By Luis Carpio, Political Adviser of the Association of Caribbean States
“Future generations may well remember the early 21st century as a pivotal period in history. We are living through a time of unprecedented threats to our planet and to our collective hope to live in peace, without want or fear. And we are searching for a shared approach to meet these challenges and build a safe future for all. (Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General)
The Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, including restructuring of the United Nations, appointed by the UN Secretary General, makes as eloquent a case for the International Community’s continued need for the world body as it does for the urgent call for reform, if the United Nations is to fulfill its Charter role in promoting “social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”.
The Report also makes the important admission that, as huge as the UN’s potential is, it cannot be expected to perform miracles in a vacuum and thus needs to strengthen not only its own Regional Commissions (ECLAC in our case), but it must also “pursue greater cooperation and coordination with regional organizations outside the United Nations system”.
This important recognition on the part of the panel is not isolated, as it comes in the wake of the outcomes of the major UN Conferences of our time, which have highlighted the prerequisite of involving regional and subregional organisations, particularly in sustainable development.
In renewing their commitment to multilateralism as the ideal mechanism for facing global challenges in a manner consistent with the founding principles of International Law, countries have come to accept that there is no contradiction between multilateralism and regionalism, including south-south co-operation mechanisms, as they themselves constitute a very sophisticated expression of multilateralism.
The Guadalajara Summit of European and Latin American and Caribbean countries held last year, not only agreed on this very issue, but also heartened the ACS when it declared that the Association of Caribbean States is an important regional entity, through which co-operation can be deepened and strengthened between the European Union and the Greater Caribbean Area, and recognised the progress made by the ACS in consolidating a Co-operation Zone of the Greater Caribbean, through political dialogue, co-operation, consultation and concerted action in trade, sustainable tourism, transport and natural disasters.
The growing emphasis on the role of regional and subregional organisations is also one born out of logic and practicality, particularly in our corner of the world made up in great part by Small Island Developing States. Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States told the UN Commission on Sustainable Development last year that regional groups are often better able to negotiate with development partners as "they know the region's strengths and weaknesses. They know of the region's capacities and resources," he said. "They are also better placed to initiate and push ahead with projects and programmes with the governments of the region".
Regional and subregional organisations make sense as an indispensable link in the chain as they, amongst other things, provide a forum for discussion and make it less costly for states to discuss issues with one another; allow governments to take a long-term perspective, making them less concerned about immediate results; provide economies of scale, maximizing return on investment of international assistance as well as provide greater transparency and accountability for donors;
Furthermore, for small countries riding the waves in a globalised world, regional and subregional arrangements are powerful vessels in good weather and safe harbours in stormy seas.
“All of us grew up in a world in which we looked to the idea of world order, and somehow our imagination missed the fact that the world order can only be built on the basis of its components of effective regional order”. (Luigi Einaudi, Acting Secretary General OAS)
The views expressed are not necessarily the official views of the ACS. Feedback can be sent to