With the Audacity of David, the Widow’s Faith, the Spirit of Chatoyer, the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi we begin a historic Journey.
We, the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), will, on January 1, 2020, become one of only 15 members of the most powerful organ of the United Nations. We will on that day, just 40 years after reclaiming our independence, become the smallest nation ever to serve on this prestigious body which is tasked with maintaining international peace and security. On January 2, 2020, we will plant our flag outside the Security Council chamber and take up our seat at the horse-shoe table within the chamber where we will remain for the next two years.
SVG enters the Security Council on the cusp of its 75th anniversary and at a time when the world is riddled with challenges and the rules-based system is increasingly under threat on many fronts.
Indeed, SVG is not without its own homegrown challenges. Today, however, I wish to invoke the spirt and audacity of hope and reflect on what is possible and the transformative opportunity that is before us.
In 1763, Britain assumed suzerainty of SVG and with the exception of a few years of French occupation (1779 – 1783) we remained under British colonial rule until internal self-government in 1969 and constitutional independence in 1979. Upon our independence, we joined the international community and gained the right and assumed the immense responsibility to chart our own course in an increasingly complex world. Some have even argued that small islands are not viable as independent states. But we have seen, difficult though it can be, that this micro, multi-island state has made great strides through strategic, creative and innovative measures and faith in Almighty God.
The story of David and Goliath reminds us that the small can overcome the powerful. That the small overcomes the powerful is more often the case than it is not. As a young nation we will be remiss if we believe the fight for our independence to be a done deal. Small states by definition are vulnerable in a world where international law is compromised and only might makes right. This makes us natural defenders of the international order that protects us. Indeed, it is the responsibility of a small state.
Similarly, in a world where the nexus between climate change and security becomes clearer by the day, in a world in which climate change is an existential threat to the Small Island Developing State, in a world where climate change threatens to make the independent citizens of a Small Island Developing State stateless in the not-too-distant future, the Small Island Developing State has the responsibility to its citizens to be bold and advocate vociferously in the international arena for climate justice now. The Small Island Developing State must fight for its protection, it must fight to hold carbon emitters accountable, it must fight for behavior change, it must do so even as it grapples with its own homegrown challenges. The Small Island Developing State cannot afford to wait. Our independence is an ongoing project that must be protected and defended, simultaneously, on all fronts.
Charting our course through the multifaceted challenges endemic to globalization is buttressed by our faith. “Our faith will see us through” our anthem reminds. In 2 King 4, Elisha asked the widow:
“How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” To that question this Small Island Developing State has answered, “we have educated, creative and innovative, young men and women who speak the languages of countries from far flung places”. We can, today, converse with the powerful, permanent five members of the Security Council, for instance. We can speak Russian, Mandarin, French, and English and we speak Spanish, too. We take to the high table the fresh perspectives of a Caribbean Society which, according to George Lamming, “was perhaps the first global experiment in human history”.
We are a people accustomed to taking from the little we have knowing that in giving the little will be multiplied. This is the way of the Vincentian man and woman. And, we seek not so much to be consoled as to console. We seek not so much to be understood as to understand. We seek not so much to be loved as to love. Yes, this is the way of the Vincentian man and woman.
SVG is a nation epitomized by the resilience of its people. It is a nation forged through the resistance of a people led by Chief Joseph Chatoyer to become the nation with perhaps the shortest period of organized slavery in the modern world. We, the people of SVG, are part of the Sixth Region of Africa, also known as the African Diaspora. More than 50 per cent of the United Nations Security Council’s agenda, today, is comprised of conflicts on the African Continent. Today, this nation can stand up for and with the people of Africa as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council. A manifestation of the prophetic imagination.
And, so, with “the songs of Caribs, the rhythm of Africa, the chords of Asia, the melody of Europe and the lyrics of the Caribbean itself,” we go forth. This uniquely blended psyche makes our nation, Hairouna, the land of the blessed, ideally suited to the task up ahead. We embody the world. We go forth to create transformative, resilient new realities by becoming more the transformed, resilient people we are destined to be.
On January 1 another important chapter in the history of our nation begins. To God be the Glory. Peace Profound.