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SEEN UP NORTH: Greaves’ diplomatic advice

Tony Best

SEEN UP NORTH: Greaves’ diplomatic advice

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Much has changed in the world of diplomacy since the 18th century.

Indeed, the practice of the diplomat’s art has undergone revolutionary reform since 1966 when Barbados was admitted to the United Nations and later sent a High Commissioner to Canada.

Back in 1779, Lord Malmesbury, Britain’s Ambassador to the Court of St Petersburg, scored a diplomatic coup when the Empress Catherine who was in her 50s received him alone in her private dressing room, telling the diplomat: “Were I a younger woman, I might be less prudent.”

While Whitehall considered the remarkable incident an indication of the cordiality of Anglo-Russian relations, in today’s world, according to Charles Roetter, author of an informal history of international affairs, “power is so diffuse” that “boudoir diplomacy has died a natural death”.

The changes have been even more rapid in the past 48 years. When Barbados appointed its first head of mission to Canada, the telegraph, telephone and the diplomatic bag held sway as tools of the trade. Today, it’s the Internet and the computer, social media, teleconferencing, iPhones and an array of other gadgets have changed both the tempo and conduct of international affairs.

It’s that bit of reality which will confront the island’s next top diplomat in Ottawa when he or she assumes duties there to pick up from where Evelyn Greaves left off in June when he opted out of the diplomatic service to return to private life at home.

“I hope there isn’t too long a hiatus before the new High Commissioner is appointed,” Greaves, a former cabinet minister and parliamentarian, told the SUNDAY SUN.

“When I was appointed it was the first time I was representing my country abroad in that way. I considered it then and now a distinct honour to have been given such an opportunity to serve.”

Asked during an interview what advice he would give to his successor, Greaves, who served in Ottawa for six years, becoming dean of the Caricom diplomatic corps, pinpointed some key areas of attention.

“The first thing is that you have to be able to listen to people who have been in the field before you and take advice,” he said.

“You should never go in with a set of opinions about things because sometimes public service rules which apply when you are serving your country in a foreign land didn’t apply if you are in the private sector. There are certain procedures which must be followed. Listening to your support staff is another. It is going to be very important for the person to listen.”

Next, he said, the new High Commissioner must “have a wide interests” in things in general and in world affairs.

“You can’t have a one-track mind,” was the way he put it. “You must follow trends and developments in the world and the country in which you are serving so that when things happen you would be in a position to advise the Government on what can be done.

“Working with the staff of the High Commission is very important because you will be working with people who were there before you and would be in a position to advise you on a number of things. I look forward to briefing him on my experience and hopefully to providing some guidance for him.”

With tourism and international financial services two of the engines which drive Barbados’ economy, Greaves said that the next head of mission should put them high on his list of priorities.

“Canada is a crucial market for Barbados in both tourism and financial services. We have made significant strides forward and we must keep that momentum going,” he insisted. Canada is a major source of business in tourism and in financial services.”

Next are the links with the diaspora. Greaves says the person who succeeds him would do well to focus considerable attention and energy on the diaspora which he credits with providing considerable assistance to the country, much beyond the remittances which they send to relatives.

For example, Barbados Ball Canada held every year in Toronto has become a glittering event and its proceeds are used to fund scholarships for Bajan students in Canada. Next, Barbados House Montreal, another organisation of Barbadians, has donated modern hospital beds to district hospitals “back home” in order to boost patient care.

“We have Barbadians who have done exceedingly well in Canada, people who are always eager to help and we must continue to encourage them,” Greaves added. “The next High Commissioner should continue to work with the diaspora.”

Evidence of Bajan success there was chronicled in a book, Some Barbadian Canadians, a 254-page biographical dictionary published four years ago by the High Commission.

“Since its publication, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Cameroons have prepared their own biographical dictionaries and we may wish to consider preparing another edition to mark the 50th anniversary of our independence,” he said.