Hon Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize
As Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), it is a great pleasure to have been invited to participate in this historic ceremony. I thank you sincerely for your gracious consideration and for the opportunity to make the following few remarks.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are witnessing the dawn of a new era for CARICOM. One defined by the progress towards the establishment of a Caribbean Community in which the Single Market and Economy (CSME) as an integral part therefore replaces the less advanced integration arrangement of the Common Market.
This progress is evident in the many structures which are being put in place to ensure the advancement of the CSME. In April of this year, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – that central pillar of the CSME – was inaugurated. Before that event, in February, the Permanent Headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat was also inaugurated; and even before that, in 2002, the Caribbean Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) was established. Today, we take yet another decisive step in formally inaugurating the new headquarters of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre.
Today therefore marks a critical milestone on a sometimes slow and arduous road to the achievement of the laudable goal of building a sustainable Caribbean Community worthy of the highest aspirations of its peoples.
Our presence here today centres on the preoccupation with our very survival in an increasingly “climatically” complex and uncertain world. It is evident that for CARICOM countries, the challenges and threats arising from climate change are very real and pose a clear and present danger. The dreaded effects experienced by Member States have ranged from coastal flooding to severe storms, severe droughts, intense heat waves and generally unpredictable weather conditions.
Following hurricanes Frances, Ivan and others of last year, hurricanes Dennis and Emily, two of seven in July alone, have already this year, provided fresh, powerful reminders of the vulnerability of Caribbean societies – a situation previously dramatically emphasised by the unprecedented floods in Guyana and the landslides in Haiti which occurred earlier this year.
CARICOM countries are, however, not alone in encountering this situation. Almost six months ago, the International Meeting to review the Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA) for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), including low-lying country states, held in Mauritius, reaffirmed the detrimental nature of climate change to SIDS – a category which includes all CARICOM Member States. The Mauritius Strategy highlights that “The adverse effects of climate change and sea-level rise present significant risks to the sustainable development of small island developing States, and the long-term effects of climate change may threaten the very existence of some SIDS”. It further emphasises that SIDS “… are located among the most vulnerable regions in the world in relation to the intensity and frequency of natural and environmental disasters and their increasing impact, and face disproportionately high economic, social and environmental consequences”.
As SIDS, it is therefore not surprising that our CARICOM Member States have always been proactive on the issue of climate change. Our strong support for the 1992 United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change and the hosting in Barbados of the 1994 UN Conference on the Sustainable Development of SIDS attest to this. The plain fact is that although we are among the most insignificant contributors to global warming and other causative factors, we are among the most vulnerable to its negative effects.
Today, we are here not surprisingly to take one more proactive step in response to climate change – the inauguration of the headquarters of a key Community Institution that will help us to reinvestigate further and navigate the under-unexplored phenomenon of climate change and all its implications. There are some, Mr. Chairman, who until recently, doubted its very existence, and as the abstentions from participation in the Kyoto Protocol shows, others who discount its global significance. But times are changing, even if slowly, as is evident from the prominence accorded to Climate Change at the recently concluded G8 Summit; and the news of the recent signing of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate – a climate change agreement of sorts – among the six countries of Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the USA.
We in the Caribbean, like many others, cannot however move slowly or equivocally in this regard. We have therefore placed great responsibility on and we have great faith in the Centre. In the short period since it became operational in January 2004, it has already proven its worth and demonstrated its importance. It has been able to do so because of the capacity with which it has been endowed.
Permit me therefore, Mr. Chairman, in this regard to express, on behalf of the entire Community, our sincere thanks and appreciation to the Prime Minister and the Government of Belize for offering their country as the headquarters of the CARICOM Climate Change Centre, and for giving the fledgling Organisation their unwavering support. Allow me also to convey our deepest appreciation to the government of Barbados for its continuing special contribution to the work of the Centre; and to the Government of Italy for its very generous contribution towards the operations of the Centre for two years in the first instance. I have no doubt that under the able stewardship of Dr. Kenrick Leslie, distinguished scientist and administrator, the support and assistance will be used most effectively and efficiently.
The next major step is for all the countries of the Region to use the Centre as a coordinator, facilitator, expediter, as a source for information and resource mobilisation, as well as a force for the future survival and development of the Region.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let us not be among those who doubt the reality of climate change and its tremendous consequences for our Region. Let us face it rationally, realistically and based on scientific evidence. More than anything, ours must be a calculated, collective and timely response.
I have every confidence that in the very capable hands of Dr. Leslie, the Centre, working closely as it does with the World Bank/GEF-funded Project for Mainstreaming Adaptation to Climate Change (MACC) – under the capable leadership of Dr. Ulric Trotz – and with kindred organisations such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI) and the Caribbean Institute for Metrology and Hydrology (CIMH), it will build on its initial success and will provide us with the guidance that we need as we face the challenges of climate change.
Let me also assure those gathered here today of the CARICOM Secretariat’s continued commitment to the work of the Centre. In this regard, I wish to express our thanks and appreciation to Mr. Byron Blake, former Assistant Secretary-General, Regional Trade and Economic Integration for spearheading the Secretariat’s contribution towards the establishment and initial operation of the Centre, and to Ms. Glenda Itiaba for temporarily filling the breach with the departure of Mr. Blake from the Secretariat.
Finally, in closing Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me express the fervent hope that the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre will also become a global Centre of Excellence and a determining contributor, not just to the survival and prosperity of our people and societies but indeed to the survival and prosperity of all peoples.
I thank you.