POLICY DEFINED

Clearly, Barbados' foreign policy is influenced by its physical features, its national character, its social values, its economic principles, and its political ideals.  Consequently, while the issues confronting Barbados in the international arena have changed over time, the core of Barbados' foreign policy doctrine has not.

From the time it gained independence from Great Britain on 30 November 1966, Barbados has pursued a foreign policy of 'moderation' and 'commonsense', the same values that inform every area of its domestic Government policy.

In fact, in his widely quoted statement to the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1966, Barbados' late Prime Minister and national hero the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow articulated the foreign policy vision of what was then a new sovereign nation by cautioning that

The people of Barbados do not draw a dividing line between their internal affairs and their foreign policy. They strive in their domestic arrangements to create a just society for themselves. In their constitution they affirm respect for the rule of law; they also declare their intention to establish and maintain the kind of society which enables each citizen, to the full extent of his capacity, to play his part in the national life; they further resolve that their economic system, as it develops, must be equitably administered and enjoyed and that undeviating recognition should be paid to ability, integrity and merit.

In thus charting our domestic course, we can have no interest in a foreign policy which contradicts our national goals. On the contrary we will support genuine efforts at world peace because our society is stable. We will strenuously assist the uprooting of vestigial imperialisms because our institutions are free. We will press for the rapid economic growth of all underdeveloped countries because we are busily engaged in building up our own. In fine our foreign and domestic policies are the obverse and reverse sides of a single coin.

We have devised the kind of foreign policy which is consistent with our national situation and which is also based on current realities of international politics.

We have no quarrels to pursue and we particularly insist that we do not regard any member state as our natural opponent. We shall not involve ourselves in sterile ideological wrangling because we are exponents not of the diplomacy of power but of the diplomacy of peace and prosperity. We will not regard any great power as necessarily right in a given dispute unless we are convinced of this, yet at the same time we will not view the great powers with perennial suspicion merely on account of their size, their wealth, or their nuclear potential. We are friends of all, satellites of none.

As the world has been witness to startling changes in the new millennium and even before, Barbados remains in the enviable position of holding fast to a foreign policy that has stood the test of time.

We are friends of all, satellites of none.

But as terrorism becomes more global, international criminal cartels bolder, and unilateralism more pervasive, Barbadians now might revise their foreign policy standard to give notice to the world that we remain friends of all who are friendly, but still satellites of none.

At ease with such a foreign policy, one that speaks to the complexity of the historical moment in which it now exists, Barbados is able to maintain good diplomatic relations with a number of countries in the region and around the world.

 

PHYSICAL FEATURES

In the language of the international arena, Barbados is defined as a small-island developing state.  It is a tiny landmass - 416 sq. km. - surrounded by water in the most easterly region of the Caribbean island chain.  With a population of only about 270,000 people, Barbados has to manage its finite human, financial and natural resources in the most prudent ways possible.

This means that the country cannot adequately respond to every major issue or event in every part of the world.  Neither can it afford to locate its representatives in all of the world's major capital cities.  Rather, this tiny island must be extremely selective in the global interests it pursues.  Yet, because it prioritises through necessity rather than individual preference it cannot be said to favour any one country or region over any other in its international relationships.

In fact, successive governments have understood the peculiar challenges and vulnerabilities of small-island states, and this has helped Barbados to avoid the posturing, ideological wrangling and political confrontation many other countries have chosen to pursue to the detriment of international peace and security.

The limits its physical features have placed on its choices have had a significant impact on the evolution of Barbados' foreign policy.

 

NATIONAL CHARACTER

Barbados enjoys a long tradition of distinguished leadership in the Caribbean region, the Hemisphere, and around the world.  Indeed, the contribution of small states like Barbados to the life of the United Nations (UN) was recognised by the Secretary General, H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, when he noted at the inauguration of United Nations House in Bridgetown, on January 2, 2002, that Barbados was one of the many small countries that punch above their weight.

Certainly, Barbados has sought to be represented in a number of multilateral forums, including the UN, the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Commonwealth, and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP).

Barbados also is a leader on issues related to the special concerns of small-island developing states (SIDS) and small economies and is a strong advocate on questions of human rights, democracy, poverty reduction, and sustainable development, among other functional areas.

But whatever leadership roles Barbados chooses to undertake in keeping with its strong sense of national pride, its national character dictates that it remain committed to the principles of multilateralism in an era of increasing unilateralism, collaboration in a world fraught with conflict, equity in a global trade environment characterised by increasing imbalances, and peace where there are those who would choose war.

The essence of its national character continues to exert significant influence on the evolution of Barbados' foreign policy.

 

SOCIAL VALUES

Barbados is the third oldest parliamentary democracy in the British Commonwealth.  Its Parliament was born in 1639, when representatives chosen from among the local free-holder population were elected to sit as a legislative body.

Not surprisingly, as a society composed mostly of the descendants of former slaves and slave owners, Barbados values the ideals of democracy, human rights, and the personal freedoms as highly as any of the larger democracies in the world.  Yet, Barbados also recognises that freedom is unsustainable if it is not tempered by responsibility.  Accordingly, the countrys Constitution and laws reflect this delicate balance.

Because it is committed to the rule of law, social justice, equality and the empowerment of all people, Barbados has, on many occasions and in various forums, taken a moral stand against human rights abuses and other undemocratic actions in different countries around the world.  South Africa's brutal apartheid system and the atrocities of military dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s and early 1980s often were the targets of Barbados' impassioned opposition.

Barbados is party to a number of international human rights conventions.  These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.

For a small country like Barbados, a world made up of democratic nation states headed by governments genuinely accountable to their people, held responsible for their actions, and committed to justice in their international economic, social and political relations is a world where peace and security have an opportunity to flourish.

The strength and nature of Barbados' social values continue to be major planks in the evolution of the country's foreign policy.

 

ECONOMIC PRINCIPLES

A history marred by slavery and the exploitation of people for economic gain based solely on their racial character has helped to cement in post-colonial Barbados a deep reverence for the notion of economic enfranchisement and equal opportunity.

From the moment of independence from Great Britain, Barbados has been committed to the financial empowerment of those elements of its population traditionally excluded from enjoying the benefits of economic activity and financial prosperity.

Successive government policies have been aimed at expanding the middle class in Barbados and creating the sorts of educational opportunities that allow individuals to aspire to ownership, entrepreneurship and the creation of real wealth.

What is most remarkable is that Barbados has been able to preside over a this genuine transformation in the profile of ownership in the country while still upholding individual property rights and supporting the efforts of a private sector operating within a market-based economy.

It has been able to do so by formulating the right balance of policies that encourage the profit-making imperative to wear a human face.

The socially responsible nature of Barbados' economic principles is a major plank in the evolution of the country's foreign policy.

 

POLITICAL IDEALS

So what does Barbados stand for in the world?  What does it represent within the community of nations?  It stands on its principles, for the traditional ideals and postures that seem no longer to be in vogue, but without which the international regime is likely to crumble.

Multilateralism.  Collaboration.  Peace.  Democracy.  Human rights.  Individual freedoms.  Responsibility.  The rule of law.  Social justice.  Equality.  The empowerment of all people.  Economic enfranchisement.  Equal opportunity.  Individual property rights.  Social responsibility.  Sovereignty.  Security.  Sustainable development.  Justice for all people.

These are the principles by which Barbados stands.  The principles without which its institutional structures and national framework are likely to fall.

In the final analysis, Barbados has always sought to show that when governed by a pragmatic, humane and principled approach to world issues, the creative diplomacy of small states can play a meaningful role in an increasingly complex and unstable world.

Today the citizens of the world are confronted by new, frightening challenges. Yet Barbados continues to attach great importance to the notion of multilateralism and to the harmonious conduct of international relations among sovereign states.

Barbados is prepared to continue to work toward that goal, in a milieu of mutual respect and meaningful engagement, to ensure that the rule of law is cherished, that threats to global security are contained and that economic prosperity is a reality for all.

The principled nature of Barbados' political ideals is the major element in the evolution of its foreign policy.