Jamaica Foreign Policy Portia Simpson-Miller The Ward Post

Conduct of international relations not for amateurs and neophytes

Amb. Curtis A. Ward

Conduct of international relations not for amateurs and neophytes

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward

(29 April 2024) — Some behaviors are now amplified by social media thus causing a great deal of misinformation and drivel to spread unchecked. An example is the stupid error on the part of the junior minister of foreign affairs which has triggered a discussion on social media platforms about the foreign policy records of two of Jamaica’s former prime ministers, P. J. Patterson, and Portia Simpson-Miller. Very few seem to get it right.

This is disconcerting to those of us who have a deep historical knowledge and firsthand experiences of the foreign policy records of not only these two former Jamaican leaders but of all our political leaders since independence. I do not believe it would be in the best interest of the current government to compare its conduct of international relations to the foreign policy records of either Mr. Patterson or Mrs. Simpson-Miller. That is why I believe the junior minister made a silly mistake because he is unschooled in the history of Jamaica’s conduct of international relations. He is not alone, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt this time.

It would require the writing of a book or use of some other less limited medium for me to fully elaborate on the foreign policy records of these two giants among Jamaica’s leadership cadre. What I have to say here will only be a skeletal synopsis of the foreign policy records of either.

If I begin with prime minister Patterson’s foreign policy achievements I would quickly run out of space. So, I will begin with prime minister Simpson-Miller’s.

Simpson-Miller – internationally acclaimed woman leader

Former Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, ON

Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller assumed the leadership role at a time when Jamaica had recently failed the IMF test under the JLP administration and Jamaica was on the verge of a financial crash with the country facing economic disaster, exacerbated by the global financial structure then being in crisis mode. Her leadership credentials of a country with a stellar international relations history, as exemplified by Mr. Patterson’s administration, were tested. She marshaled the support of the international community, including friends in the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus, to get the best deal possible from the international financial institutions. She made the necessary domestic sacrifices to restructure Jamaica’s financial system and set Jamaica on the road to economic recovery. Jamaica, under Mrs. Simpson-Miller’s leadership, was acclaimed as a model for the international community. Prime minister Simpson-Miller leadership earned the respect of the international community.

P.M. PJ Patterson leads Jamaica’s delegation at UN Security Council – Nov 2001 (UN photo)

Her visit to China, in August 2013, brought significant benefits to Jamaica, including construction of the North-South highway, named after another prime minister who had no relationship to its realization Her China diplomacy gave Jamaica access to Chinese concessionary loans which made it possible for current infrastructure development, not unrelated to the grant from China to build the current foreign affairs ministry headquarters in downtown Kingston. A touch of irony.

And lest we forget, the prime minister’s global impact gained her recognition as one of the world’s top women leaders. And, to top it off, she hosted only the second U.S. president to ever visit Jamaica when President Barack Obama visited Jamaica, in April 2015, for bilateral and regional meetings with her and CARICOM leaders, respectively. Prior thereto, the only other visit by a U.S. president was Ronald Reagan’s, in 1982. It should be underscored that Reagan’s visit was for ideological reasons and had no bearing on Mr. Seaga’s foreign policy credentials at the time.

Patterson – highly respected global leader

Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, ON, OCC, PC, KC

As to prime minister Patterson, his foreign policy record is extensive and unmatched. His global leadership reflected the broad consensus that Jamaica punches above its weight. A deliberative and impactful international leader, Mr. Patterson was not known for charismatic articulation. His calm and deliberative leadership was quite effective. Importantly, his leadership of Jamaica coincided with the end of the Cold War and global geopolitics were defined in a unipolar power world. American hegemony, and it’s superior economic and military power was a global construct Mr. Patterson had to successfully navigate. Patterson’s international experiences had prepared him for leadership of Jamaica on this global stage.

Under Mr. Patterson’s leadership, Jamaica was elected overwhelmingly to serve as a member of the UN Security Council. He presided over the UN Security Council Summit in 2001, a special meeting of the 15 members, including the presidents of the U.S., France, China and Russia, and the prime minister of the U.K. Under Jamaica’s presidency the Security Council took unprecedented peace and security decisions.

At the beginning of this century, during a period when China’s economic and geopolitical influence was growing rapidly, Mr. Patterson chaired the G-77 plus China, a group of 134 states in the UN system. He successfully led the G-77 during a period of competing economic, geopolitical and security interests. He sought cooperation between the global north and the global south and equity in global governance.

A regionalist, Mr. Patterson led CARICOM’s foreign policy for 14 years and was the principal spokesperson for the region on critical issues facing the international community. As Chairman of the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations, Mr. Patterson is credited with developing a unified negotiating position of CARICOM countries in the international arena.


There is a long list of international accomplishments by Mr. Patterson as prime minister, but limited space constrains me. Suffice it to say, his record of global leadership and influence preceded his leadership of Jamaica’s government. His incomparable achievements as foreign and trade minister, include, among his accomplishments, as President of the ACP/EU Ministerial Council, and having led negotiations for the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States with the European Community. As Chairman of the ACP/EEC Ministerial Conference, he played a pivotal role in creating the framework for the original Lomé Convention. And on several occasions served as President and Spokesman of the ACP Ministerial Council.

The conduct of international relations is not for amateurs and neophytes. If you want to serve your country, you must chase knowledge, not spurn it. Knowledge is not only power, it sets you free.

© Curtis A. Ward

[This article was published in the Jamaica Gleaner on April 28, 2024.]

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About the author

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward is a former Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations with Special Responsibility for Security Council Affairs (1999-2002) serving on the UN Security Council for two years. He served three years as Expert Adviser to the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee. He is an Attorney-at-Law and International Consultant with extensive knowledge and experience in national and international legal and policy frameworks for effective implementation of United Nations (UN) and other international anti-terrorism mandates; the legal and administrative requirements to effectively implement and enforce anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT); extensive knowledge of the legal and regulatory requirements for effective implementation and enforcement of United Nations multilateral and U.S.-imposed unilateral sanctions; and the imperatives for Rule of Law and governance. He is a geopolitical and international security analyst, and a human rights, democracy, and anticorruption advocate.

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