Saint Vincent and the Grenadines may be the smallest country to ever sit on the UN Security Council, but it doesn’t mean it is intimidated by the big powers. Instead, the island nation is already amplifying the voices of Africa and the Caribbean in the UN forum.
“I think that what the small state does is to forever remind the bigger countries of the importance of not only upholding international law,” Inda Rhonda King, Saint Vincent’s permanent representative to the UN, told PassBlue. “But reminding them of the obligations under the law, that it’s not just, you’re here to serve the international community. . . . It’s like holding them to the moral compass.”
Saint Vincent joined the UN in 1980, and with a population of 110,000, it really does speak for small countries, including in the Caribbean region. A few weeks after the country took its two-year seat on the Council, in January 2020, it spontaneously allied its voice with the three current African members on the Council, Niger, South Africa and Tunisia, creating the A3+1.
“I think it has been effective,” King said in a recent interview. “It certainly raised the eyebrows of many because it was not immediately obvious why that should be, until we made the links that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is predominantly African descendants and indigenous.”
Its foreign policy is unconventional; it is also a member of the Nonaligned Movement. While Ambassador King says her country has healthy relationships with Britain, France and the United States on the Council, its voting pattern and statements sometimes resemble more of what China and Russia are saying and doing. However, Saint Vincent has no formal relationship with Beijing because it formally recognizes Taiwan. “It is an independent, home-grown, uniquely Vincentian foreign policy,” she said.
Jacqueline Braveboy-Wagner is a professor of political science at the City College of New York and the City University of New York, specializing in the Caribbean region and Caricom, the regional organization of Caribbean states. She concedes that Saint Vincent’s foreign policy is puzzling.
“They’re not pro-Russia, although their stance on Venezuela might make them seem,” she said. “They are not particularly happy with the [former] colonial power, the United Kingdom, and even though much of their trade relations is still with the UK and Europe, they’re not big on France, so I think as far as the permanent members are concerned, Saint Vincent could go any way.”
For November, which is the country’s one and only Council presidency in its two-year term, Saint Vincent said it wanted to give a voice to the voiceless. One meeting is going to be on Palestine, an issue particularly close to the ambassador’s heart.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said to the media on Nov. 2 about his country’s place in the UN: “I value this engagement with love, because without the UN and international law, multilateralism, we’d live in a perpetual state of nature, and I don’t think people across the world would like that. In this pandemic world, this can only take place if all people work together and nations have to own processes.” (Gonsalves, a member of the Unity Labor Party, is running for a fifth term in an election on November 5.)
The Council will hold an event for the UN’s annual Police Week, and Saint Vincent will use it to highlight the challenges of UN police forces in Haiti. Its thematic debate, on Nov. 3, is focused on drivers of conflict, and Gonsalves will lead the session virtually.