Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean speaking to the audience at??Hilton Barbados. Also pictured at the table (centre) is Minister of Education, Ronlad Jones. (A. Miller/BGIS)

Barbados’ multilateral relations were last weekend outlined to students by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean. The students took part in an inaugural Model United Nations (MUN) which was held at the Hilton Barbados Needham’s Point, last Saturday.

The participants and observers, who debated in similar fashion the Climate Change Resolution examined at the United Nation (UN) General Assembly last September, were told by Senator McClean, that "all of these characteristics are critical to being productive citizens."??

Explaining the island’s role at the United Nations, Ms. McClean told students it was "perhaps the centre piece of our multilateral relations," and that such relations spanned the UN and its specialised agencies/bodies including the UNDP, UNICEF, FAO, UNESCO, WHO/PAHO, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Students heard too, that Barbados also engaged in dialogue with other agencies such as the International Organisation for Migration and RAMSAR (the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance) which aimed "to make the world a better place".

"As we engage with the nations around the world, we are engaging in debating policy and programme development on a wide and comprehensive range of issues including political, developmental, economic, financial, trade, environmental, security, social and humanitarian issues," Ms. McClean added.??

Noting that some issues tended to overlap, she said that this was evident in the relationship between security and human rights; with international law; human rights and maritime delimitations; environmental, particularly marine environment and oceans governance issues with Caribbean and CARICOM relations.

Pointing out that countries engaged in determining candidatures on several occasions, the Foreign Affairs Minister disclosed that, this week, she was expected to meet with representatives seeking to become the Secretary General of the World Trade Organisation or wanting to sit on the Security Council. "For them it is a chance to demonstrate to the world that they have what it takes to be part of such important decision-making bodies," Senator McClean stressed, though contending that small states like Barbados would always depend heavily on international organisations and international law for their own security.??

The Senator added, however, that the multilateral arena, particularly the UN, "remained in our view the pre-eminent forum for small island developing states, like Barbados to pursue their multiple interests in a forum where?? all countries have the right to participate on the premise?? of ???one country, one vote’". Students heard too, that Barbados had contributed significantly to the debate on climate change which they (students) were now debating and it was stressed that the island had, in the words of former UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, earned the reputation of?? ???punching above its weight’ at the international level. Maintaining that this recognition could not be taken lightly and that it reflected a significant degree of success in promoting our interests at the multilateral level, Minister McClean said that it could not obscure the fact that our policy actions were "very often highly influenced by external forces and events".

As she addressed Barbados’ position with respect to this, she added: "…This?? Government recognises the importance of deliberate strategic objectives which are needed to shape clear policy priorities and, therefore, this explains in part why Barbados has taken for the last several years a very active part in the policy and advocacy interventions in the area of climate change, because if we look at our situation as a small island developing state we recognise that we are one of those countries which can be described as very fragile, very susceptible to the impact of climate change and, therefore, we must have a voice . And, I can tell you that even though we are small we are very well recognised in the circles in which we debate climate change."

Though she placed much emphasis on the multilateral element of our foreign policy, Senator McClean, at the end of her speech, noted that our foreign policy also incorporated, as a critical part, the aspect of our bilateral relations that closely linked us with individual countries. She said: "Country by country engagement is very closely linked to our multilateral relations and I must say that at the heart of that is our engagement?? with our global partners, with the nations of the world, within the context of the United Nations General Assembly and all aspect of the operations of?? the UN."

Secondary schools were invited by the Rotary Clubs of Barbados to select representatives who were characterised as "serious students" possessing good debating skills demonstrating good leadership experience or potential; having a cooperative nature and willingness to participate in a group; exhibiting good awareness of current events and with an enthusiasm for sharing new found skills with others and maintaining good performance in schoolwork.

The young students, simulating the process of the United Nations, were, therefore, called upon to also "demonstrate the centrality of the UN system to global affairs and to the welfare of nations".


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