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CARICOM makes case for sustainable development of SIDS at UN conference

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)     Caribbean Community (CARICOM) officials at the Third United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) made the case for the peculiar vulnerabilities of SIDS to be considered when the international community formulates economic policies for those countries.
The critical importance of debt management, concessionary financing, partnerships, financing for climate change adaptation and mitigation, trade, capacity-building, technology and sustainable energy in addressing severe challenges confronting SIDS were  among the issues emphasized by the CARICOM high level delegation, which included Heads  and Ministers of Government.
Speaking at the AOSIS Leaders Conference, Barbados’ Prime Minister  Hon. Freundel Stuart  advocated for what he described as the “SIDS Collectivity.” SIDS, “speaking with one voice,” he explained, was paramount in representing their interests at the international level, whatever the issue – whether trade relations; graduation from least developed status and the constraints experienced; the inherent weaknesses of using GDP as the sole criterion for accessing concessional resources; or the sustainable development of SIDS, including the adverse impacts of climate change.
Speaking at a plenary session,  Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell, told the  gathering that growth in the Eastern Caribbean was impeded, as double-digit percentages of their import bill were used for fossil fuel. He reasoned that, with such significantly high electricity cost, small islands of the Caribbean provided smart investment opportunities for renewable energy. He made the connection between climate change and the indebtedness of many small island states, referencing a World Bank report on country assistance strategy for Eastern Caribbean islands which identified extreme weather and oil-price volatility as critical factors contributing to high indebtedness.
The prime minister illustrated the critical importance of partnership among SIDS and the international community in addressing development challenges. He noted that the World Bank’s Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility and its Pilot Programme for Climate Resistance had been helpful to the Caribbean and should be scaled up to provide liquidity to Governments.
Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Arnold Nicholson urged the international community to consider SIDS peculiar vulnerabilities when designing economic programmes for such countries. He stated that the current trade-negotiation round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) [Doha Round] must ensure that small, vulnerable economies are treated fairly in trade. He emphasized the need for sustainable partnership which are needed to eradicate poverty, strengthen health and educations systems and to improve the  livelihood of people in SIDS.
Hon. Camillo Gonsalves, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Minister of Foreign Affairs,  in his presentation called for an immediate end to the practice of using per capita GDP as a criterion  for  development aid. He  stressed that evaluation of the economic and development health of small island developing states must include an analysis of their vulnerability and resilience. At the same time,  debt forgiveness, debt-for-climate swaps and debt relief must be part of any serious considerations on SIDS development, as Caribbean SIDS have experienced sluggish growth due to the adverse impact of climate change, he added.
The minister   reminded the international community of  St. Vincent and  the Grenadines December 2013 natural disaster which accounted for losses amounting to 17% of its GDP. Against this backdrop, he  said that SIDS were calling for a “real and substantial commitment” to climate change financing for mitigation and adaptation, and demanding a legally binding commitment to emission target in 2015. 
Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Minister, Hon. Winston Dookeran reiterated the need for enhanced partnerships among SIDS, through the Alliance of Small Island States, to leverage the negotiating space it encompasses in multilateral discourses. He emphasised the critical importance of the “SIDS collectivity” in  addressing, through effective partnership, the priority issues for these states. These he said included the systemic problems related to graduation, access to financing for sustainable development, trade imbalances, debt and climate change.
As CARICOM continued to push its position at the Samoa conference, the Hon. Charles Gibson of Belize stressed that the economies of SIDS were small and therefore could not finance many economic growth opportunities. In this context, he said that the Samoa Pathway would serve as a sustainable development blueprint in the post-2015 development era with partnerships, whether traditional donor-recipient relationships or  new stakeholders, serving as a critical component in advancing the priorities of SIDS.
The Hon. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett,  Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, bemoaned the global financial and technological support for the special needs of SIDS as being “inadequate and unfulfilled.” She urged developed countries to honour the commitment under the Millennium target, to provide 0.7 percent of their GDP for official development assistance to developing countries.
The  CARICOM  delegation to the SIDS Conference held in Apia Samoa from 1-4 September 2014, included Hon. Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados; Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada; and the Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis;  Hon. Charles Gibson, Minister of Public Service, Elections and Boundaries of Belize; Hon. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guyana;  Hon. Arnold Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jamaica; Hon. Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Foreign Affairs, St Vincent and the Grenadines; Hon. Winston Dookeran, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago;  Ambassador Irwin La Rocque, CARICOM Secretary-General, who all articulated priority issues for SIDS and those of  particular importance for CARICOM.
At their  last conference in July 2014, CARCOM  Heads of Government approved their first Strategic Plan for the Community which identified six integrated areas of focus over the next five years (2015-2019). These include Building Economic Resilience: Sustainable Economic Growth and Development; Building Social Resilience: Equitable Human and Social Development; Building Environmental Resilience; and Building Technological Resilience.

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