ANTÓNIO GUTERRES is the third successive UN Secretary-General to visit TT. He follows in the footsteps of Ban Ki-Moon and, before him, Kofi Annan.
That Mr Guterres chose to come to these shores to meet on Monday with Caricom leaders as the bloc marks its 50th anniversary attests to the centrality of the region to international affairs.
Or at least on paper.
The reality is small countries without large militaries or economic influence have a hard time getting the international community to take them seriously, even as we stand to lose the most from the activities of larger nations.
One need only think of the openly dismissive attitude of former US president Donald Trump to countries he deemed, to sanitise his language, inferior holes.
And yet, time and time again, smaller countries continue to punch above their weight when it comes to the jostle for influence by global superpowers. A citizen of this country was recently elected president of the 78th UN General Assembly.
Still, the Caribbean continues to be caught in the middle of a “soft diplomacy” war being waged by the US and China, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as well as China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs Hua Chunying involved in this week’s proceedings.
The presence of both figures could set the stage for some awkwardness. Some of the tensions that emerged in the “spy balloon” saga appeared to have been diffused by Mr Blinken’s visit to China a few weeks ago. However, whatever thawing occurred in the US-China relationship was soon reversed, arguably, by US President Joe Biden’s openly calling China’s leader Xi Jinping a dictator.
Caricom has traditionally walked a tightrope when it comes to both countries, accepting all manner of aid and financial assistance, sometimes offered with conditions, sometimes without. But for once, the region, as it marks its golden anniversary at a time of international crisis, needs both of these superpowers to work together.
The UN Secretary-General’s lobbying on Monday on behalf of small island developing countries, coupled with the recent call made in this country by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for greater vaccine equity, suggests there is growing support among global actors for a shift in the traditional concerns of the international order.
All three secretaries-general have had to contend with a key burning issue: climate change. On Monday, as Mr Guterres addressed reporters, he echoed calls made by his predecessors.
Will Caricom come away from this week’s activities with a clearer roadmap for international co-operation not only as it relates to the financing of climate change but also in terms of carbon reduction by the US and China? And is this the moment when a historic breakthrough on Haiti occurs?