Byron Blake, Contributor
CHALLENGES TO the international community and to individual leaders and governments are increasingly complex and sensitive. In that context, new modalities are being created to tap into the collective experiences of leaders with a democratic tradition and perspective who have 'been there and done that'.
P.J. Patterson has been tapped to serve on many of these bodies. He has respectfully declined several invitations, but he accepted and currently serves on three of these. These are the Club of Madrid, the Global Leadership Foundation, and the Inter Action Council of former Heads of State and Government.
In addition to the democratic perspective, which is a requirement, these organisations have no decision-making or executive authority and operate through quiet suasion and personal influence. The members participate in their individual capacities.
Together, their focus spans the building of democracy, peace and security, human rights and responsibilities, world economic revitalisation, universal ethical standards, religious beliefs and tolerance, women's rights and participation in leadership; climate change, migration and water; the last named is considered to be one of the world's next great challenges to peace and sustainable development.
Given the modus operandi of these bodies, it is difficult to identify and quantify the extent of Patterson's contribution to the various groups and to the different issues. This is particularly the case of the Global Leadership Foundation, where privacy and confidentiality are words written into their guiding principles. The groups, however, meet annually and issue statements and reports on the issues discussed and recommendations made. In that context, it is possible to infer issues on which Patterson, in all probability, would have made contributions, given his history of dealing with these matters in other forums.
As a former long-standing leader of a small country and in the wider Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Patterson has had tremendous experience in dealing with a range of these issues at national, regional and international levels. His international legal background and participation in a number of inter-governmental deliberations, such as the G-77, the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-20, would have been major assets.
The Club of Madrid, the largest of these, currently focuses on democratic leadership in governance and the response to crises and post-crises situations. In that context, it has prioritised its work with Haiti. In fact, both the Club of Madrid and the Global Leadership Foundation collaborate on their efforts related to Haiti. They have assigned significant responsibility to Patterson for coordinating and interfacing on their behalf.
The club also has a major focus on the economics of shared societies through which it seeks to provide leaders with a better understanding of social cohesion, and the means to advance it. It was in the context of the current global financial crisis that the Club convened a closed workshop on the issue of the International Monetary Fund in April 2011 under the theme 'Democratic Reform of the International Financial and Monetary System'.
Patterson was one of the panellists. He made two presentations: 'Experiences in working for equitable development and shared societies: how the international community could be more helpful'; and, 'How to promote equitable development and shared societies'.
His contribution on the IAC is reflected in many of their reports. The council specifically seeks to secure cooperation in addressing ethical issues, civil liberties and religious differences, consistent with its focus on world economic revitalisation, peace and security and universal ethical standards. Within this context, the council selects specific issues and develops proposals for action and communicates these directly to government leaders, other national decision-makers, heads of international organisations and influential individuals around the world.
Water has been made a central issue by the council and has, in 2012, been placed on the agenda of the UN Security Council. While this global issue might seem remote for Jamaica, 'land of wood and water', Patterson has made it one of his areas of focus because of its implications for global peace, international migration, security and sustainable development.
The IAC has also prioritised the sensitive issue of women, and in that context will be convening a major conference in 2013 in Arkansas. Patterson is committed to participating in those deliberations.
Patterson's legal, political and negotiating skills and his capacity to balance the interests of contending parties with differing strengths in negotiations at the international, hemispheric and regional levels, and his capacity for fair and fearless pursuit of just resolutions have become legendary over the years. Hence, he has built a reservoir of trust, which gives confidence to the disadvantaged parties, especially in the G-77 and China group, the Alliance of Small Island Developing States and the Least Developed Countries as defined by the United Nations. There is evidence that these parties feel that their interests are well protected whenever he serves in any of these groups or committees.
In addition, the nature of and actions taken on many of the issues, which constitute global challenges today, have changed over the last 40 years. Patterson would have witnessed first-hand many of these and so would be a repository for 'best practices'. Members of these bodies would rely on his counsel.
Freedom of information and other such legislation might in time allow for the full view of Patterson's contribution to these global bodies.