There can be little to no doubt that Guyana is playing a lead role on the international stage, punching above its weight. For a small country, Guyana continues to attract international attention for its leadership. President Cheddi Jagan forced the world to think about the Global Human Order, a tool for equity in development. President Bharrat Jagdeo brought the low-carbon development strategy to the forefront of the global battle against global warming and climate change. Today, as the net-zero movement gathers velocity and climate change becomes even more of an existential threat, President Irfaan Ali is leading the role Guyana is playing among the big countries and the power leaders of the world.
On the vexing issue of food security and energy equity, it is President Ali who is commanding global attention ahead of leaders of many big and rich countries. On the even more vexing issue of Haiti and the persistent global neglect, President Ali is leading Guyana’s advocacy for action to resolve the Haiti issue.
Presently global leaders are in New York City at the UN. President Joe Biden of the US is present as one of the most consequential UN General Assemblies is being held this week. President Irfaan Ali is at the UN to ensure that Guyana’s voice is heard, speaking up for the Global South on existential threats such as climate change, energy and food security, and pandemic preparedness; but also playing a lead role to get global leaders to give equitable attention to Haiti, letting global leaders know that the Haiti issue has been around for far too long, and deserves as much attention as Ukraine.
The Clinton Foundation hosted, prior to the beginning of the UN meeting, a gathering of world leaders from governments to the private sector and the international technical agencies. The most influential leaders were hosted by the former US President and former First Lady, Bill and Hillary Clinton. The honoured guest and featured speaker at this gathering was President Irfaan Ali. Imagine, with political, technical, and innovative leaders from around the world, the President of a small South American country that was a HIPC country not so long ago; a country with a debilitating debt-to-GDP ratio of almost 800%; a country in which debt servicing accounted for more than its total revenue generation; was selected as the keynote speaker. This is a concrete expression of how highly regarded Guyana’s President is, and how much Guyana is now on the global stage.
Guyana is now serving on the UN Security Council, and President Ali has indicated that Guyana would utilise our position on the Security Council to ensure that the UN and the world stop the neglect of Haiti. President Ali has forcefully chastised the UN and the Global North for not paying enough attention and supporting changes in Haiti that would lead to stability and the enshrining of democracy in that country. President Ali has said that while he has supported action in Ukraine, he and Guyana have not seen proportional attention to the problems in Haiti.
The UN now considers President Ali as one of the global leaders in food security. President Ali is Caricom’s lead voice on food security, and has led the regional struggle to reduce the food imports bill of more than US$5B from outside Caricom by 25% by 2025.
Recently the heads of the FAO, the World Bank, the WTO, the WFP and the IMF issued a joint statement highlighting the worsening food and nutrition security problems. With problems created by the Russian-Ukraine war, the Black Sea trade disruptions, and the termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, food and nutrition security has deteriorated. Global inflation in food prices continues to rise unabatedly. Food price inflation around the world shows that food price inflation has risen higher than 5% so far this year in more than half of low-income countries, 86% of middle-income countries, and 64% of high-income countries. Economic development, therefore, is presently impeded by high food prices, and food security has become a major global challenge.
That our President is a lead advocate is something we should be proud of.
In the coming weeks and months, Guyana is set to play leading roles in international organizations. Guyana is set to play pivotal leadership roles at PAHO and WHO. But in the UN General Assembly, which our President is attending, the global health agenda, particularly in the fight against NCDs and in the fight against pandemics, is being highlighted. Guyana’s Ambassador to the UN, former Foreign Affairs Minister, and former Minister of Amerindian Affairs, played a leading role in the preparation of the declarations that will be agreed to at the UN General Assembly. Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues was a co-chair of the health agenda in preparation for the meeting.
Just last week, President Ali visited Washington, where he was the guest of several international groups. He was invited to meet with the Black Caucus of the US Congress. The Caucus raised a number of global development issues with President Ali, and invited him to continue to be a strong voice representing the interests of the region. No longer is Guyana just standing by, waiting to receive something. Guyana today is considered a global leader in some of the biggest global challenges, including existential threats such as climate change, food security, energy security, pandemic preparedness, and antimicrobial resistance. Guyana is punching above our weight.