Heads of Mission Conference
Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown
3 to 8 April 2017
A conference of Guyana’s Heads of Mission was convened by the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs at the Pegasus Hotel from 3 to 8 April 2017. It was characterized by presentations of high quality, vigorous debate and practical recommendations for policy decisions.
The goal was to broaden understanding of the nation’s policies and provide the Heads with an opportunity to discuss and further refine the existing foreign policy. The addresses of President David Granger as well as of the Honourable Carl Greenidge, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, both of which included elements of national policy for consideration, were complemented by presentations of the Honourable Dominic Gaskin and Minister of Business and the Honourable Raphael Trotman, Minister of Natural Resources. Among others, the Honourable Khemraj Ramjattan, Vice President and Minister for Public Security, also gave presentation, with his on the security situation in Guyana.
The conference concluded that this would be a vital year for Guyana’s diplomacy. It pointed to the fact that, during this year, as a result of the decision of the United Nations Secretary-General, the Good Offices process would continue and, depending on the outcome at the end of the year, the issue of the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy could be submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The Conference recognized this meant that all activities on this matter must be coordinated, with Guyana’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations as the hub. Also, the Conference concluded that the border dispute with Suriname must be continually monitored and relations with Brazil improved, and, where possible, expanded, especially in economic terms.
Questions of trade and investment featured prominently. It was therefore decided that all opportunities for trade, greater investment, and technology transfers must be pursued, particularly with such economic giants as India and China. It was agreed that existing relations with traditional states such as Canada must be intensively explored in pursuit of expanded economic ties and markets. In this context, the conference concluded that it was time to give a more practical dimension to the concept of “economic diplomacy”. It considered a number of practical proposals from the Heads that could improve Guyana’s economic standing and increase the possibility for future progress and prosperity. The Conference also recognized that in the pursuit of “economic diplomacy”, the Guyanese diaspora in the Caribbean, North America, the United Kingdom and in other parts of the world, had an integral role to play.
The Conference also acknowledged that the question of the environment was of critical importance to Guyana’s economic development and recommended that an important element of national foreign policy must be support for all efforts being made to create a Green State, even as the discovery and upcoming production of oil presently loom in economic and political developments.
At this critical moment in national history, it was recognized that Guyana must continue to forge relationships and expand ties with important States. Further, the Conference agreed that Guyana must work with other organizations, institutions and entities that could advance the national interest generally and allow it some flexibility in dealing with the Trump administration, in particular. The emerging nations of China and India, and countries such as South Africa and Nigeria, were considered to be also critical to the evolution of Guyana’s foreign policy. The situation with regard to the imminent departure of the United Kingdom from the EU was also studied. Furthermore, the Conference concluded that Guyana must pursue relations with a number of European States with similar interests. A number of States so identified are in Central and Eastern Europe. The Conference also recognized the importance to Guyana of the small State of Switzerland.
The Latin American and Caribbean region will continue to be a critical factor in the preservation of Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as of relevance to its economic interests. CARICOM remains important to this aspect of the nation’s policy. Accordingly, the Conference concluded that Guyana must work towards the strengthening of CARICOM. To this end, the Conference agreed that Guyana must work for the early realization of a single economic space and the strengthening of methods for the timely execution of the decisions of the community.
In relation to the Latin American and Caribbean region, the Conference concluded that relations with Cuba and other Latin American States should be expanded, where possible, and opportunities for economic ties further explored.
Global organizations such as the UN and the WTO remain important instruments to Guyana’s foreign policy. Moreover, the Conference recognized that regional organizations, such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Mercado Comun del Cono Sur [Southern Cone Common Market] (MERCOSUR), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) are also critical as they can facilitate the attainment of Guyana’s foreign policy goals and objectives.
The Conference also vigourously debated on technological developments and the impact on cyberspace.
Further, the importance of engaging a public diplomacy approach was affirmed. The conclusion was reached that settling on a related policy would allow for the image of Guyana to be presented as one of a serious nation intent on using its natural assets, including the discovery of oil, as a platform for progress and long-term economic development. It was argued that Guyana’s ecological endowments and its unique cultural and literary heritage, among others, could assist in producing a public diplomacy programme that would enhance the national image and present the country as an attractive destination for investment and tourism.