president David Granger has said that, despite their sometimes limited resources, small states can influence international relations.According to the President, small states usually lack the economic, geographic and strategic powers to impose on other states their will in what he described as the contentious and confrontational amphitheater of international relations, and so must pursue their national interests through the practise of diplomacy in the international system.DEFENCE DIPLOMACYPresident David Granger addressing the opening ceremony of the 17th Heads of Mission Conference on Monday“Small states, notwithstanding (their) limitations, can seek to influence international relations in order to achieve (their) foreign policy objectives. Guyana’s involvement in the United Nations’ (UN) Mission in Haiti, which assisted in the restoration of democratic government in Haiti, and its generous assistance to Grenada in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 are examples of the country’s defense diplomacy”, the President posited.He also said that the work of diplomats is impelled by the imperatives of their country’s national interests.“The images on Carifesta Avenue, Georgetown tell the tale of where out interests lie. The flying Coat of Arms of each Caribbean Community member state displayed there reminds that everyone knows that he/she is a citizen of a country, and that country is a constituent of the Caribbean Community”, the President declared.He noted that the erection of the Caricom Secretariat, the embellishment of CARIFESTA Avenue with the flags and insignias of other states, the observance of Caricom Day as a national holiday in Guyana, and the construction of the Cubana Monument are all “expressive of the National interest — to illustrate the state’s world view at the level of citizens, country and community”.“…the duty of the diplomats gathered here today (is) to care for our citizens, country and community. The recognition of the importance of citizenship is vital to (the) national interest, since a country is made up of citizens — persons recognised under the law as legal members of sovereign states, (who) are entitled to the protection of the state,” he said. “The right of every citizen is important wherever they are.”The President said the protection of Guyana’s sovereignty is an essential element of Guyana’s diplomacy. He said Guyana lacks the economic strength to sanction other states, and the military capability to extend its power beyond its borders; but as the only English-speaking country in South America, Guyana can influence international relations both in the north and south by exploiting strategic advantages.Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, in his speech, said foreign policy is an extension of national policy, which must have as its primary aim the overall development of the nation.“This being the case, our representatives must understand their roles and responsibilities,” he posited.The foregoing remarks were made by President Granger and Minister Carl Greenidge at the opening ceremony of the 17th Heads of Mission Conference hosted by the Foreign Affairs Ministry at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown. The forum, which will end on April 8, is being held under the theme “Advancing Guyana’s Diplomacy in the 21st Century.”It will see discussions on a wide range of political and economic issues, including the challenges and opportunities presented by the current complex but evolving international situation; the preservation of the nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; economic diplomacy; the continuing role of the diaspora in national development; the role of foreign investment in the nation’s development; topical and urgent questions relating to the consequences of climate change; the effect of technology on modern diplomacy; and the multi-polar nature of modern international economic relations, among other issues.In addition, Guyana’s foreign relations will be examined with a view to strengthening and expanding traditional relationships, and determining whether diplomatic representation in some areas ought to be decreased or expanded. Guyana’s membership of multilateral and regional institutions such as Caricom, MERCOSUR, UNASUR and CELAC will also be given extensive consideration.