Caribbean Regional Governance and the Sovereignty/Statehood Problem

Caribbean Paper No. 8

January 29, 2010

It has long been argued that the English-speaking Caribbean states require the establishment of some kind of effective and binding regional system of governance. What is more, the many deficiencies of the current system are widely known and acknowledged. Why, then, have they not been seriously addressed over a period of more than 40 years? This paper argues that the key blockage is the continued adherence of Caribbean political leaders to a conception of sovereignty and statehood that is inappropriate and outdated. These are no more than constructed concepts that have been framed and deployed differently in other parts of the world, notably in Europe. The conventional Caribbean understanding of sovereignty and statehood needs urgently to be opened up, unpacked and discussed in a frank and open debate with the people of the region. The paper sets out a series of steps by which the region’s leaders can initiate and lead such a debate prior to designing a new set of governance arrangements for CARICOM that would permit the substantive strengthening of sovereignty via its creative pooling. Only when a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of what sovereignty means in the contemporary world order is embedded into the Caribbean political culture will the leadership be able to build the effective institutions of regional governance that remain so badly needed.

Part of Series

The Caribbean Papers

CIGI's Caribbean Papers present and discuss policy issues pertaining to trade, investment, human capital, the fiscal outlook and public sector management practices, among other issues, relevant to the Caribbean region's economic future.

About the Author

Matthew Louis Bishop is a lecturer in the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. He teaches courses on the Political Economy of Small States, Caribbean International Relations, and Global Politics more broadly.