What influence does CARICOM’s foreign policy strategies have in aiding to strengthen the Community’s foreign policy coordination?

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What influence does CARICOM’s foreign policy strategies have in aiding to strengthen the Community’s foreign policy coordination?

Thus was the title of the thesis presented by Alyssa Weste, a technical officer within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that awarded her a distinction for her research paper towards the overall attainment of a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations and World Order from the University of Leicester. Her research paper has since been published by the University of Leicester and is available for viewing in the University’s library.

In her thesis, Ms. Weste notes that the rationale for coordinating foreign policy is central to the Caribbean Community’s core. It is regarded as a necessary objective to boost CARICOM’s visibility, international status, and influence to better address the vulnerabilities faced resulting from their size and the inability to respond to the rapidly changing economic and geopolitical system. Scholars have been critical of the language utilised in the Treaty of Chaguaramas relating to foreign policy coordination, noting that CARICOM’s approach was “minimalistic” as they applied a “fairly loose” methodology to the outline of this objective as opposed to other comprehensive sections of the Treaty such as its Trade or Agricultural Policy.

There have been numerous regional integration theories that have been constructed that speak to the challenges and opportunities of regional integration. Yet, none has truly considered the political environment of the Caribbean. As a result, CARICOM’s analysis has been chiefly constructed under the scope of EU ideology, which does not accurately reflect its complex landscape despite being one of the oldest integration movements.

It should be noted that the challenges of foreign policy coordination are not unique to CARICOM. Its recurring obstacles, namely dependency crises, sovereignty positions and exploitation by Third States, have made foreign policy coordination difficult to achieve compared to other institutions. Although the Community has implemented foreign policy strategies in the past, none have fully addressed or overcome these obstacles.

Nonetheless, there are established strategies and frameworks that CARICOM can adopt, such as internal cohesion, harmonisation strategies and gradualist strategies that can address these issues to increase their collective advancement and overall external effectiveness.

For instance, dependency crises are a conundrum faced by small states whereby it is idealistic for them to establish partnerships of dependence. Still, they must also diversify their relationships so that they are not reliant on one partner ‘who could use such a relationship as a means of exerting influence’.  Consequently, small states must be observant, analytical, and interpretive to avoid potentially adverse developments in their relationships with these partners.   Failure to do so will allow small states to embark on a dependency crisis that could compromise their autonomy.

In response to a dependency crisis, countries may employ preventive strategies or “preventative diplomacy”, that will aim to 1) “prevent the creation of new, damaging ties of dependence” or 2) “…prevent the escalation of ongoing developments in that trajectory.

During such a pivotal time for the region, preventative diplomacy requires implementation to secure CARICOM’s and its Member States’ priorities. Consensus should not be mandatory but rather internal cohesion to suppress any escalation of ongoing developments considering the broader implications for the region. By emphasizing internal cohesion, CARICOM can optimise their strengths while mitigating potential drawbacks that will allow them to mobilise more in the future. This is also a gradualist strategy, which involves incremental changes to build experience and trust, which are crucial for deepening and strengthening integration over time and the overall efficacy of CARICOM’s foreign policy and its coordination.

This is a small excerpt of her research which further explores how CARICOM’s foreign policy strategies with additional implemented strategies have and can strengthen(ed) its foreign policy coordination. By analysing CARICOM’s foreign policy approach and its bilateral partnerships with countries like China and Venezuela, a comprehensive view of the situation is explored.

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