In just over two weeks’ time, St Vincent and the Grenadines will host its biggest international gathering ever in the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Some 34 nations of the western hemisphere are expected to be represented, most at the highest level of Heads of State. In addition, the Secretary General of the United Nations is also expected to grace the gathering with his presence, endorsing the growing prestige of our country on the international stage.
The Summit will mark the end of the historic Presidency of the regional grouping by such a tiny country, providing leadership of such a prestigious gathering which includes such hemispheric “heavyweights” as Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela. CELAC’s significance is underlined by the fact that it is an independent effort at integration in this hemisphere which brings together nations and peoples with a common history and does not include the developed hemispheric nations of Canada and the USA. It is also significant in that, unlike the other hemispheric grouping, the Organization of American States (OAS), it includes Cuba, a Caribbean nation excluded from the OAS.
It has not been easy for our small country to live up to the expectations of presiding over such an important body as CELAC. Our limitations are not only in physical and economic resources, but in personnel as well. Our country had to rope in two experienced persons with international and diplomatic experience in the persons of the Excellencies Douglas Slater, former Government Minister and retired Deputy Secretary General of CARICOM, and Andreas Wickham, retired Ambassador to Venezuela. Significantly both are versed in the hemisphere’s dominant language, Spanish, having been among the first Vincentian graduates of Cuban universities. They headed the local secretariat for CELAC, overseeing preparations for the Summit.
From all reports preparations for the Summit have been proceeding as planned. This includes the assurance from the internationally renowned hotel chain Sandals, that its latest investment, at Buccament bay, will be ready to welcome the gathering, even though normal business at the resort will not begin until the end of March.
While the Government of SVG must be complimented for its bold efforts, we as Vincentians must be aware that it is our entire country which will be on show for the event. Our local differences must not be allowed to sully our growing international prestige and we all should do what little we can to showcase our small but ambitious nation and to extend the traditional hospitality for which we are well known. Already the Summit seems to be bringing us benefits in that over the past week, we have seen efforts to repair the many potholes in the road about which we have long complained!
As we welcome our hemispheric brothers and sisters let us all do our best not only to showcase our country in a positive light, but also to contribute to strengthening CELAC and passing on the baton to Honduras, with whom we have historic bloodline ties.