Sir Ronald Sanders has considerable international experience

Dear Editor,

Freddie Kissoon’s letter (‘What has Ron Sanders’ career been like?’ SN, March 6) refers. Mr Kissoon admits he knows nothing of Sir Ronald’s career, yet he proceeds to speculate on it in a most perverse manner.

Sir Ronald Sanders and I have been friends for almost 40 years. I was privileged to be present through many of his achievements and his hard work for the Caribbean and the Commonwealth.

Mr Kissoon writes: “I need to point out that Sir Ronald withdrew his application after he failed to secure Caricom leadership consensus.”

Sir Ronald did not ‘apply’ for the nomination to the post of Common-wealth Secretary-General. It is not a post for which “applications” can be made. Any government of the 53-nation Commonwealth can make a nomination for the post. Sir Ronald was nominated by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda in whose service he has been a diplomat for many years. So, Sir Ronald did not withdraw “his application.”

Mr Kissoon writes: “He publicly stated he could no longer persist because of Caricom’s failure to back a single candidate. He subsequently renewed his interest but did not state why, since there are still multiple candidates from within the region.”

When the 12 Common-wealth Caribbean governments met in Cuba in the margins of the Cuba-Caricom Summit on 8th December 2014, Sir Ronald received the support of nine of the governments for Caribbean backing, Baroness Scotland received the support of two governments, and Mr Bhoe Tewarie received one vote.   In normal circumstances, the candidates with the smallest number of votes should have withdrawn. They did not. In a letter to his Prime Minister, Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Ronald made it clear that although he had the great majority of Caribbean support, he would ask that his nomination be withdrawn to allow the Region to find a candidate it could support unanimously. Efforts to reach a unanimous candidate failed as both Baroness Scotland and Mr Tewarie did not withdraw, and governments indicated that Sir Ronald remained the candidate with majority support. His government, therefore, nominated him again for the post in response to that appeal.

Mr Kissoon writes: “I know about the career of Baroness Scotland. I am not clear on the evolution of that of Sir Ronald Sanders. My brief knowledge about him is that he left the media landscape in Guyana to work in Antigua. He became an Antiguan citizen and spent the rest of his Antiguan years as that country’s High Commissioner to the UK. With due respect to Antigua, I cannot see what experience one can acquire in that capacity to entitle one to run the Commonwealth that comprises almost two billion citizens and some of the most powerful governments in the world.”

Sir Ronald has considerable international experience. He has served as Deputy Permanent representative to the United Nations, High Commiss-ioner to the United King-dom (twice), Ambassador to the World Trade Organ-isation ; Ambassador to the European Union, Ambassador to Unesco; Ambassador to France and Germany. Additionally, he was an elected member of the Executive Board of Unesco; an elected member of the International Programme for the Deve-lopment of Communica-tions; Chairman of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF); member of the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Secretariat; member of the Common-wealth Committee on Southern Africa (at the height of apartheid in South Africa); member of the Board of the Commonwealth Foundation; Adviser to the World Bank and the Commonwealth Secretariat on developing a vulnerability index for small states; and member and Rapporteur of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) commissioned by Commonwealth Heads of Government to recommend reform of the Commonwealth (2011).

He has negotiated bilateral investment treaties with the UK and the US; tax information exchange agreements with the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand; a bilateral air services agreement with the UK; trade and investment agreements with the Peoples’ Republic of China.

He served as Deputy Chair of the Caribbean negotiating group with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation in Development (OECD) on international tax and banking matters.

In the private sector, he has served as Chairman of a European-owned Caribbean bank managing tens of millions in assets; he has also been a negotiator for acquisitions and regulatory matters for a large US-based telecommunications company; and a member of the Board of Directors of financial institutions and communications companies in the US, Europe and the Caribbean.

He is the only ambassador of a small country to take any country (in this case the United States) to an Arbitration Panel of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on a trade dispute and win (2004).

He has served on committees of the World Trade organization negotiating during the Doha round for special and differential treatment for small states, including all Caribbean countries.

He is also a serving member of the International Board of the Round Table – the longest Commonwealth organization in existence.

He is currently and has been for five years a serving member of the ‘Friends of the Democratic Charter,’ at the invitation of former US President Jimmy Carter who chairs the group.

Surely, one cannot argue against the fact that a former Indian, Nigerian or Pakistani ambassador to the UN or France, or the US or Canada would be far more experienced in world affairs, international trade and international institutions than an Antiguan envoy to the UK. I say so unapologetically even if I am accused of being insulting to a small country. International relations is not about sentiments but about the realities of global transactions.

Of the Commonwealth’s 53 member states, 32 of them are small states. Expertise in small states, and intimate knowledge of their problems is, therefore, an asset to the skill sets of a Commonwealth Secretary-General.

Mr Kissoon writes: “I would like to know more about the career of Sir Ronald, because I honestly think Baroness Scotland has far more impressive work experience in the global community than he does. Does Sir Ronald have university training in international relations, global trade studies, international finance and trade, international institutions, etc?”

Sir Ronald holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Sussex; he was a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University in development studies; he is now a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London which has published his work in international relations and where he delivers lectures; he is the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from the University of the West Indies in recognition of his published work; and he has recently been elected as an Associate Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto.   In finance and trade matters, Sir Ronald is a seasoned negotiator for all small and vulnerable countries at the WTO, in negotiations with the OECD and major nations. In the business sector, he has served for many years as a board director and negotiator.

Mr Kisson writes: “It would seem to my mind that the competition is between Baroness Scotland and Ronald Sanders from this region. Since Baroness Scotland’s career is well known given the high-profile occupations she held in Europe, I would like to see a description of the career of Sir Ronald Sanders.”

It is a pity that Mr Kissoon did not ask this question before he wrote his ill-informed letter.


Yours faithfully,
Kads Khan

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