Shared Future Within The OECS: Be Not Distracted
Patrick Martin, MD
February 1, 2018
Hats off to Sir Kennedy Simmonds and his visionary colleague leaders who signed the 1981 Treaty of Basseterre which set forth the OECS. Their foresight now translates to a stable EC currency, an independent judiciary, a single civil aviation authority, pooled procurement of essential medicines, and freedom of movement, among other dividends.
The positive impacts of OECS regional solidarity must be zealously protected and incessantly communicated, lest we are distracted. For example, why petition a court governed by the OECS judicial system to look into a matter which characterizes an OECS member state as a “foreign power or state”? OECS unity and progress must not be allowed to flounder on rocks of actions that are demonstrably arbitrary, frivolous and vexatious.
The shared future that is the OECS means shared vulnerabilities, shared challenges, shared responses, and shared benefits. The recent measles alert is yet another demonstration. When Antigua and Barbuda reported an imported case of “suspect measles”, an advisory from St. Kitts and Nevis health authority was immediately triggered. Why was that?
For all intents and purposes, the OECS is a single health and development space bordering overseas territories of Europe and the USA. This geographic reality augurs well for our selling products and receiving visitors in exchange for euros and greenbacks. It also means that an unusual or unexpected biological, chemical or radionuclear event anywhere in the OECS is an event everywhere. Indeed, whenyour neighbour’s house is on fire or blown away, you wet yours or prepare for refugees.
The measles alert exemplifies a refrain of regional health cooperation – plan regionally, act locally. Thus, the international community continues to shower recognition upon our successes such as the elimination of vaccine preventable diseases (measles etc. by 1990s) and mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis (2017).
Health progress is testament to the toil of dedicated public-sector health workers supported by significant injections of tax-payer dollars invested since the Universal Adult Suffrage in 1952. Yet, almost daily, talk shows and political platforms bristle with howls of “Poor Healthcare”.
OECS healthcare is not perfect but our strengths far outweigh our weaknesses. Proof lies in our high Human Development Index (HDI) ranking and the inflows of investment and migrants.
OECS residents must continue to think, plan and act with confidence in our capacities to continually improve our quality of life. Doing so requires a culture of initiative and high performance in government and civil society with full commitment to human rights, good governance, skills-focused youth instruction, and a blend of indigenous or migrant capital, among other things.
Standalone, micro-states are not viable in this fractured and hostile world. Togetherness portends the resilience needed to withstand the perils of globalization, protectionism, Climate Change, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Teamwork is the only bulwark against homegrown orgies of crime and violence, and imported contagious diseases.
Born-here or migrant, dual citizen or otherwise, we who are in, of and for the OECS have no choice but to go forward as a collective with a firm sense of purpose. Tribal conflicts, such as who has a diplomatic passport, are dispensable distractions.
To the ash heap of history must go practitioners of insularity, xenophobia, and the crab in the barrel syndrome. They cannot help us as we seek to deepen cooperation in citizen security, health security, food security, energy security, fiscal stability, and skills development by 2020.
Freedom of movement was a good start. It gave us freedom from ordinary passports and freedom to accept diplomatic passports. Let us persist in achieving the agreed goals of freedom from fear and freedom from want.