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Democracy in Caricom and the Western Hemisphere delivered to the 1st Plenary Session of the Third Summit of the Americas, Que...

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Democracy in Caricom and the Western Hemisphere

Speech Delivered by

Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony

Prime Minister of St. Lucia

To the 1st Plenary Session of the Third Summit of the Americas

Quebec City, Saturday April 21

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Heads of Government,

On behalf of the St. Lucia delegation, the delegations of the English-speaking Caribbean, and the delegations of the Caricom sub-region, I wish to thank you for the warm and friendly welcome, and for the professional and efficient arrangements that the support staff of this summit have afforded to our delegations. The people of Canada have demonstrated amply to us that there is no effective correlation between temperature and temperament.

I speak today on behalf of the people of Caricom - a people who come from the smallest and most vulnerable states of this hemisphere; but I address you on behalf of a community of states that enjoys one of the proudest and strongest traditions of democracy in the Americas.

Democracy in the states of the Caribbean Community was born in the struggles of the working classes for justice and recognition of workers rights. It was nurtured in the crucibles of our movements for self-governance and self-determination. It has flowered in these early years of our postcolonial history; it has blossomed as we continue to grapple with the task of governing our own affairs and charting our own destiny.

There are those who are confounded by Caribbean democracy. How could a region of so many small states continue with an unbroken record of a vibrant democracy, despite the pressures of poverty, economic hardship and limited size and resources? Yes, we have had our blemishes, but democracy in the Caribbean community is a living, breathing thing and Caribbean people are so attached to its traditions that it is largely taken for granted.

We have no anxieties about our democratic track record. We harbour no feelings of guilt with respect to our commitment to human rights and the rule of law. There is no democracy clause in our regional integration schemes because Caribbean people do not expect anything else from our governments.

We have learned Mr. Chairman, that democracy cannot be imposed. It has to be planted, allowed to germinate and to flower. There are societies in our midst whose experience with democracy is recent. While democracy will have core values, its manifestations will differ from country to country. Our business is to assist those countries as they struggle to create and establish institutions to sustain their fledgling democracies over time. President Bush has just reminded us, " democracy is a journey not a destination." These words should have resonance for all of us as we cast judgement on our emerging democracies.

Mr. Chairman, recent experiences, however, have brought home to us some sobering realities about the sustainability of democracy in our societies. Our democratic traditions are being challenged, not by our internal policy failures, but by the effects of external change on our socio economic and political traditions. For years Caribbean countries have warned that the strict adherence by great powers to the new gospels of globalisation and trade liberalisation, without taking cognisance of the special circumstances of small states like ours, threatened us with marginalization and exclusion. Those days are now upon us.

Democracy in the Caribbean is now threatened by the hundreds rendered unemployed through the doctrine of trade liberalization. It is attacked by the consuming fires of drug addiction, and the monopoly that drug czars and traders enjoy over the means of violence. It is undermined by the anger of disaffected youth and the disillusionment of the impoverished in the countryside. It is compromised by our preoccupation with maintaining law and order, at the expense of fighting poverty and social degradation.

Mr. Chairman, our message is simple: merely engaging in regular electoral exercises is not enough. Even the strongest traditions of democracy will pale in the face of overwhelming poverty, social exclusion, and economic marginalisation.

As surely as night follows day, human rights violations by states, though always unacceptable, will follow the human wrongs of the global economic system.

There are those who say that democracy brings prosperity; but democracy is compromised if the economic policies it champions deepens and accelerates poverty. Until we can wipe out poverty in this hemisphere we cannot claim to have built successful democracies. Until the hemisphere as a whole can enjoy the fruits of trade liberalization, we cannot proclaim its glories. Until all the peoples of the Americas are free from hunger and free from the fear of unemployment, we cannot celebrate the benefits of trade liberalization. True, trade liberalization may bring new prosperity for some, but we must be honest and admit that it will destroy the lives of others.

It is in this spirit of concern about the fate of our democratic cultures that St. Lucia and Caricom approach this summit. We urge greater understanding on the part of our larger neighbours of the new economic and social realities that endanger our democracies and undermine our development aspirations. The problems, exacerbated by these new realities, must be tackled by all the states of the Americas. Recognition of the special circumstances of small democracies is not about compassion. It is about economic necessity, survival and security.

The opportunity now exists for us to create lasting structures of cooperation and to develop a genuine hemispheric approach to resolving our common trade and development issues. We are excited by the new possibilities for co operation that the Summit process brings us. Let us all together build on the foundation that our emerging democratic traditions proclaim, so that we can deliver to the peoples of the Americas the futures they desire and deserve.


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