UN Secretary General praises Caricom for 'unwavering support' towards HaitiWednesday, July 21, 2021
UNITED NATIONS (CMC)— United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, Wednesday thanked Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries for their “unwavering support” to the United Nations Mission in Haiti, as the French-speaking Caricom country deals with the outcomes of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7.
“I welcome Caricom's willingness to play a role in facilitating this national dialogue. We will continue to count on your strong support as we strive to help Haiti,” Guterres said as he addressed the 11th Caricom-UN General Meeting.
“As we look to all the challenges ahead, our partnership can only make us more effective in assisting the people of the Caribbean build a more peaceful, just and sustainable future,” the UN Secretary General said.
Caricom has already pledged to play a role in the stabilisation of Haiti following the political uncertainty that has emerged following Moise's assassination when armed gunmen invaded his home on the outskirts of the capital, Port au Prince during the early hours of July 7. His wife, Martine had been injured during the incident and returned to Haiti over the last weekend from the United States where she had been receiving medical treatment.
In his address, Caricom Secretary General, Irwin La Rocque, said that Haiti has been going through an extremely difficult period exacerbated by the “horrific assassination” of President Moise and that “Caricom reiterates its offer of good offices to help resolve the institutional and political crises that beset the country at this time.
“We are ready and willing to work with the UN System in that regard,” he added.
On Tuesday, 71-year-old neurosurgeon, Dr Ariel Henry was sworn in as Haiti's seventh Prime Minister since 2017, promising to build a political consensus to address the problems Haiti faces.
In his address, Guterres said that the two years since the last Caricom-UN meeting, it has proven to be “one of the most difficult periods in the history of our organizations”.
He said last year, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Caribbean contracted by nearly eight per cent, with tourism-dependent countries experiencing a decline of nearly 20 per cent, or more.
“This aggravates an already high debt burden and debt service costs, constraining the fiscal space and threatening the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals. But the Caribbean is, of course, confronting another, existential challenge: the increasingly destructive effects of extreme weather events and climate disruption,” he said.
The UN Secretary General said that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record and with Hurricane Elsa two weeks ago, the region experienced the first of what is almost certain to be a very active hurricane season.
“The combined effects of the pandemic and climate change have created the conditions for an epic “perfect storm,” he said, adding that this multidimensional crisis requires innovative thinking in a number of areas.
He said Caribbean countries will only be able to defeat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its multiplying variants, through an equitable distribution of vaccines.
“Earlier this month, I once again urged the G20 Finance Ministers to spearhead a global COVID-19 vaccination plan.”
Guterres said that the international community must also urgently help countries in dire financial distress tackle both short and medium-term debt and liquidity challenges.
He said that means expanding debt relief, issuing additional Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to developing countries, and tackling long-standing weaknesses in the international debt architecture.
“As we approach the COP26 in Glasgow, financial and technical support to confront the effects of climate change is essential. Developed countries must meet their commitments, including their pledge to mobilize US$100 billion annually for climate action in developing countries.
“Adaptation, which is vital for many small states' survival, currently only represents 20 per cent of climate funding, and I once again call on donors and development banks to increase the share of adaptation and resilience finance to at least 50 per cent of their climate finance.”
The UN Secretary General said that access to climate finance remains a major challenge for the Caribbean and he will continue to call on donors and the multilateral development banks to simplify and streamline access to climate finance for the Caribbean and other SIDS.
La Rocque said that the meeting, is being convened, even as the Community and the world are still grappling with the negative, multifaceted effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we mourn the continuing loss of life, and count the immense cost of lost livelihoods and decimated economies resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters, we are steadfast in our determination to design a recovery that will not only resuscitate our economies, but also enhance the resilience of our Community.
“For the Caribbean, described by the World Bank as the most adversely affected region in the world economically by the pandemic, the need for solutions is most urgent.
“We also recognise that re-opening and resetting our economies will require building herd immunity to fight against COVID-19. This remains an elusive goal, in view of the inequitable access to vaccines being experienced by the developing world.
“As Secretary-General Guterres said earlier this year, “vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community.” His tireless advocacy for a global vaccine plan to ensure that the developing world gains access to sufficient doses to acquire herd immunity resonates strongly with Caricom.”
La Rocque said that as the most tourism and travel dependent region in the world, herd immunity is crucial not only for the well-being of our overall population, but to ensure our visitors that our countries are safe.”
He said that some of the member states are still battling the recent effects of nature's wrath.
“We meet here today, weeks after Hurricane Elsa battered six member states with loss of life, and extensive damage to infrastructure and property.”
He said other member states, Guyana and Suriname, are at the same time managing the disastrous consequences of severe flooding, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, one of the countries affected by Hurricane Elsa, is also dealing with the aftermath of the eruption of La Soufričre volcano.
“We are indeed the most disaster-prone Region of the world, regrettably, a striking example of the vulnerabilities of the Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States of Caricom. These events take a high social, humanitarian and economic toll on our member states,” he said.
La Rocque said that it is a reality with which Guterres is quite familiar having visited Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica in September 2017, following the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. He also travelled to The Bahamas following the passing of Hurricane Dorian.
“One of the major outcomes of those visits is his powerful voice raising global awareness of the vulnerabilities of SIDS to climate change and the need to build resilience to combat the phenomenon,” LaRocque said, adding that Caricom continues to highlight the negative impact of vulnerability on its development efforts, and to advocate tirelessly on the importance of building resilience.
He said that a critically important dimension of vulnerability is the capacity to measure the concept, through the establishment of criteria and that Guterres's address to last October's Meeting of Caricom summit added considerable weight to our advocacy.
“The follow-up action, through the work being undertaken by the UN System in the development of a universal vulnerability index, is highly appreciated. Such an index must become the primary criterion for determining eligibility for access to development assistance and concessional financing by our countries.
“Critically, it must also be recognised that such financing should be available before disaster strikes. The experts have analysed that every dollar spent in building resilience prior to a disaster, saves seven on reconstruction and rebuilding costs.
“It is incumbent on us, therefore, to focus on ways in which the projects and programmes developed for implementation in Caricom Member States will contribute significantly to their recovery efforts and to building resilience.”
La Rocque said that issues related to vulnerability and building resilience must be at the core of discussions at COP26 later this year.
“It is critical that the international community takes into account our justified fears and concerns about the existential threat posed to our vulnerable countries by climate change. The outcome of COP26 must address these concerns in a tangible manner.”
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