OECS and ALBA
OECS and ALBA Fewer than six months after his re-emergence as St Lucia’s Prime Minister, Kenny Anthony has begun to embark on a bolder refashioning of St Lucia’s foreign policy within an Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Caribbean framework than was pursued by his predecessor.
His actions demonstrate clearly that those who argue that “all parties are the same” and that our options are always limited by overarching global structural forces, are either deliberately or unknowingly wallowing in error. Anthony’s response shows clearly that ideological depth and technocratic competence can yield new approaches to addressing situations otherwise defined as insurmountable.
This more proactive approach to regional engagement and foreign policy on Anthony’s part has been seen in new initiatives to deepen joint OECS action on regional issues in particular on membership to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and in the fashioning of closer relations within the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) grouping.
Whilst Anthony cannot necessarily be seen as “leading” the OECS in these directions given the already closer ties by Dominica, St Vincent and Antigua with ALBA, what can be argued is that the participation of St Lucia as an additional and major OECS voice on these questions, has tilted the wider grouping towards more active and more coordinated responses to these regional issues. Kenny Anthony’s chairing of the OECS Heads of Government meeting earlier this year yielded an important new commitment for the OECS’s accession to the Caribbean Court of Justice’s appellate jurisdiction.
Aware of varying constitutional requirements among member states to allow for membership to the CCJ, from referenda to special majorities, the approach spearheaded from the St Lucia meeting was to push for an OECS bloc approach to membership to the CCJ.
Specifically, St Lucia has turned to the OECS court for an opinion on the legal requirements of the country prior to any move to the CCJ, and the decision may have implications for other countries like St Vincent, whose CCJ ambitions had been frustrated by the “no” vote in the 2010 referendum.
By adopting an OECS approach, the petty partisan resistance to CCJ membership can be more easily circumvented. In a similar way, Anthony’s renewed interest in ALBA has added new weight to OECS participation.
Whilst St Lucia has not committed itself to full membership, Anthony has signalled his intention to join the Petrocaribe initiative, in light of the spiralling cost of energy from traditional sources.
These developments within the OECS are important in light of the wider CARICOM’s self-limiting tendencies, always conveniently blamed on United States geo-politics and economic constraints.
The result?: do nothing. The new approaches in the OECS also show how electoral change can assist in cutting through anti-regional and anti-progressive practices, which are conveniently blamed on the challenges of the global environment. It is precisely the more difficult environment, which demand more bold and radical responses. Forward ever!
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus specializing in regional affairs. Email [email protected]