Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states value democracy and human rights, including the holding of free, fair and peaceful elections, and several actions taken by the Region in recent months demonstrate that commitment.
This is according to internationally acclaimed diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders who was at the time addressing the 50th General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in his capacity as Head of the Delegation of Antigua and Barbuda.
Sanders, a Guyanese by birth, noted that some member states of the OAS have decided that the purpose of the Organisation is solely political and therefore development and security issues are less relevant than democracy and human rights.
“We in the Caribbean strongly uphold democracy and human rights, including free and fair elections. That is why we actively fought for democracy in Guyana for five months between April and August this year. It is why we vigorously applauded it in the transparent elections and the peaceful transition of government in Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and St Kitts and Nevis in the last few months.
“It is also why we loudly acclaimed the voice of the people in Bolivia who, two days ago overwhelmingly restored democracy in their country through the power of the ballot. But we also know, Mr President, that the guarantees of democracy and human rights anywhere are human development and human security,” Sanders affirmed.
The Diplomat further told the Assembly that for democracy to survive, development must thrive, adding that if the OAS is to remain relevant to the needs of its peoples, it needs to recognise that the world does not operate in separate compartments. “Every activity is interlinked and integrated”.
Turning his attention to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanders noted that the countries of the Caribbean are among the hardest hit and for many of them, a decade of economic growth and social development has been set back in seven months resulting in their inability to attain the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations.
The pandemic, he argued has magnified inequalities, injustices, and unfairness in the world.
According to Sanders, unemployment has jumped dramatically in some cases to 50 percent; businesses have closed – some never to open their doors again; savings have depleted; poverty has increased; malnutrition has returned and so has hunger and an increase in crime.
The international financial institutions, he said, are constrained by rules set by those who make their policies, deny concessional financing to small and vulnerable states on the basis of flawed criteria.
He noted that the Paris Club demands payment of age-old debts, knowing fully well that states, crippled by the effects of the pandemic, are unable to pay. “Yet, none will listen to the pleas for debt rescheduling and debt forgiveness, without which these nations could become basket cases with all the consequences that social and political instability will unleash”.
Sanders said that apart from the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organisation, Antigua and Barbuda had to curb and contain the coronavirus from its own depleted resources, managing to keep deaths down to three, confirmed cases to 119 and active cases, currently at 15.
He urged that the OAS cannot afford to ignore the calamitous effects of the virus on the health of our peoples and on the economies of our countries.
Sanders added that OAS member states should also be a unified voice for the renegotiating and rescheduling of foreign debt, and for the affordable procurement of vaccines for all when one is found to counter COVID-19.
Integration and collective action in the OAS, he noted, should not be an option, or a choice; it should be an imperative for all – rich and poor, large, and small.
The OAS had lauded Guyana for finally concluding its five-month-long election process, paving the way for the duly elected PPP/C to be sworn in last August.
According to the OAS, Guyana’s democracy was put to the test but in the end, democracy prevailed.
On July 21, Guyana was brought before OAS Permanent Council, where all member states present took a unified position that the democratic will of the people must be respected.
Some of the strongest words came from Bradley Freden, who spoke on behalf of United States representative to the OAS, Carlos Trujillo. Freden had questioned whether APNU/AFC wanted Guyana to be a leader in the hemisphere or an international disgrace.
During the Permanent Council meeting, Secretary General Luis Almagro had made it pellucid that democracy must be upheld in Guyana and had urged that the Judiciary stop being the refuge of those who want to do nothing more than delay the declaration of results of the General and Regional Elections.