Underlining importance of regional unity is ‘when our neighbours prosper, we prosper’

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BY now just about every Guyanese would understand the importance of regional integration for Guyana. For Guyana to survive in the international community, it must closely align itself with its neighbours. We have to establish relations with those countries with whom we share the common goal of progress and development where all countries benefit from mutual interconnectedness and interdependence upon each other. It must not be a situation where one or some of these countries gain at the other countries’ expense. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) brings to Guyana the opportunity of realising its dream of self determination as a sovereign nation and of giving its people a country for which they can have national pride.
The significance of UNASUR to Guyana is that it allows for improved economic growth, and strengthened social, economic and trade relations between Guyana and these countries, through close alignment with other South American neighbours, bridging the gap that has for decades, encumbered the progress of South American integration. Nonetheless, before UNASUR’s vision of a united South America can be truly realised, there are some barriers that must be overcome.
Of immense importance to Guyana’s contribution to UNASUR is the issue of national pride, which has not yet been cultivated consequent upon Caribbean integration; and also, the respect of the region, which this country has still not secured, evidenced by the hostility and discrimination meted out to Guyanese by her fellow CARICOM member states. As a people, we must be able to ascertain a level of surety that democratically, our articulated interests are seriously and wholeheartedly taken into consideration in the decision making and policy formulation process.
The newly established democracy clause of UNASUR holds that in South America, democracy must always be at its prime, and justifiably, needs protection from threats posed at disrupting the democratic order of UNASUR member nations. This newly adopted clause is yet another way in which UNASUR proves its effectiveness to the South American region and to Guyana. Guyana, a country whose history has been tainted by the presence of counter democratic forces, needs this clause more than ever, to serve as a testament of the people’s expressed will to have their democratically elected choice of governmental representation, respected and honored.
Also, as South America’s gateway to the Caribbean, Guyana stands uniquely positioned as the only English speaking territory in the UNASUR basin. The breakdown of the language barrier that exists between Guyana and the other South American nations of UNASUR is therefore imperative, since UNASUR stretches beyond the bounds of just economic integration to encompass cultural unity and regional solidarity, and carries far reaching economic and social implications for Guyana. If Guyanese cannot personally identify with the rest of its UNASUR family, then a sense of identity and belonging to this group will never be acquired. Hence, the dream of a unified South America, where all sister countries are equally respected and integrated into the knitted fabric of UNASUR may very well become another nightmare for Guyanese as we may be classed once more, as the ‘black sheep’ of the region.
Nevertheless, President Bharrat Jagdeo’s goal of building stronger ties with South America must be commended, as regional integration remains a strategic means of surviving sensibly as a nation. To borrow some of Brazil’s President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva words, the underlining importance of regional unity is that “when our neighbours prosper, we prosper”.