Benefits of The Bahamas attending International Conferences

Mr. Joshua Sears. (BIS Photo/Yontalay Bowe)

Senior Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, Joshua Sears underscored the importance of the country’s leader attending high-level conferences such as the Summit of the Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings. Actually, this is Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis’ first attendance to the Summit of the Americas, since he came to office following the General Election of May 2017. The Prime Minister has since attended the Heads of Government Meetings of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other regional sessions. Mr. Sears, who has had an extensive career in the Foreign Service as an Ambassador explained the benefits The Bahamas has gained and stands to gain from being a member country and attending events like The Summit of the Americas and subsequently, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The Summit of the Americas started in 1994 when then US President Bill Clinton met with leaders from the region in Miami to discuss the future of the Western Hemisphere.  Since 1994, there have been subsequent Summits, which call for the participation of all leaders in the Western Hemisphere.

The Eighth Summit of Americas takes place April 13-14 under the theme: “Democratic Governance Against Corruption.” “Can you imagine all the leaders of the Western Hemisphere in one room? It provides an opportunity for consultation, exchange of ideas, to discuss mutual problems such as threats to democracy, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, trade and investment and a whole range of subjects which leaders can benefit from meeting each other,” Mr. Sears pointed out. He added: “So it is a tremendous opportunity for Prime Ministers and other leaders of the Americas to attend.” Also representing The Bahamas are a number of Cabinet Ministers and technical officials who would meet within the context of the Summit to discuss a number of mutual bilateral issues. The Prime Minister was invited to address the Third CEO Summit of America, April 12-13. This session precedes the two-day, Eighth Summit of the Americas, which is the most important business forum of the Americas.  Leading CEOs and Heads of State from the region assemble to analyze opportunities to promote economic growth and investment through unprecedented public-private interaction under the Americas Business Dialogue mechanism.

The Summits of the Americas are institutionalized gatherings of Heads of State and Governments of the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced by countries in the Americas. The Bahamas is seeking to dialogue with Canada and the United States on a number of relevant issues. Relating to the CEO business forum, Mr. Sears noted that it brings together all the top CEOs in the hemisphere and we would certainly engage them and solicit the promotion of investment opportunities in The Bahamas. Similarly, within the framework of CHOGM, April 16-20, the Commonwealth Business Forum will have a session during which leaders will have an opportunity to discuss trade issues. “You will see from the international temperature that there is the mode of protectionism and the prospects of the trade war between certain members states of the international community. “The Commonwealth has always had a moderating influence on this issue. It impacts markets, tourism, and investments and we certainly hope that the rhetoric which we hear does not end up in any concrete measures because free trade is to the benefit of certainly the global economic system,” Mr. Sears said.

Historically, in the context of CHOGM, The Bahamas has played a pivotal role in the fight against Apartheid: calling for the release of Nelson Mandela the then South African anti-apartheid revolutionary political leader. This charge was made during CHOGM 85 in The Bahamas and was dubbed The Nassau Accord. “Chairing that meeting in Nassau was pivotal. Countries in the world supported South Africa. The conference in Nassau accelerated that process,” Mr. Sears said. In this vein, he said it was a watershed moment for Nassau, as prior to that, the country was discussing how to move the Government of South Africa to accept the reality of moderating its behavior or face sanctions. “So there is a tremendous respect for the contribution of The Bahamas in The Commonwealth, which speaks to why we have been invited to chair high-level groups and serve as Election Observer in member-states,” Mr. Sears said. The Ministry of Education has a very critical relationship with The Commonwealth — there are the Commonwealth Youth Programme and other initiatives, some of the practical things The Bahamas benefits from regularly. Hence, Mr. Sears urged Bahamians to research these benefits, which The Bahamas have enjoyed for many years.

“The Commonwealth is really on a solid footing,” he said.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is a biennial summit meeting of the heads of government from the 53 Commonwealth nations. Every two years the meeting is held in a different member state and is chaired by that nation’s respective Prime Minister or President who becomes the Commonwealth Chair-in-Office until the next meeting. Attending CHOGM would be Commonwealth leaders, foreign ministers and representatives from the worlds of business, civil society, and youth organizations. This year’s theme is, “Towards a common future.”

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