Latest News, MEIG Highlights 19 mars 2024

Highlight 12/2024 – A Mighty Small State: St. Vincent and the Grenadines punching above its weight

Shadeisha George-Mattis, 19 March 2024

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is situated in the Eastern Caribbean and comprises thirty-two (32) islands and cays, with a population of approximately 110, 000 citizens. However, this mighty small state has managed to punch above its weight in different areas of international politics.

For instance, its government, acting on behalf of its people has sought to (and continues to) critique, challenge and change existing structures of power. Its repeated call for the reformation of the United Nations Security Council is not without merit. For decades, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has been an advocate for such reform. Indeed, the veto power accorded to the five permanent members of the Security Council lends itself to an overall neutered organization—unable to effectively institutionalize the conditions necessary for collective security to be achieved. The case for a balanced and diverse council has been echoed through the halls of the United Nations by disenfranchised states. How has this approach influenced other states? In seeking to alter existing rules and ideas about appropriate behaviour, SVG has caused other states to ask: How were the current international preferences that characterize our world created? How can they be changed to reflect a transformed and equitable international space? In this light, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines envisages the re-creation of an epistemic international community where actions and outcomes are incessantly shaped to coincide with growing international imperatives.

Perhaps its most notable achievement to date has been its election to the Unites Nations Security Council in 2019, and the smallest state ever to do so. In a world dominated by great powers and increasingly characterized by mutually beneficial arrangements through globalization, small states like Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are uniquely challenged given their lack of resources to compete on a global scale. While the successes of larger states can be counted as axiomatic, the successes of small states are usually sporadic and mostly unaccounted for. However, the case of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’s United Nations Security Council win is neither a given, nor is it a small success. Indeed, the very election of a Small Island Developing State to the highest international body that is charged with maintaining international peace and security, challenges the notion of what it means to be powerful from an ideational perspective, positing that it takes more than military might and resource power to be deemed impactful.

Furthermore, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines extended its mandate for the preservation of international peace and security by presiding over another principal organ of the United Nations, the Economic and Social Council. In addition to playing a leading role in the Economic and Social Council, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’s advocacy of the case for Caribbean reparatory justice, in many ways, has contributed to the expansion of the country’s global footprint.

Additionally, from inception, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has managed to decry incidences of war and conflict through discursive acts. Thus, acts of violence and terror, in any form, have been consistently and openly rejected. For example, in 2004 Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, implored world governments and leaders, including then Secretary-General Kofi Annan to stem the situation in Darfur and Palestine. At that same time, a call was made to attend to the dire needs of the Haitian people. As a fellow CARICOM state, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines believes that any attention granted to Haiti ought to be reflective of patterns of development that are appropriately occasioned to meet the needs of future generations.  Moreover, in the face of structural forces and dominant interests that unconscionably exploit the Global South, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’s wholehearted and formal recognition of the State of Palestine demonstrates its strong sense of political will and global competence, which is needed in order to counter terrorism and tackle humanitarian issues.

Notably, as a longstanding ally of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines recognizes that Taiwan’s international engagement has been consistently crippled and constrained by enmeshed international structures and arrangements. Thus, its government and people have repeatedly called for the Southeast Asian state’s inclusion in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization, citing the deep-seated inhumanity that is spawned through the conscious exclusion of a population of twenty-three million people. It has done so unabashedly and principally in the face of a rising People’s Republic of China.

More recently, on December 14th 2023, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines exercised its good offices and played a mediating role in the dispute between Guyana and Venezuela. The disagreement between Guyana and Venezuela stems from ownership of the oil-rich Essequibo region. After the two disputing Heads-of-State convened in SVG, an agreement to avoid the use of force was made. At the time of the meeting, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines occupied the position of president pro-tempore of the CELAC. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’s pro-tempore presidency forms part of its historical journey and is significant for reasons relating to its size, image and leadership.

To sum up, the emergent role of the small state in international politics is distinctly antithetical to the philosophical underpinnings of all that Western International Relations philosophers had destined it to be. Mainstream international relations debates have historically been unaccommodating to post-colonial states, underestimating their ideational capabilities and withholding from them the opportunity to be seated at the inner sanctums of global policy-making. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’s experience and achievements fly in the face of this narrative/construct.

Shadeisha George-Mattis, Highlight 12/2024 – A Mighty Small State: St. Vincent and the Grenadines punching above its weight, 19 March 2024, available at

The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the authors and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.


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