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Guyana - Foreign Relations

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the discharge of its mandate to promote the interests of Guyana within the international community, is committed to preserving the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and to contributing to the economic and social development of the Guyanese people. The Ministry is equally committed to promoting the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, maintaining active relationships with the Diplomatic Community, through skilled, dedicated diplomatic and administrative staff; and to ensuring effective utilisation of its financial and material resources.

After independence in 1966, Guyana sought an influential role in international affairs, particularly among Third World and nonaligned nations. It served twice on the UN Security Council (1975-76 and 1982-83). Former Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, and Attorney General Mohamed Shahabuddeen served a 9-year term on the International Court of Justice (1987-96). Guyana has diplomatic relations with a wide range of nations. The European Union (EU), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the UN Development Program (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organization of American States (OAS) have offices in Georgetown. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has its Secretariat headquartered in Georgetown. Guyana strongly supports the concept of regional integration. It played an important role in the founding of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), but its status as one of the organization's poorest members limits its ability to exert leadership in regional activities. Guyana has sought to keep foreign policy in close alignment with the consensus of CARICOM members, especially in voting in the UN, OAS, and other international organizations.

Guyana's immediate international environment comprises the three nations - Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname. Guyana gained independence on 26th May 1966, though the Guyana Defence Force was earlier established on 1st November 1965. It occupies a land area of 214,970 square kilometers and a maritime area of 54,000 square kilometers. Guyana’s principal neighbours, Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname gained their independence in 1822, 1821 and 1975 respectively.

The United Kingdom and Venezuela settled their Western border under the Treaty of Washington which resulted in the 1899 Award of the Tribunal as a full, perfect and final settlement of the boundaries. In 1905 the boundaries were surveyed and maps were issued. Despite this award, Venezuela was to repudiate this settlement in 1962 by reference to a posthumous objection to the award by one of the jurists.

In 1962 Venezuela challenged a previously accepted 1899 international arbitration award, and claimed all of Guyana west of the Essequibo River--62% of Guyana's territory. At a meeting in Geneva in 1966, the two countries agreed to receive recommendations from a representative of the UN Secretary General on ways to settle the dispute peacefully. Diplomatic contacts between the two countries and the Secretary General's representative continue, with a quiet détente on the issue currently prevailing.

On the other hand, the United Kingdom and Brazil on 6th November 1901, under the Treaty of London settled the British Guiana - Brazil land border which continues to be accepted by Guyana and Brazil. The boundaries between the Netherlands and British Guiana were settled between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1936 when, with the inclusion of Brazil, a tripartite junction was fixed delineating the single point where the three territories touched each other which is at the head of the Kutari River. Consequently, maps were issued to that effect.

Notwithstanding the fixing of this tripartite junction, the Netherlands were to renounce this agreement and claim the New River as the source of the Corentyne and therefore all lands east of the New River belonged to Suriname. Suriname still maintains that claim. Venezuela was to continue and claim all the waters adjoining and bordering their claimed area which extends the length of the distance of Guyana's Exclusive Economic Zone.

There are already dramatic changes between Guyana and Brazil, to wit, the construction of a bridge across the border Takatu River of the two countries. No doubt the economic and commercial traffic and security challenges - especially transborder crimes – in this area will pose great challenges for both sides as Brazil continues to seek a shorter route to the Atlantic as part of its national economic and security vision. Expansion is inevitable with such a large and poor population.

Venezuela is dramatic in the sense that its government has now fully embraced socialism as its national philosophy. To this end, Venezuela continues to use its oil wealth to leverage its own influence in this region and to influence Guyana’s position in its favor if allowed to. There has been no unequivocal renunciation of its claims to our Essequibo region and its continental influence is growing.

Guyana successfully, under the auspices of the United Nations, settled its international maritime boundary with Suriname and this now left only the Corentyne to be finalised as far as Suriname was concerned.

A longstanding maritime boundary dispute with Suriname was resolved largely in Guyana's favor in August 2007. The dispute had flared up in June 2000, when a Canadian company drilling for oil under a Guyanese concession was forced to cease operations by Surinamese military gunboats. After several failed attempts at negotiation, in 2004 Guyana took the dispute to the UN Law of the Sea tribunal, which unanimously determined that the vast majority of the area in contention belonged to Guyana. The resolution of this dispute will likely have significant ramifications for Guyana's economy in the long term, as the seabed is estimated to contain approximately 15 billion barrels of oil.

There exists a formal Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the UK and the GDF. It proscribes the attendant rights, privileges and responsibilities of United Kingdom servicemen deployed in Guyana. There are no reciprocal rights. Beyond this agreement the Guyana Defence Force benefits from training, though on a limited scale, from the United Kingdom. More recently, however, the United Kingdom seemed to prefer to conduct exercises for its troops in Guyana on a relatively large scale. Clearly the opportunities for training in the United Kingdom were limited and, of necessity, the ‘train the trainer to train’ and mobile training initiatives were particular combat multipliers that must be pursued.

Though Guyana conducts most military training within the Guyana Defence Force, continued liaison with the United Kingdom military will be a positive multiplier since Guyana's fundamental defence strategy and tactics emerged from United Kingdom Doctrine. More recently, the UK had taken the lead in providing funding to the Guyana Government for a comprehensive security sector reform – but there were difficulties in identifying a true partnership and ownership by the Guyanese people of this initiative.

There is no formal security or defence agreement with the Canadian Military, however, the Canadian Military has recently returned to offering military staff training to the Guyana Defence Force. This is a welcome return. The Canadian Staff Schools are very competitive and the learning in Canada is easily de-rated to suit the Guyana Defence Force. The Force must continue to forge even stronger relationships with the Canadian military to include the provision of specialised military, air and Coast Guard training.

There is no formal security or defence cooperation agreement with the Indian Military, however, the Guyana Defence Force has benefited from military training from the Indian Military, particularly in Staff. This is a very developed military force from which the Guyana Defence Force can bene? t. The military industrial complex in India is growing and their products are of a higher quality, tropicalised and suited for Guyana.

The South American continent, as a whole and in the context of an eco-political and military construct, has now become even more significant to Guyana, which is signatory to the South American Treaty on Defence (UNASUR-Union of South American Nations) which is expected to emerge and grow into a NATO like military alliance. And there is talk about one South American Trade and Economic Organisation which will absorb the now existing ones and develop into an EU type trading block.

The leading South American nations all have significant military industrial complexes. They can certainly meet Guyana's short to medium term needs. Language differences, cultural differences, poverty, history, class stratification and the sheer economic imbalance are formidable challenges that Guyana faces and will continue to face as it explores its continental destiny.

For there is also considerable competition for attention and resources from CARICOM, Guyana's sister economic trading block partner. This region provides greater comfort for Guyana in terms of language, history, culture, politics and support to Guyana's national security effort.

The Caribbean region is a low economic output region and unable to leverage effectively. It depends significantly on various types of big brother assistance in the form of economic partnerships, food and financial aid and other forms of donor assistance. Not all of this assistance is processed in the region as a region. In fact most of it is channeled bilaterally which creates other issues that impact the security collective of the region.

The 2016 saw the redeployment and reinforcement of foreign service personnel en masse. Our diplomatic presence abroad has been restored and bolstered with the stationing of 18 Heads of Mission across the globe, including at the two newly established missions in Trinidad and Tobago and Switzerland. This mobilisation of our foreign service comes at a most opportune time, for, in addition to garnering support for our national interests, and protecting our national sovereignty and territorial integrity, it has begun to deliver economic benefits. Already, efforts in Cuba have resulted in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between a private Guyanese rice company and a Cuban import agency. The market demand in Cuba was anticipated to reach as high as 200,000 metric tonnes in 2017.

In February, 2017, Guyana chaired the 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The bloc will be addressing critical regional issues, including the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Also, at the multilateral level, within the framework of development cooperation between the European Union and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP-EU), Guyana will examine the option of pursuing an E-Visa regime, which was expected to reduce the cost of and improve access to visa applications and processing for foreigners wanting to visit the country.

The year 2016 saw Guyana exploring new options and avenues for growth and development, while it continued to engage our partners in critical issues such as human rights, democracy, environmental sustainability, trade, and investment at various multilateral fora, including UNASUR, Mercosur, and the United Nations. In addition, Guyana also reinvigorated engagement with the Diaspora with the development of a Diaspora Strategy, which will guide engagements with Guyanese abroad with more precision and concerted effort.

The Regional Security System (RSS) initially catered for the mobilisation of security forces in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to respond to member countries needs. It is a treaty organisation. The parameters were later widened to include Guyana and other non OECS nations within CARICOM as associates and not treaty members. The annual EXERCISE TRADEWINDS, involving member countries and sponsored by the UNITED STATES SOUTHERN COMMAND (USSOUTHCOM), with British Forces support, provides training in specific security tasks.

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Page last modified: 14-05-2017 18:32:57 ZULU