A Pivotal Catalyst for Unity in the Caricom Region
One of the smallest yet most ethnically diverse and ecologically significant nations in Latin America is also one of the Caribbean’s top economic performers. The World Bank recently ranked Suriname among the 10 potentially richest countries. Indeed its wealth of natural resources is vast yet still largely unexplored, and the country is a net exporter of agricultural products. Tourism is growing, as more people become aware of its pristine rainforests and eco-tourism possibilities, while its geographic location positions the country as a real contender as a regional logistics hub.
Formerly occupied by the British and the Dutch, Suriname’s history as an agricultural center resulted in slaves and cheap labor being brought in first from Africa, then from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), British India, China and the Middle East. This importing of cultures, in addition to the Europeans, Amerindians and immigrants from Brazil, has made Suriname today one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries on the planet, condensed into a population of just half a million people.
While Suriname may not hold prominence on the global market due to its geographical size, it does take an active role in regional trade and politics. Elected to office in 2010, President Desiré Delano Bouterse has placed an emphasis on increasing south-south relations, especially interacting more with neighbors Guyana, Venezuela and Brazil.
"We have before us an opportunity to bind ourselves even closer together.
For, surely, we stand a better chance to confront these challenges as a group united, than each swimming alone against the tide."
Desiré Delano Bouterse,
President of Suriname
In January 2011, Suriname joined UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, which is an inter-governmental union that integrates two existing customs unions: the Southern Cone Customs Union (Mercosur) and the Andean Community (CAN).
Looking slightly to the north, Mr. Bouterse is strengthening ties with the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom), which he chaired during the first half of 2012.
In President Bouterse’s New Year message to Caricom, he stressed that the ongoing economic crisis has no doubt taken its toll on member nations and has forced them to “take a hard look at the way we operate, and accept changes that may be necessary.”
Nevertheless, he pointed out the silver lining to the situation is a chance for greater cohesion among countries. “We have before us an opportunity to bind ourselves even closer together. For, surely, we stand a better chance to confront these challenges as a group united, than each swimming alone against the tide.”
Later, in April, at the Sixth Summit of the Americas held in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia , President Bouterse again spoke of regional unity, this time stressing the potential the region boasts: “The enormous potential of the region in terms of our vast wealth of natural resources, our environmental riches including biodiversity, our human capital, multiculturalism, stable democracies, our growing private sector, and political and economic dynamism of our region – all these provide some of the most essential elements for the gradual realization of the call to regional leaders to make this decade ‘The Decade of the Americas’.”