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|Talking to Heads of Missions… RODRIGUES-BIRKETT OFFERS GUIDANCE ON EVOLVING FOREIGN POLICY|
|Wednesday, 11 July 2012 22:42|
MINISTER of Foreign Affairs Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett has reminded Heads of Missions overseas that Guyana’s foreign policy is being conducted in an evolving global environment and, as such, they must be cognisant of the various developments taking place.
Addressing the diplomats last Monday, at the start of their three-day meeting in the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, she remarked that, for some countries, it is customary when a new government takes office and, more especially when the Head of Government has changed, for Heads of Missions to return to the capital for discussions with the new foreign policy architect and, in this case, President Donald Ramotar.
She said: “Incidentally, this Heads of Missions Conference is also being held three years after the last one and it is, therefore, timely for our diplomatic and consular representatives abroad to return home and reorient themselves with the developments that are taking place as there is only so much one can do via technology.”
The Minister said that much has happened since they last met in 2009, both in terms of foreign relations and the country’s overall development.
In the realm of foreign relations, she mentioned some developments, including Guyana’s relations with neighbouring Venezuela and Suriname which were taken to a higher level and its role in different regional and international organisations.
She said a mission was established in Kuwait, while an ambassador was appointed to the People’s Republic of China and, at home, has seen the addition of two new embassies, Mexico and Argentina.
She also highlighted Guyana’s efforts in the fight against climate change, which was internationally recognised when former President Bharrat Jagdeo was designated Champion of the Earth.
“In similar vein, we signed an agreement with Norway for the provision of funds in exchange for prudent management of our forest, as we continue to make real our Low Carbon Development Strategy,” she said.
About important developments domestically, she said, the country has moved forward with its quest for clean and reliable energy with the Amaila Falls hydro project and started the provision of solar electricity to hinterland communities.
In its resolve to bring technology to the homes of those who need it but cannot afford it, Rodrigues-Birkett said many families benefitted from the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) Project, while several more housing schemes have been developed “as we continue to work towards ensuring all Guyanese families are owners of their own homes.”
The Minister continued: “It is for these reasons and more that it is important that Heads of Missions orient themselves with our domestic development and sit in one room to discuss these developments and the future plans in terms of our foreign relations, which, needless to say, is an externalisation of our domestic policies.
“Heads of Missions, you are well aware that foreign policy is being conducted in an evolving global environment where Foreign Ministries must move beyond the boundary of traditional diplomacy.”
She said it is imperative that they incorporate, in their mandate, issues such as external trade, climate change, sustainable development, information technology, human rights and migration among many other areas.
She pointed out that diplomats, today, must be aware of the developments in all these areas and technology has also made communication faster and this process must be managed even “as we use technology to our advantage.”
“While we have engaged with several countries, at the bilateral level, in the promotion of our relations with those countries at the regional level, we have also benefitted from collaboration with our CARICOM partners in the coordination of the community’s foreign policy,” she said.
Rodrigues-Birkett acknowledged it is important that CARICOM recognised that, as small States in this ever changing global environment, it is important that “we work towards coordinating our foreign policy.”
She said: “There will be issues on which we differ and we must respect each other’s positions but there are many issues on which we share similar views and positions.
“We have already started in this direction and I believe many countries have seen the benefit of doing so. In fact, many countries and regions of the world look at us as one.”
She said:”As a group, we will be stronger”, noting that more and more Heads of Missions will be required to coordinate with their CARICOM counterparts.
“It is a fact that the United States of America remains our largest trading partner and North America, in general, home to the majority of our diaspora population. However, we must also be conscious of the diversification of power that is now enveloping our world.”
The Minister alluded to China, which is now the second largest economy to the U.S. Brazil, which has overtaken the United Kingdom (UK) to take sixth place and countries in the Middle East are also taking on greater prominence.
She agreed that the CARIFORUM/EU Economic Partnership Agreement has, so far, not brought any increase in trade with Europe.
“It is, therefore, important that we consolidate our relations with our traditional partners but, at the same time, we must also seek to build new ones,” Rodrigues-Birkett urged.
She said, as part of this dispensation, a mission in South Africa will be established in the not so distant future.
“We have followed, closely, developments that have taken place both inside and outside of our region, with a view to analysing the situations and changes, in so far as they relate to our foreign policy interests,” she stated.
The Minister advised:“In seeking to advance and enhance the promotion of the national interest through our diplomatic initiatives, we look forward to the guidance of His Excellency the President, in helping us to sharpen our focus.”
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