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Latest Commentary:

Do Caribbean countries need a new social contract?

By Sir Ronald Sanders


Recent findings by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) ring alarm bells for the global community: democratic governance is under threat, with an increasing number of people subjected to authoritarian regimes that bluntly infringe on human rights and freedoms.

While authoritarian regimes are emerging, detaining opposition figures, muzzling the media, and instilling fear, their societies are fragmenting and their economies are weakening, making them less able to satisfy the basic needs of their people, millions of whom are fleeing to other lands.

Their hold on power is buttressed by fear and the capacity of governing parties to keep the military loyal by acts of unusual generosity to leading figures and even to the institutions themselves. But as the adage goes, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the Crown”.

Comfort in leadership is best and most sustainably derived from the wish of the people, by their informed votes cast at free, fair and transparent elections which are observed by international organizations. It ought not to rest on the vested interests of a few who benefit from the imposed structures of power.

True democracy nourishes human rights, ensures voices are heard, and confronts past injustices to foster a promising future. In this connection, governments that uphold the rule of law, human and political rights, and the freedoms of speech and dissent are more likely to guide their countries towards political stability, social advancement, and economic development.

Yet, challenges abound. The rise of misinformation and disinformation, exacerbated by fake news on social media platforms, corrodes the fabric of democratic societies. This isn't just about inaccurate information; it's about using disinformation and misinformation as strategic ploys to mislead and harm societies.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has expressed great concern about the use of misinformation and disinformation in societies. While misinformation refers to the unintentional spread of inaccurate information, disinformation is not just inaccurate – it is crafted with the intent to deceive and cause harm.

All societies have to be alert to both misinformation and disinformation, questioning the accuracy of what they see and hear on social media platforms. The established media also have a responsibility to point out when false information is being spread on social media, and not to fall into the trap  of themselves providing platforms for flawed and unsubstantiated charges.

In light of this, governments owe it to both themselves and their societies to maximize transparency and access to information, in order to build trust in public institutions, governance, and processes. As Secretary General Guterres put it, “they should also encourage public participation at all levels and enable meaningful dialogues and debates”.

On the link between democracy and development, robust democracies are magnets for investments. They foster an environment of stability, predictability, and trust—cornerstones for any thriving economy.

However, the quality of life of the people is inextricably tied to these economic realities. Hence, at the intersection of democracy and development lies the urgent task of eradicating extreme poverty, elevating living standards, and ensuring that the fruits of economic growth are equitably shared.

Democracy has not fully achieved these goals, but authoritarian regimes have not attained them at all, particularly since, in their pursuit, the essential elements of human participation in decisions have been absent.

But democracies cannot rest on their laurels, having succeeded in creating societies where democracy is upheld and institutionalised, through the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, a great urgency now exists to narrow the gaps between the rich and the poor, within nations and between them, by upgrading the quality of human life.

The Caribbean, with a few exceptions, stands out as a beacon in upholding democratic tenets. However, underlying issues such as high unemployment and escalating costs of living can spark civil unrest, necessitating forward-looking measures.

To navigate these crossroads, Caribbean countries must forge a renewed contract of democracy—one that not only pays homage to our tumultuous past in overcoming the bitter legacies of slavery, indentured labour, colonialism and imperialism, but also illuminates a path of hope, equity, and prosperity for all.

In its 2022 report on the Global State of Democracy, IDEA posited that democracies require a new social contract between political actors and civil society groups. IDEA proposed that this contract should be reconceptualized to reflect today’s reality, addressing new and evolving public needs and demands.

This concept is already being addressed in several countries through citizens’ assemblies, governmental dialogue mechanisms and new constitutions which allow for greater power sharing and structures for wider participation in decision-making.

It is a concept that might be energetically considered in the Caribbean as well.



Recent statement at the Organization of American States

West Indians in the Construction of the Panama Canal

An ideology of racism governed the US-led construction of the Panama Canal. Tens of thousands of West Indians laboured and died as the principal workers in harrowing conditions. Yet although the canal would never have been constructed without their blood, sweat and tears, the West Indians remained unrecognized and unsung. At the Organization of American States on 7 September 2033, I called for a lasting tribute to them. Click on the youtube link below for my presentation:

Latest presentation on Climate Justice


 “The Urgency of COSIS' Quest for Climate Justice Through ITLOS”

Statement by Sir Ronald Sanders, explaining why a group of small states have approached ITLOS for an Advisory Opinion

At A High-Level Dialogue on Climate Policy and other Key Issues in the Western Hemisphere

Organised by the Embassy of Antigua and Barbuda (Washington, DC)

 and Global Americans


Two years ago, in the margins of the COP 26 meeting in Glasgow, two small island states in two different parts of the world, took a decision to form an inter-governmental organization that would use the international legal system to seek justice for the considerable impact of Climate Change on their countries.

The Prime Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean and Tuvalu in the Pacific, frustrated by the lip service being paid by the world’s major contributors to Climate Change, and the broken promises of every previous COP meetings, decided that they would seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)

Consequently, they launched the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS). 

They were subsequently joined by several other small states, including the Bahamas, St Lucia, St Kitts-Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean and by Vanuatu, Palau and Niue.

ITLOS has agreed to full hearing of the case that small island states are advancing.

The first session will be held in Hamburg – on September 11th.

What each of these small islands faces is a real and present threat to their existence.

The Gravity of the Situation

Let's put into perspective the level of existential threat we're talking about.

We are looking at the potential disappearance of nations—entire cultures and histories wiped out due to climate change.

This is not mere theory; the science is clear and irrefutable.

The primary culprits are the major polluters who have, thus far, shown a staggering lack of political will to remedy their actions.

COSIS: A Mandate for Justice

COSIS has a straightforward mandate: to develop rules and principles of international law to fight climate change.

Time is of the essence, and the stakes are as high as they could possibly get – the very survival of these countries and their people.

It isn't about politics; it's about the sanctity of human life and our shared planet.


Why go to ITLOS?

Small island nations are primarily maritime states.

They depend on the ocean not just for sustenance, but as a crucial part of their heritage and identity.

But there’s more.

The ocean is a vital carbon sink.

With increasing ocean temperatures reaching record highs this summer, all nations must act now to safeguard this critical component of Earth's climate system.

ITLOS, the guardian of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, is the natural venue to seek legal clarity on the obligations of states to protect our marine environment.

Compensation and the Principle of Equity

One of the most glaring injustices is that while small island states contribute the least to climate change, they suffer the most from its ravages.

The situation calls not just for mitigation but also for compensation.

The concept of loss and damage must be squarely addressed.

We are not just talking about climate change adaptation but also about building resilience against future threats.

All these require substantial financing.

If justice is to be served, major polluters must be held financially accountable.

The Advisory Opinion: A Beacon of Hope

By going to ITLOS, we are not seeking to rewrite laws; we are seeking clarity on existing ones.

What are states obligated to do under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea?

Small states need authoritative, scientific answers on this critical issue; but so  too do the major contributors to Climate Change – there must be clear guidance on the consequences of their actions.

This Advisory Opinion from ITLOS can serve as a benchmark, a guidepost, for international actions going forward.

Conclusion: The Hour of Decision

We are at a fork in the road of human history.

On one hand, inaction and the continuation of empty promises, leading to existential loss for small island states.

On the other, immediate, effective action informed by international law.

And, we should all understand this reality:

As climate change continues to simultaneously burn our world, while flooding it; as Climate change upends weather patterns, ruining food production, and creating water shortages; as glaciers melt and the levels of seas rise, drowning small islands and eroding coastal areas; as people are displaced from their natural habitats and seek refuge on other shores, small island states are the first to suffer; but they will not be the last.

All are involved and all will be consumed.

So to quote John Donne “do not ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for everyone”.

Small Island States are working to tip the scales towards justice and survival.

But our plea is not just for us; it is for the health of a planet we all share.

Latest News in Pictures

With the Secretary of State for the District of Columbia, Kimberly A. Bassett. We met this week at a receptionon 6 September 2023 marking Brazil’s National Day

Official photograph of Heads of Delegation to the 53rd Regular Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).  In the background is the rarely seen back ot the OAS Headquarters  building in Washington, DC on June 23rd 2023


10 May, 2023 at the Permanent Mission of Colombia. A bust of the celebrated literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Author of “One hundred days of Solitude” and many more outstanding works). With the Colombia Ambassador to the OAS, Luis Ernesto Vargas.

With the President of Colombia Guistavo Petro at the Organization of American States (OAS) on 19 April 2023, afrer he made a rousing speech on freedom and political rights

Sir Ron speaking at the Danish Embassy in Washigton, DC in a converastion on Climate Chane and Peace and Security on March 23, 2023


 Sir Ron and former Foreign Minister of Denmark, Holger K. Nielson, at the Antigua and Barbuda Embassy in Washigton, DC on 24 March 2023, after a useful exchange of views on Peace and Security and the importance of the presence of Small States on the UN Security Council 

Sir Ron signing, with Serbian Amabassador, Marko Djuric, agreement. mutually abolishing visa requirments between Antigua and Barbuda and Serbia in Washington, DC on 11 March, 2023.  At left in the photograph is Joy-Dee Davis, Minister-Counsellor in the Antgua and Barbuda Embassy


Sir Ronald Sanders (Antigua and Barbuda) and Ambassador Anthony Phillips-Spencer (Trinidad and Tobago) are the two senior Caribbean Ambassadors in the US and to the OAS.  On 13 February, 2023 they met to discuss implementation of priority matters for the Caribbean in the US and the OAS.


 In February 2023, the Ambassador of the Maldives to the US called on Sir Ronald Sanders at the Antigua and Barbuda Embassy in Washington, DC to discuss issues related to small states in the international community.  Climate change was a priority of their discussion. 

With US Ambassador to the Organizaion of American States (OAS), Frank Mora, at the Antigua and Barbuda Embassy in Washington, DC, Februrary 2023

With the lady Ambassadors accredited to Antigua and Barbuda in December 2023.  Left to Right, the Ambassador of Cuba, Maria Esther Fife; Ambassador of the Dominican Republic, Raquel Jacobo; and Ambassador of Venezuela, Carmen Velazquez De Visbal (December 2022) in Antigua


At the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on 10 June 2022:  Sir Ronald, OAS Secretray-General Luis Almagro and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne.

Sir Ronald with The Honourable Nancy Pelosi, the formidable Speaker of the US House of Representatives on Thursday 9 June 2022 during the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles

Senator Chris Dodd, Adviser to President Biden on the Ninth Summit of the Americas and the man largely responsible for convinng  many Caribbean and Latin American leaders to attend, with Sir Ronald.


Meeting in Barbados between Representatives of the US State Department anf Senior Representatives of Easrern Caribbean Governments.  Front row left to right: Senator (St Vincent and the Grenadines), US Ambassaor to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean States;. Brian Nichols Assistant Secretary, US State Department, Earl Huntley Senior Adviser to St Lucia Foreign Minister, Sir Ronald Sanders representing government of Antigua and Barbuda.  Back row left to right: St Kitts-Nevis Ambassador to the US Thelma Phillips-Browne; Permanent Secretary Barbados Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Nan Fide, Director Caribbean, US State Departmenent; Foreign Minister of Dominica; Minister of Health Grenada, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy in Barbados.

On 18th May 2022, at State House in Guyana with Guyana President Irfaan Ali and Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottely prior to "Agri-Invest Expo and Forum" which set the stage for an actionable, time bound plan for food sercuity, energy security, removal of trade barriers and regional trsnsportation. 

Speaking at a meeting between Caribbean leaders and a US Congressional team, led by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, in Barbados on Wednesday 20 April 2022 . I was pleased to initiate this process of consultation, as Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador, with Congresswoman Waters in July 2019 (.(see photo in date order below with the Congresswoman in July 2019). Subsequently, in November 2019 we had the first Roundtable in Washington.
In an interview with British Channel 4 News, Sir Ronald explains that Britain must make MLAT request for assistance regarding two Yachts in Antigau waters allegedly owned by sanctioned Russian Oligarch, Roman Abramovich:  

See: What has happened to yachts linked to Roman Abramovich? – Channel 4 News


With the Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Mario Adolfo Bucaro Flores, to discuss CARICOM-Central America cooperation and deepening relations at the OAS.  At the right of the photograph is Rita Calverie di Scioli, the Guatemalan Ambassador to the OAS, 31 March 2022


Members of the Committee appointed by the Vice Chancellor of the University of London to Inquire into the Future of Commonwealth Studies at the University. The report was submitted at the end of July 2021 and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies was given a renewed and expanded mandate.
Left to Right: Sir Ronald Sanders, Nabeel Goheer, Dr Conor Wyer, Professor Wendy Thomson - Vice Chancellor - Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Chairman) Lord (Paul) Boateng, Jo Fox - Dean of the School of Advanced Studies. Photo at Senate House. London, November 3rd 2021.

Participating as a delegate from Antigua and Barbuda in the Summit of 40 Leaders on Climate, organised by us President, Joseph Biden, on 22 and 23 April 2021.  Sir Ronald second from left at top.


With the late Right Honourable Professor Owen Arthur, former Prime Minister of Barbados at his office at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies in January 2020, talking Caribbean integration

 Meeting between US Congressional Representatives, Global Banks and Caribbean government representative.  Congresswoman Maxin Waters (centre in red), Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne to her right, Sir Ronald Sanders to Prime Minister Browne's right.  Capitol Hill on November 14, 2019

Signing agreements for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Kosovo and Antigua and Barbuda in Washington, DC on 24 July 2019.  The agreemenst were signed by the Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Ronald Sanders (sitting right) and the Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo, Vlora Citaku (sitting left). Frymezin Isufaj and Joy-Dee Davis. Ministers Coundellor (standing left to right)


 Speaking at US Capitol Hill in behalf of CARICOM during Caribbean Legislative Week on 5 June 2019


Meeting Wesley Kirton Co-Chair Caribbean Studies Associaton, US, and Captain Gerry Gouveia of the Guyana Privat Sector at Antigua and Barbuda Embassy, Washington, DC on 4 June 2019


On 15 May, 2019 with the formidable US Congresswoman Maxine Waters who is Chair of the Financail Services Committee of the US House of Representatives.  I had presentred the case against de-risking, withdrawal of correspondent banking relations and blacklisting alone with CARICOM Ministers of National Security. 


 Testifying on 14th May, 2019 before the US International Trade Commission on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda and Caribbaean States on the perennial US trade surplus with the region which reached $7 Billion in 2018. 


Sir Ronald at Capitol Hill in Washington DC, talking trade and other relations between the US and CARICOM countries, especially Antigua and Barbuda, with Cingressman Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati) on  27 February 2019.


Caribbean Ambassadors in Washington with US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Kim Breier, at the US State Department. Sir Ronald third from right in January 2019. 


In July 2018, while in Ottawa for Antigua and Barbuda bilateral talks with Canadian government officials, Sir Ron ran into old and repected friend, Joe Clarke - former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Canada and a great warrior in the anti-apartheid struggle.


With Ambassador Jesus Silvera of Panama, receiving a donation to the rebuilding of Barbuda, June 2018


With OAS Secretary-General, Luis Almagro, on 6 June 2018, signing the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and  Related Forms of Intolerance.  Antigua and Barbuda was the first signatory to the Convention and the second country to ratify the Convention. 

 Signing ceremony in Washington, DC of Abolition of Visa Requirements between Ukraine and Antigua and Barbuda in May 2018.  Ukraine Amnbasador (left) and Joy-Dee Davis, Minister Counsellor, Antigua and Barbuda Embassy (right) 


 With Governor-General of Canada,Her Excellency Julie Payette, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 30th 2018.  In addition to beeing accredited to Canada as High Commissioner, I have the honour of sharing the distinction with this amazing former Astronaut of being a Senior Fellow at Massey College in the University of Toronto.


In Tobago after delivering feature address at The Tobago Finance week on 13 November 2017.  Photo shows, Economist Terrence Farrell, Sir Ronald, Tobago Deputy Chief Secretary Joel Jack, and Anthony Pierre, Chairman of the Caribbean Association of Chartered Accountants


 In Port-of-Spain, Trinidad speaking at the annual Conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad and Tobago on 9 November 2017


 Speaking at a meeting in Geneva, prior to appearnace at the World Trade Organisation on Antigua and Barbuda's contention with the US government on the WTO award to Antigua over Internet Gaming, September 2017 


 Speaking on Refugees resulting from Climate Change and the growing danger to small island states at an event organised by OXFAM in Washington, DC on 30 October 2017. (Heather Coleman, OXFAM; Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda; Selwyn Hart (Barbados), Lisa Friedman, New York Times)


Sir Ronald speaking at the National Press Club in Washington DC on 12 October 2017.  He was talking about the devastation of Barbuda by Hurricane Irma and the remedies for Climate Change and Global Warming.  To his left are:  The Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Keith Mitchell, CARICOM Secretary General Irwin la Rocque and St Lucia Prime Minister Alan Chastanet


Sir Ronald speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on the security and other threats posed to the Caribbean and the Hemisphere of Climate Change and Global Warming on 13 September 2017


 Sir Ronald (third right) with senior officers of the Inter-American Defense Board in Washington, DC after discussing what assistance could be given in the clean up and rebuilding of Barbuda after Hurricane Irma (Friday, 15 September 2017)


With US Congressman, Ranking member of Committee on Foreign Affairs at Capitol Hill on 14 September, discussiing secutty matters, Hurricane Irma and Barbuda and the US-Antigua and Barbuda WTO issues.  Very helpful.


 With US Congressman Mark Meadows on Capitol Hill talking the US-Antigua and Barbuda WTO issues, and the effets of Hurricane Irma on the island of Barbuda on 12 September, 2017.  Good man. 


 Talking to the Emergency Agencies of the OAS about the impact of Hurricane Irma on the island of Barbuda and seeking assistance on 14 September 2017


Sir Ronald with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on 28 August 2017 discussing Canada-Antigua and Barbuda bilateral matters.


Sir Ronald with the President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, at the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States in Cancun, in June 2017


Heads of Delegations to the OAS General Assembly in Cancun.  Mexican Presdident, sixth from right, front row.  Sir Ronald fourth from right, front row.


Meeting of Consulation on the situation in Venezuela at the Organisation of American States on 31 May 2017 Sir Ronald (far right).


With Texas Congressman Randy Weber at Capitol Hill in Washington DC, talking energy, water and US-Antigua and Barbuda relations on Wednesday 5 April, 2017 



With my colleague Argentine Ambassador to the OAS, Juan Jose Acuri (right) and the Argentina candidate for election to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rigjts Dr Carlos de Casas on 29 March 2016


 At the International Monetary Fund with Exceutive Director for Canada and the Caribbean, Nancy Horsman, to discuss Antigua and Barbuda matters.


At the Antigua and Barbuda Embassy receiving Antonia Urrejola, the candidate of Chile for the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, on 23 March 2017 


 With the Mexican Candidate for the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, Joel Hernadez Garcia, on 21 March 2017


 At the World Bank on20 March 2017 meeting Christine Hogan, the Executive Director for Canada and the Caribbean, to talk about Antigua and Barbuda matters.


With Joe Barton, US Congressman from the State of Texas in his Office on Capitol Hill on Thursday, 16 March 2017 discussing US-Antigua and Barbuda relations


Hosting a meeting at the Antigua and Barbuda Embassy in Washington, DC of diplomatic representatives of St Lucia (Ambassador Anton Edmunds, St Kitts-Nevis Ambassador Thelma Phillip-Browne and St Vincent Deputy Chief of Mission Omari Williams)


Meeting the Cuban Ambassador to the United States, Jose Cabanas Rodriguez at the Antigua and Barbuda Embassy on Tuesday, 21st February, 2017


With the Ambassador of Ecudaor to the United States, Francisco Borja Cevallos, talking Ecuador-Antigua and Barbuda relations on 13 February 2017


 With US Congressman Gus Bilikakis (Dem,Fl) for talls on Caiptol Hill in Washington


With Charlie Crist, US Congressman (Dem, Fl) for discussions on US-Antigua and Barbuda matters


 With US Senator Jeff Duncan, Chair Foreign Relations Committee talking energy and Citizenship by Investement Programmes in the Caribbean

  With Professor Louis Gates Jr at the Smithsonian National Musuem of African American History in Washington, DC after an evening of enlightening presentations on the neglected story of the building of the US 


March 17, 2014 in Barbados where I spoke with Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Caribbean thought leader and Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines (second right) at the launch of the late Jean Holder’s (third right) excellent book on Regional Transportation. All that Jean wrote remains relevant today. At far left is Warren Smith a former CEO of LIAT and, at the time, President of the Caribbean Development Bank. Each of us was born in different parts of the Caribbean, but all of us know that we are better off as One Caribbean.