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Barbados - Foreign Relations

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.

The overarching motivation of Barbados’ foreign policy during the years 2000-2013 was the consolidation of arrangements to reposition itself in the international system in order to safeguard its national interest. National security, economic well-being, the maintenance and advancement of a positive international image, the embracing and protection of its citizens overseas, engagement of the diaspora in promoting Barbados’ interests and regional economic integration and cooperation constituted the essence of that national interest.

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 the language of the international arena, Barbados is defined as a Small-Island Developing State. 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.

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.

In his widely quoted statement to the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1966, Barbados' 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."

Barbados faced immense global changes which severely challenged its security and economic well-being. The content of political speeches; budget presentations and medium and long-term strategic plans bear testimony to the security, economic and social pressure that emanated from these global changes. Barbados was indeed faced with the daunting task of securing a comfortable place in the global economy on the basis of competitiveness and mobilising its people in the building of a socially stable, economically sound, peaceful, secure and equitable society. The engagement with the outside world through foreign policy was evidently indispensable to the achievement of the domestic economic and social development agenda.

As a small nation, the primary thrust of Barbados' diplomatic activity has been within international organizations. The island is a member of the Commonwealth and participates in its activities. Barbados was admitted to the United Nations in December 1966. Barbados joined the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1967.

On July 4, 1973, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Jamaica signed a treaty in Trinidad to found the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). In May 1974, most of the remaining English-speaking Caribbean states joined CARICOM, which now has 15 members. Barbados also is a member of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), established in 1970, with headquarters in Bridgetown. The Eastern Caribbean's Regional Security System (RSS), which associates Barbados with six other island nations, also is headquartered in Barbados. In July 1994, Barbados joined the newly established Association of Caribbean States (ACS).

Barbados has diplomatic missions headed by resident ambassadors or high commissioners in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela, and at the European Union (Brussels) and the UN. It also has resident consuls general in Toronto, Miami, and New York City. Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela have ambassadors or high commissioners resident in Barbados.

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