May 17, 2005 – The Summer Institute for Future Global Leaders in the Caribbean opened Tuesday morning at the University of the Virgin Islands with a discussion of key issues facing the small nations of the world and some ideas for addressing them.
The institute is designed to help prepare university upperclassmen and first-year graduate students for global leadership roles. The program began Tuesday with remarks from institute director Solomon Kabuka; John Leipzig, chancellor of UVI's St. Thomas campus; Henry Smith, UVI's interim provost and LaVerne Ragster, the president of UVI.
A major thrust of this year's institute is to examine the challenges facing small nation-states, Kabuka said. "Small states have fewer resources available to deal with challenges of the global environment," he said. An example of those challenges involves the movement of products and resources to external markets.
The keynote speaker was Jagdish Koonjul, the Mauritius ambassador to the United Nations. He is currently the chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States, and vice-chairman of the Economic and Social Council.
Koonjul focused his address on the institute's theme, "Managing Global Challenges in the 21st Century."
"Where do the small countries stand?" he asked. They are victims of global warming, even though they don't contribute much to the problem. They face increased energy costs and natural disasters, and they absorb the impacts with no say in what causes them, he said.
"The United Nations has provided an important platform with equal voting rights," Koonjul said. "All issues — weapons, AIDS, UFOs — can be discussed. With new trends in foreign policy, this is likely to change."
He spoke of September 11, 2001, as a turning point that sent shivers around the world, panicked the tourism industry and made us realize that "every country, no matter how big, is still vulnerable," Koonjul said.
"September 11, as sad as it was, had a positive short-term reaction," he continued, speaking of the international solidarity that followed. The global community had a sense that "solutions to common problems cannot be sought independently." However, that solidarity was dissolved with the war in Iraq.
Koonjul also spoke on several other topics that are being discussed in the United Nations.
The security of developed countries is only as strong as their ability to contain deadly infectious diseases, he said. "Any one of the 700 million people who travel in airlines could be carrying a lethal virus."
"The [U.N.] secretary general calls on states to strengthen security and advance human rights," said Koonjul, and to develop "a global partnership between rich and poor countries."
The United Nations would like to see poverty reduced by half by the year 2015.
"What I fear is that poverty reduction by half by 2015 may happen in terms of figures," said Koonjul, but this could leave behind many of the world's poor. He gave the example of China, which will be a superpower in the next 20 years, with India following close behind. "Poverty will be eradicated there," he said, "but you still have Africa."
In regards to December's tsunami, large nations are now putting plans in place to have warnings for all natural hazards.
"We have to do [those] things together. We can't afford to do things independently," said Koonjul. "Take an integrated, coordinated approach, so small countries can benefit from what you're doing."
He said world leaders must get behind a definition of terrorism and work to build lasting peace in war-torn lands. Traditionally after peace agreements, countries slide back into conflict within five years.
Other forums scheduled during the Summer Institute for Future Global Leaders include:
— Caribbean Forum, "CARICOM: A Vanguard for Caribbean Integration and Prosperity," from 9 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. Wednesday at the Chase Auditorium, Room B110.
— African Forum, "Profiles and Perspectives on Development in a Global Environment," from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday at the Chase Auditorium, Room B110.
— World Forum, "Is the United Nations A Viable Option for Small States' Development in the 21st Century?" from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 25. Location to be announced.
The forums are free and open to the public.
For more information, call the office of the Summer Institute for Future Global Leaders in the Caribbean at 693-1309.
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