GUYANA is a member of the international community, and, as a young nation, has played a significant role in influencing principles and decisions at various fora; not forgetting that it has given leadership to the conceptualising and building of the regional integration process upon which CARICOM has been established. Guyana’s role and influence in the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War need to be remembered. The nation’s presence in that body assisted in shaping the diplomatic message on the world stage, and aided the protection of this country’s sovereignty, in that it was not wedded to the geopolitical dynamics between the East and West, but secured cooperation on issues and principles. It was this relationship that enhanced the country’s image and brought with it solidarity on several issues that were in our national interest. This positioning resulted in Guyana acquiring significant support in the defence of its borders against claims made by our neighbours, Suriname and Venezuela.
The country also benefitted from technical support, aid and trade from places such as the ABC countries, Eastern Europe, Asia and Cuba. Our participation in the liberation struggles of Southern Africa was clearly defined by us and effectively articulated at the international level, and this played a significant role in bringing an end to apartheid. That was the period when foreign policy was defined and driven by a proficient group of foreign service officials, the likes of Rashleigh Jackson. Even though Guyana was a young nation, small in size, population and economy, our intellectual prowess was of such that the nation was able to hold its own among others in influencing and developing major strategies on the world stage. International cooperation is premised on universal principles and practices, and the practices will shift, based on a nation’s developmental thrust, guided by the principles at the international level. In recent years, reference has been made to the Green Economy, which has its genesis in a White Paper prepared by a group of British experts in the 1990s. This has since morphed into an international position which describes growth in an economy based on the Human Development Index (HDI). This new model of development has impacted Guyana. The Green Economy is shaped by three pillars, namely: (i) Environment, (ii) Labour policies consistent with the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Core Labour Standards, and (iii) Sustainable development. Prior to the world embracing this new philosophy, Guyana had distinguished itself as a forerunner. Under the leadership of President H. Desmond Hoyte, Guyana sought to address environmental issues by making Iwokrama available as a model for addressing extraction of our forest and its impact on sustainable development. As the nation continued to play a role in leading the way in defining what the Green Economy ought to be, during the Bharrat Jagdeo presidency, the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) was introduced as another element. The full implementation and sustainability of the Green Economy is dependent on all international institutions not only publicly recognising the elements of the Green Economy, but beginning the process of measuring growth and development based on HDI. The nation needs to advocate and agitate that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should change its tools of measuring development. Whereas the growth in the Green Economy must be measured by HDI, and the international financial institutions continue the practice of measuring growth by a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Guyana is once again presented a scenario to influence and win cooperation to have the measurement changed. Measuring growth in a Green Economy has to address issues such as education, health, jobs created, how many persons have been brought above the poverty line, respect for international labour policies and laws, management of the environment, both in the extractive sector and solid and liquid waste, etc. While international institutions and countries engage in cooperation with Guyana consistent with specific interests, this nation, too, shoulders a responsibility to make sure that our national interest is advanced and embraced in shaping international policies and laws.