“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” Colossians 3:1-2
The National Vision of an emerging nation must address Poverty Alleviation and Wealth Creation, in general, and Socio-Economic Growth, in particular. Socio-Economic Growth is driven by Sustainable Economic Development which can only take place – one successful enterprise, after another. The national emphasis therefore must be on Enterprise Development. To the extent that regional integration of countries, for example in South East Asia, Africa or the Caribbean, can expedite the individual national thrusts as we aspire to national visions, they should be encouraged. “Unity is Strength” is an old trade union slogan which is as true today as it has ever been. Whereas this maxim of worker solidarity is a phrase which has been acclaimed as being integral to trade union success and which may also be very important to a flock of formation-flying birds, the issues associated with the application of the maxim to regional integration of countries have to be carefully considered. This is so if for no other reason than the conflicts and relatively poor success rates that have been experienced in attempted Federations or Development Communities within south East Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. It may be argued that the apparent success of the integration strategies of the United States of America or the European Union is an example to follow. However, if one pursues this, it is equally important to examine carefully the reasons for this apparent success and the relationship between the USA or EU (developed countries) and the potential regional integration in emerging federations in South East Asia, Africa or the Caribbean, before continuing to plunge directly into the proverbial “deep end” just because of the maxim “Unity is Strength” The 19th Global Smart Partnership Dialogue was held at the Speke Resort, Munyonyo, Kampala, Uganda 26th to 28th July 2009. The Resort is a beautiful real estate development on Lake Victoria. The theme of the Dialogue was “Towards a Smarter Globe – the Smart Partnership Way for realising socio-economic transformation through regional integration”. The Dialogue concluded with a positive spirit of partnership and renewed commitment to moving forward to achieve national visions. Heads of government and smart partners who participated in the dialogue, acknowledged that the event had not only resulted in beneficial exchanges but also served as useful guidance for all to strike win-win solutions in promoting development and to further facilitate intra-regional trade and investment. A bonus to these discussions was the sowing of the seeds of potential inter-regional trade between South East Asia, Africa or the Caribbean as well as third party investment between, say, the USA and EU and these three regions. I have been involved with these smart partnership dialogues since the inception in 1995. Dialogues have taken place in Malaysia (8), Barbados (2) and Africa (9) and the Munyonyo event attracted some 500 participants including Heads of State and former Heads of State, their first ladies, other politicians, trade unionists, business persons, members of civil society, all of whom contribute to realising the national vision of their countries. The participants at Munyonyo were mainly from Africa but there was representation from Malaysia, the Caribbean, North and South America, the Mediterranean and Europe. One of the features of this Dialogue was the advent of the youth (Club 29ers) in relatively large numbers who were given specific roles which exposed the articulate nature of their discourse and leadership potential. One of the questions asked every year by newcomers to the Dialogue is what am I expected to glean from this Dialogue. My response has been the major exposure to, and easy interaction with, political leaders, international speakers, thinkers on diversity of important global trends; and to network, forge partnerships and initiate potential trade. “We should also be willing to compromise, which could lead to a win-win result for all partners. Any gains should be fairly shared as well as benefited by the partners,” he said at the conclusion of the three-day event. He went on to say that the heads of government and smart partners had been given ample time to exchange views, experiences and ideas on various issues ranging from trade, financial crisis, regional integration, the role of media, innovation, research and development to the various challenges in achieving national visions. There were 4 representatives from the Caribbean – Antigua (1), Barbados (2) and Trinidad & Tobago. The question which was asked last week was when are we going to have another smart partnership dialogue in the Caribbean? This would not only serve to attract persons to our shores and share visions, but more importantly, it would be an opportunity for Caribbean residents to learn from leading experts in the world in the congenial setting of networking and international dialogue.