The fragile sovereignty of small states
Recently there was a meeting held in Kingston, Jamaica where a foreign international body representative intimated that The Bahamas could be forced to change its immigration laws in order to comply with the international body’s requirements on citizenship. Our attorney general retorted that as a sovereign nation we would not be dictated to, which sparked some debate among Bahamians about the fragility of sovereignty of small states.
The world’s “super powers” or large nations like the United States of America, European Union, Canada and other states, particularly in the west, seem bent on forcing the world to capitulate to their rules, standards and beliefs. Sometimes it is covert and at other times it is overt. What happens when the world’s bullies that control global organizations such as the United Nations tell us what we must do or else?
If we say we are sovereign and we will determine our own path, then these bullies may in turn blackmail us by saying they will impose sanctions or direct their citizens not to travel to The Bahamas until The Bahamas complies. This is a real issue that has not yet affected us directly, but in the background the bullies are gently – and sometimes not so gently – cajoling us into conformity.
The same countries and bodies that promote democracy try to overturn the democratic will and decisions of sovereign states. This is so hypocritical, but no less true than it is. Normally they use the international bodies but at times it is even more direct. Sometimes it is the president of one of these countries or some other top-level leader who overtly tells countries which policies or beliefs they must conform to.
If all independent countries are truly sovereign and international bodies respect the sovereignty of these countries, how can you tell a sovereign, democratically elected country that their democratic referendum needs to be amended to suit the desire of, or policy of, the international body or bodies that are funded and run by the world’s superpowers?
This is a part of what I term “the fragility of sovereignty” in small states. Small states with small populations and minimal economic clout may fight and rail against the superpowers, but they know they are not strong enough to resist if the superpowers determine that everyone must comply. It is absolutely wrong for large, powerful states to do this, but it happens all the time and will probably continue to happen.
So, what should small states do? I believe we have to challenges the global bodies and superpowers to live up to the ideals that they are imposing on the world. If you believe in democracy and espouse democracy, then you should also respect democracy. If a people decide how they want to run their country and what laws are beneficial to their states, it is wrong to pressure these states to change their laws that “we the people” have decided is in our best interests.
It is possible that these bodies can be “shamed” into respecting the rights of small states seeing that they are the champions of freedom, justice and democracy. What is good and acceptable for one country may not be for another. Sovereign states’ sovereign rights should be respected. Let us decide what is best for us. We respect the decisions of these countries even though we may disagree. Why can’t they do the same? It’s a matter of size and wealth. He who has the gold wants to make the rules for all of us.
Hopefully, The Bahamas can maintain its independence and our decisions will continue to be based on our internal democratic process. If not, then the global powers should annex the small states and provide them with economic sustenance and get rid of the notion that a country can be sovereign. This will not happen – but how long before the bullies dictate not only our immigration policies but our cultural norms and morals? As a sovereign state, we must continue to fight the bullies of the world with whatever means we have available and remind them that they are the ones who have promoted and espoused the value of sovereignty and democracy.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.