St Lucia calls on gun manufacturers to live up to their int’l commitments
Prime Minister Phillip J. Pierre addressing United nations General assembly (UN Photo)

UNITED NATIONS, CMC — St Lucia Friday called on manufacturers, exporters and importers of conventional weapons to live up to their commitments as it urged the international community to assist the Caribbean in fighting a surge in criminal activity and gun violence.

In his maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Prime Minister Phillip J Pierre told the international forum that while St Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean are not manufacturers of conventional weapons, “our countries have been plagued by a proliferation of illegal small arms and light weapons, resulting in a surge in criminal activity and gun violence”.

He said St Lucia has always been a strong advocate of the international frameworks, such as the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (UN-POA) and the Arms Trade Treaty; which are two examples of multilateral instruments aimed at mobilizing international cooperation to curb the illicit trade in conventional arms and ammunition.

“St Lucia calls on the major manufacturers, exporters and importers of conventional weapons in our hemisphere to live up to their commitments, under these instruments, to lend the necessary expertise and technical assistance and cooperate in good faith to stem the tide of unregulated conventional arms and ammunition,” Pierre said.

In his wide ranging address, Pierre said that the global community has reached a watershed moment in its history because, “we, the members of the United Nations have not adhered to the rules and principles of the organisation that we created 76 years ago, as a multilateral answer to mankind’s propensity to use arms against his fellow man, instead of joining with him to turn them into tools for peace and development.

“We have arrived at this watershed moment, because we have failed to adhere to the agreements we have negotiated multilaterally to solve the problems that have confronted us – problems invariably of our own making.

“We have come to this watershed moment, because small developing countries continue to suffer from an inequitable world order, in which the rich and powerful do not right the wrongs they commit against the weak.”

Prime Minister Pierre said St Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean, despite their small sizes, a deliberate desire to be a source of peace and friendship to all, despite their democratic traditions, and despite the earnest efforts to make the development of its people a primary objective, “we find ourselves in a world stacked against us and frustrating our development at every turn.

“Sadly…a survey of the global political-economy of the last four decades reads like a cascading series of crises, and a frustrating tale of arrested development and dashed hopes for the people of the Caribbean.”

He said in every decade since 1980, the Caribbean countries, including St Lucia, have faced the ill-winds of a harsh and global environment, to which we are forced to change course without reward, and with little to show for our efforts.

“In the 1990s, it was the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Single Economy which removed any lingering protections from which we benefited and which placed us at greater exposure to a world of liberalised trade, with no consideration for our specific historical circumstances.

“Then came the decade of the 2000s, in which the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was formalized and with which came an even harsher reality of trade liberalisation that has not lived up to its promise of cheaper goods and services for all.

“Instead, we have mostly witnessed declines in the demand for our primary commodities like bananas, sugar and rum. If anything, the new rules of trade have taught us harsh lessons on how global institutional arrangements are designed to punish us when we are accused of wrong, but fail to reward and protect us when we are wronged,” Prime Minister Pierre said, adding that the experience of Antigua and Barbuda is instructive in this regard, a reference to St John’s decision to challenge the US at the WTO.

Pierre said that St Lucia’s diversification into financial services is also threatened by an uneven regime of negative regulations as well as the impact of climate change.

He said climate change is no longer breaking news or a matter of debate that it is one of the biggest crises facing mankind.

“But the solutions to the universal climate change emergency are not mystifying. From the 2015 Paris Agreement, where we agreed that limiting global warming to below 1.5° C would help us stay alive, to COP 26 in Glasgow, we have followed the science, negotiated, compromised and agreed upon the solutions.”

Pierre said the problem is that these agreements have been broken or simply ignored.

“Those who are the biggest perpetrators of the climate crisis and who were supposed to take the corresponding greatest action, have not followed through on their commitments,” Pierre said, adding that the quantum of financing for climate justice, needed by developing countries and agreed upon by the developed countries, has not materialized.

“The multilateral development financial institutions have yet to change their systems to make it easier for developing countries to access the financing required to adapt to climate change and build climate resilient economies.

“Developing countries; already saddled with debt, must be given the means to be able to deal with climate change. We must act together to save our people and our planet. It is regrettable, therefore, that recent political differences between two of the biggest polluting countries, have led to a halting of cooperation between them on climate issues.”

Pierre said that the future of the planet must never be held hostage to the politics of superpower rivalry, urging the developed countries to act upon the solutions to climate change that they have agreed upon.

Pierre said that a single hurricane, which destroys the entire agricultural crop or destroys the tourism plant and infrastructure, “can set us back by decades.

“We are simply asking that these vulnerabilities be considered when our financial obligations for development assistance are being negotiated. This will result in the mutually beneficial solution of ensuring that the wheels of the global economy keep on turning, while at the same time allowing us the breathing space to participate meaningfully, with a renewed sense of faith in the legitimacy of the global financial system and its institutions.”

Pierre said that for three decades, from the Adoption of Agenda 21, through to several General Assembly resolutions and the SAMOA Pathway, there have been calls for the adoption of a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI) for SIDS.

He said the MVI will replace the unreliable and unfair Gross National Income (GNI) index that precludes SIDS from accessing badly needed low cost and concessional financing for their development.

He said the work on the MVI by the UN and other institutions like the Caribbean Development Bank must now be accelerated and finalized.

“A reform of the regime can no longer be ideological or political. We need to include the vulnerabilities of small states like Saint Lucia when calculating the value of their economies. This is a matter of survival for our people,” Pierre told the international community.

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