UNITED NATIONS – The Bahamas has warned the international community that the population of the chain of islands could become “climate refugees” saying that its priority foreign policy issue is that of climate change.
“Will we be climate refugees, or will we face a watery death?” Foreign Affairs Minister Frederick Mitchell asked the delegates attending the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNA).
He spoke of the shock by the Phillip Davis government on hearing the position on climate reparations on loss and damage by one developed country that stated “under no circumstance will there be reparations for loss and damage from climate change”.
Mitchell said that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like the Bahamas have been negotiating for loss and damage for over 30 years, before asking the UNGA to indicate how much the 399,314 lives in his Caribbean country are worth.
Mitchell said that the United Kingdom government had paid GBP 20 million to slavers for the “loss of their property”, which represented 40 per cent of their national budget, translating to GBP 17 billion today, the bonds of which were completely paid off in 2015.
He told the UNGA that not a penny was paid to the slaves themselves or their dependents, nor an apology “for the moral tragedy slavery represents” and that because their forbears never accepted no for an answer, each succeeding generation, including his, has been respectively freer than their predecessors.
Mitchell said that the Bahamas government therefore wants the world to know that “no is not an answer to an unfree people” on reparations for slavery or on climate change, adding that “we must use our collective voices to reject the gospel according to ‘no’”.
He said that this message will be passed to the next generation until success is attained and justice is served.
The Foreign Minister said that Nassau’s position is the same for Haiti, as “the Western world owes Haiti and the Haitian people, and we must fight to help them resolve their issues.”
While he thanked the United States, Canada and the 15-member Caricom grouping for their work towards resolving the security issues in the French-speaking Caribbean country, Mitchell called on the international community to do all it can to develop a Haitian-led political solution, as well as the international community to approve a Security Council-backed resolution on a multinational force for the country.
He also called for a geopolitical settlement on Cuba, urging the dropping of all restrictions and economic sanctions as “the continuation of the status quo represents a security problem for the Bahamas”.
He reiterated his country’s position that on taxation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union have made themselves the moral police of the world, a result of which “free trade no longer exists”, making banking and international trade difficult.
Nassau has already called for a United Nations convention on tax, a position Mitchell reiterated in his address to the UNGA.