In my quest to discover what it means to be a global citizen – its responsibilities and opportunities – I am travelling this week to Antigua, St Kitts & Nevis, Haiti and ending up in El Salvador. El Salvador is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ending of its civil war and the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords. After more than a decade of fighting, a treaty was negotiated by representatives of the Salvadoran government, the rebel FMLN movement and observers from the Catholic Church and the United Nations. A nine-month cease-fire began on February 1, 1992. It has never been broken. This shows the importance of regional cooperation and the benefits that peace can bring to a country or region.
First I am going to be meeting Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda. Prime minister Browne is an old acquaintance and we have been working together successfully for a number of years helping his country develop its citizenship programme. Prime Minister Browne has an interesting take on the concept of citizenship. Speaking at a regional conference in St Kitts & Nevis several years ago, he said that the Caribbean was especially open to people from other countries applying for citizenship.
“We must remember that we are all immigrants in the Caribbean,” he said. “And we must remain open to helping people less fortunate than ourselves in having the freedom to travel as we choose.”
He is a firm advocate of the need for the Caribbean to work more closely together to protect its citizenship industry. “It is important that we protect our projects, that our programmes remain competitive but also sustainable. We need to create a globally competitive Caribbean brand,” he said. I look forward to developing these ideas more closely with him.
In St Kitts & Nevis I shall be visiting another prime minister that I know well: Dr Timothy Harris. Dr Harris is one of the brightest people I have had the pleasure of working with. He inherited the country’s citizenship programme at a troubled time nearly three years ago and has diligently worked to restore faith in its integrity.
One of the things we shall be discussing is Kittitian Hill. Kittitian Hill is a beautiful resort on the north of the island, a pioneer of sustainable luxury living. It boasts an edible golf course – all the grasses can be eaten, which I guess is one way of making yourself feel better after a bad shot. It created a lot of jobs for the country while under construction and is now owned by the government’s Sugar Industry Diversification Fund. I very much look forward to seeing the place again and discussing how we might be able to help it going forward.
Our next stop, Haiti, is a place that is often in the news for the wrong reasons. The place seems to attract catastrophes on a Biblical scale: tropical storms, floods and earthquakes seem to bedevil the place. Deforestation does not help, as you can see clearly when you fly over the country. It makes up one half of the island of Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic on the other side. The border can be seen from 10,000 feet: on one side trees, on the Haitian side dirt and rocks. Even when a catastrophe hits, as in the 2010 earthquake, the clean up can be equally disastrous. United Nations troops managed to bring cholera to Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital, unwittingly causing more trouble.
When I’m there I shall be discussing how philanthropy can help – or hinder – the development of a country. Can global citizens play a part? Haiti is the second-most populous country in the Caribbean. Large populations can be a blessing, but also present challenges.
The final stage on this whistle stop tour is to El Salvador. This is a place I have never been and am very much looking forward to visiting. A collection of regional and global leaders is due to attend the 25th anniversary, including Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who as secretary-general of the United Nations helped broker the peace deal. He is now 95 years old, an example to us all.