Dr. Rosmond Adams, MD, MSc. (Public Health), M.S (Bioethics), FRSPH
In January 2020, St. Vincent and the Grenadines will take up its seat as a non-permanent member of the U.N Security Council.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the smallest country to ever hold a seat on the prestigious Council. It is indeed a moment of national pride and a demonstration of the Government’s policy in advancing international relations and foreign affairs.
The primary responsibility of the UN Security Council is for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties in a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.
A close look at the main responsibility of the UN Security Council shows that the focus is primarily on ensuring the security of territories against both internal and external aggressions. However, there are other issues that pose real a threat to human security. Issues such as poverty, the spread of diseases, destruction of the environment, climate change, lack of access to safe drinking water and food and the lack of access to adequate health care should all be considered in the context of human security.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), is therefore in a unique position to advocate on behalf of the entire Caribbean Region and by extension for all Small Island Developing States to ensure that security considerations are not only debated in the context of weapon and defence of a territory, but that a broader consideration of human security is considered looking at equitable access to education, work, health, climate change and respect for human rights.
This approach will not take away from the Council’s responsibility to guarantee international security. It will not take the focus from internal and external threats and conflicts but will bring a shift to how security issues are considered at the highest level. It will move the focus away from just arms and weapons to more real issues that threaten the security and the survival of island states like St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It will consider security, not solely in its purest sense but also looking at human security in the context of sustainable development.
As a non-permanent member, we will only have two years on the Council. It is important that we develop a strategic plan on how best we can utilize this position. Firstly, we need to identify what issues we would want to be given highest consideration, secondly, we must develop a plan on how we can demonstrate and convince the permanent members that issues such as climate change are real and affects us disproportionately. Thirdly, even after our term expires, we should have made sufficient progress so that the permanent members can continue addressing our issues and we can pass these issues to similar incoming non-permanent members.
Indeed, St. Vincent and the Grenadines achievement is commendable. Other Caribbean countries and SIDS should also aspire to also sit on the council so that our vulnerabilities are discussed and measures to make us resilient and safe are considered. Threats to security for many developing countries are not wars, but include pandemics, deficiencies in water supply and sanitation systems, natural and man-made disasters, poor attention to maternal and child health, unemployment, violence and lack of safety on transport systems.
The region must therefore stand behind St. Vincent and the Grenadines and support its term on the council.
Dr. Rosmond Adams is a Medical Doctor, a Public Health Specialist and a Bioethicist. He is the Head of Health Information, Communicable Disease and Emergency Response at the regional Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) where he leads on issues related to Regional Health Security. Dr. Adams serves on a number of committees and advisory boards on issues related to global health.