I don’t always agree with US Presidents, but I’m all-in with Joe Biden’s position that ‘Foreign Policy is an extension of Domestic Policy.’
That ought to be the natural flow, but it isn’t.
Some governments or ministers treat International Relations as ‘Foreign Affairs’, treated separately from ‘Home Affairs’, and also separate and distinct ‘National Security’, which often interlap or fall under the same ministerial portfolio.
And in cases where governments are operated ‘like a business’, ministries are renamed “Departments’ that fall under a Prime Minister who’s both Chairman and CEO of the Cabinet of Ministers.
It’s argued by those who see ‘nothing wrong with a name’ that what matters most is the work done, which I can also agree with, but only to the extent that the actual work is done in a manner that benefits the nation – in this case, how Caribbean nations conduct international affairs (in terms of ties with the rest of the world) and the extent to which the nation and people benefit from agreements and arrangements made in representation of the nation on the world stage.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has developed its own multilateral approach to international relations, tailored to suit the fact that member-states always comprise governments with different interpretations and priorities – and likewise the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States).
But each member-state has the responsibility to not only interpret how the world turns, but more than that: to ensure that interpretation allows for the nation to always seek and find its place on the overcrowded world stage and work – alone and with others – to always seek and find ways to ensure the nation can benefit from whatever international possibilities exist to attract cooperation with international partners in ways that will redound to the mutual benefit of all.
Gone are the days when Caribbean nations only saw their roles as poor and small, newly-independent mainly small-island states that can never survive without aid and generous assistance trickling-down flowing from North to South, as every nation has resources that can be mobilized — human and natural – to its national benefit.
The first 60 years of Caribbean Independence have led to a stage when the Caribbean needs to look within and rediscover those human and natural resources that have traditionally been ignored in favour of tourism, manufacturing and agriculture bent on feeding extra-regional markets.
Agriculture and Manufacturing have always faced their Blues — and now, in the COVID Age, it’s Tourism’s turn to feel the COVID knee on its neck and bow to the New Normal.
International Relations for small nations poor or large have long had to succumb to the constant changes that come with Regime Change in rich nations big and small, on whose generosity and sympathy most (if not all) former colonies depended ever since the colonial strings were cut — severed or detached – for aid and assistance under different trade regimes designed to maintain the imbalance in favour of North over South.
After sixty years of Independence, the CARICOM region has to do all to redefine its Foreign Policy to reflect achievements of the needs for not just fixing domestic (national) problems, but also to find and provide avenues for expansion of the nation’s interactions and cooperation with other developing countries, small and large, with similar problems and solutions, through bilateral and multilateral means.
It means that unlike the past when G7, NATO, EU, United Nations, OAS and continental Summits were seen as too foreign for the Caribbean to expect to be counted or mentioned, the attitude in the post-Pandemic age has to take steps in advance to put the region on the agenda as part of the world.
The G7 nations have the largest footprints across the world; and France — because of the number of colonies it still has worldwide – today has by far the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world, including the Caribbean.
NATO also still sees the Caribbean Sea in pre-Cold War Monroe Doctrine terms as ‘America’s Backyard’.
And the EU still sees and treats the Caribbean as a post-colonial source of primary products and services.
And the US still treats the OAS as what Cuban Foreign Minister Raul Roa described way back in the sixties as its ‘Ministry of Latin American and Caribbean Colonies’.
But Caribbean needs have both remained and increased and this is the time for new thinking to be the new norm, when avenues need to be opened abroad and at home to encourage us to see our sea, sand and sun as more than just advertisements to lure tourists but as permanent and endless sources of power, energy, industry and natural investigation and adventure.
The region’s diplomats have to start seeing diplomacy in a new way, with as much attention to workable results as to diplomatic protocols and less of the traditional reference to and treatment of their missions at foreign missions as ‘Foreign Service’.
In other words, foreign policy definitely needs to be an extension of domestic policy.
Otherwise, it’ll only be interested in foreign affairs and matters without any reference to their application nto domestic realities in the ways needed now.
And there’s no two ways about it…