Caricom urges int'l community to rethink C'bean aid policy

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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UNITED NATIONS, United States (CMC) — Secretary General of the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) grouping, Irwin LaRocque on Monday said hurricanes have now become game changers for the Caribbean and urged the international development financing community to be generous to the region, especially in the wake of two devastating hurricanes in September.

Addressing the technical consultations ahead of yesterday's Caricom-UN High Level Pledging Conference here, LaRocque said there was also a need to rethink the policies regarding concessional development financing and official development assistance (ODA).

The conference is to mobilise support for and the commitment of pledges to help rebuild the countries ravaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria and, importantly, to assist the region to build resilience, given its inherent vulnerabilities.

LaRocque argued that with the support of development partners, there is an opportunity for the Caricom countries affected by Irma and Maria to become the first climate-resilient countries in the world.

“With your help we intend to build smarter and better. We are doing so, in the full knowledge that we are into a new era. Hurricanes Irma and Maria were game changers — two category five hurricanes in two weeks and one, Maria, going from a category one to a category five in less than 36 hours.

“The occurrence of successive category five hurricanes signals a dangerous change in the intensity and frequency of these climate change-related events, and heralds the advent of a new normal. The region must therefore adapt to this reality. Time is not on our side. The next hurricane season is seven months away,” he stressed.

He said the region has been taking steps to embed resilience in its planning and that the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency has designed the Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy 2014-2024, to continue its role as the Caribbean's platform for achieving risk resilience.

The strategy embraces key sectors such as agriculture, tourism, health, education, finance, and physical and environmental planning. Additionally, it places increased focus on harmonising disaster risk reduction and climate change considerations.

“We come together over the next two days to seek your assistance to rebuild, and to enhance our resilience to adapt to the effects of the inevitable climatic events in the longer term. That task will involve national governments, regional organisations, international development partners, private sector, and civil society.”

“It requires significant investment to reduce risks and vulnerabilities to prepare for the impact of such events. The high levels of reconstruction will require a major injection of financing which we are unable to generate; we cannot do it alone,” LaRocque said.

He explained that most Caribbean countries are categorised as middle- to high-income and are largely ineligible for concessional development financing and ODA due to the use of gross domestic product per capita as a principal criterion.

What is needed, LaRocque argued, is the facility to access financing readily, especially by small and capacity-constrained countries, as well as innovative financing mechanisms to enable countries to cope with external shocks of such magnitude.

LaRocque described the two hurricanes that swept through the Lesser Antilles, causing widespread death and destruction in countries such as Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, The Bahamas, as well as the British Virgin Islands and St Kitts-Nevis as “unprecedented” and added that they occurred in the context of a global temperature rise of about one degree Centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

“If the current rate of emissions of greenhouse gases continues, the world could end up three or four degrees warmer,” he warned.

“Two years ago, we agreed at COP21 in Paris to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C”.

This, LaRocque said, is critical to small island and low-lying coastal developing states which are highly vulnerable to climatic hazards.

“Since Paris, Caribbean scientists have carried out studies to explore the consequences of both a 1.5- and 2.0-degree Centigrade warmer world,” LaRocque said, adding they have found that given the current trend, the 1.5 target will occur within the next decade, much sooner than previously anticipated.

“With 1.5, the scientists are predicting generally harsher climatic conditions for our region. We must prepare for the next catastrophic hurricane, flood or drought. We must therefore be climate resilient in time for the next event,” the Caricom secretary general said.

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