in size and population of member states of the Caribbean Community, is making a bold bid for a vacant seat on the 15-member United Nations Security Council for which elections will take place in October this year.

Five nations of the 192 UN member states hold permanent seats -- USA, United Kingdom, China, Germany and France; while the rest compete for the rotating 10 'non-permanent' seats allocated on a geographical basis.

To succeed as the smallest nation of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean (GRULAC) countries in attaining its political objective of securing the current vacancy on the Security Council, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Windward Island state of 150 sq miles and a population of some 110,000, faces a very big challenge.

It must defeat Colombia, which is already an officially declared candidate for the vacant seat, and for which it is reported to have received an "encouraging wink" from Washington in its current diplomatic initiatives that also sought to secure support from Caricom member countries.

The big challenge for the Vincentian administration of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves was to first secure the "strongest endorsement" from the 14 independent countries of Caricom as it prepares to launch a vigorous campaign both at UN headquarters with resident representatives and then extend the campaign, with collaborating allies across the Latin American-Caribbean region.

Well, despite a recent move by Vincentian Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace to frustrate, for domestic political reasons, his Government's bid for the UN Security Council seat, Prime Minister Gonsalves seems to have already won significant endorsement at last Thursday's meeting in Dominica of Caricom Foreign Ministers.
Caricom's support.

Latest indication, at the time of writing, suggested that with just two Heads of Government yet to give a positive signal to their foreign ministries, the Vincentian Government would be well-placed by tomorrow to formally present its interest in being a candidate for the vacant Security Council seat.

Colombia, Argentina and, to a lesser extent Mexico, are known to have long been ahead of the pack of Latin American nations that have most often won representation on the UN Security Council.

In contrast, between 1975 and 2001, a period of 26 years, just three Caricom countries had the privilege of gaining the required two-thirds endorsement of the UN General Assembly to win a non-permanent seat on the Security Council. These were Guyana and Jamaica (both of which were twice elected) and Trinidad and Tobago.

To block the nomination for a Security Council seat, at least one-third of the 192 member countries of the world body must support such an initiative.

When the primary contenders fail to get the required support, they can throw their support behind a compromise candidate -- in this hemisphere that would be from either the Latin American bloc or the Caribbean region -- as last occurred in 2006 when Venezuela and Guatemala failed, after 48 rounds, to get the required two-thirds endorsement and subsequently withdrew in favour of Panama.

Given its known positions at the UN and stated policies in relation to principled support for small island states (SIDS) globally, Caricom is not expected to do otherwise than show strong endorsement for St Vincent and Grenadines to win the UN seat.

Opposition allegation

Particularly when it is realised that Colombia has repeatedly enjoyed that privilege while, should the 15-member Community fail to become involved in St Vincent's candidacy bid, it would mean that, as has been pointed out, the next "vacant slot" in the GRULAC 'queue' will not come around for another 10 years.

Since Jamaica was the last Caricom state to be on the Security Council 10 years ago, there are, therefore, objective factors in support of St Vincent's bid that is strongly associated with the politics of commitment to small island states.

In a "briefing document" circulated late last month by the Ralph Gonsalves administration at the inaugural Brazil-Caricom Summit in Brasilia, hosted by President Ignacio Lula da Silva, St Vincent and the Grenadines said it has "a good chance of winning the two-thirds majority" support.

Further, should there be deadlock, which it does not anticipate, given indications already forthcoming from the nations represented on the General Assembly, it was prepared to resort to the precedent set for a compromise candidate who could be either from Caricom, or another Latin America country.

The 'political fly' in the ointment for that Security Council seat, as raised by Vincentian Opposition Leader Eustace, is that Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez may be the unseen moving force as an extension of his own Government's lingering opposition to Colombia, which itself makes no secret of its dislike for the regime in Caracas.

But NO evidence has been offered by Eustace to show that the Gonsalves administration is acting as a 'proxy' for Venezuela.

Nor, of course, can Caricom afford to be manoeuvred into a position to appear divided over such an unsubstantiated claim and be misrepresented as seemingly bowing to Washington's influence in favour of Colombia as part of its own anti-Chávez political agenda.

We should know more about the behind-the-scenes political manoeuvrings in another two days by which the expected 'strong endorsement' by Caricom should be forthcoming.