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Remarks by Dr Carla Barnett, Secretary-General, Caribbean Community, on the occasion of the 11th UK-Caribbean Forum, Kingston, Jamaica, 18 May 2023

  • The Right Honourable James Cleverly, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs;
  • Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica;
  • Foreign Ministers;
  • Distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to address you on behalf of the Caribbean Community as we convene today for the 11th UK-Caribbean Forum. I am especially pleased that we are now able to have this meeting in person and in such welcoming surroundings.

I also take this opportunity to record our appreciation to the team of Caribbean High Commissioners and Ambassadors in London, and their counterparts at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, who have been working diligently to bring this Forum to fruition.

Today’s engagement is being held against the background of significant regional and global challenges. Geopolitical uncertainty, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the challenge of Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS) to build resilience, the continued erosion of the multilateral system, and unprecedented economic hardship in many territories, are some of the elements that shape the challenges we face.

Foreign Secretary, CARICOM recognises the need for strengthened cooperation and reinforcement of our partnership to achieve common goals. The UK is a longstanding development partner for the Region. Our relationship is founded on historic and economic ties that provide a base for deep collaboration. The CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement exemplifies the evolution of our relationship, a relationship that has matured  through decades of engagement.

Together, we should continue to pursue implementing policies which create a fair fiscal environment that promotes the growth and prosperity of our Small States.

The United Kingdom has continuously empathised with the concerns of our Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and has stood as a steadfast advocate in international fora.  

We look to the UK to continue to support and amplify the positions of SIDS, particularly, on issues such as the development of a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI), graduation, access to concessional development financing, and reform of international financial institutions.

Foreign Secretary, we are pleased that climate change and  environment issues form a significant part of our agenda today.  Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show that our time to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change has dwindled significantly.  The cost of inaction under these circumstances will be loss of lives and livelihoods of across the globe, but with much greater impact on the people of our Region and the wider SIDS grouping.

We urge the United Kingdom, as a partner to the Region, to underscore to other developed nations, in fora such as the G7, G20, and the OECD, the existential threat that climate change poses to the Region, and the amplified destruction that natural disasters will inflict unless the international community takes urgent action to keep the average global temperature from rising above 1.5°C.  This is a struggle we fear we are on the verge of losing.

Ladies and gentlemen, our discussions today must produce decisive outcomes.  I look forward to the completion and future operationalisation of the CARICOM-UK Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the establishment of a Consultation Mechanism, which will provide another avenue for ongoing engagement between the Community and the United Kingdom.

Let us work towards a Plan of Action that reflects focused, actionable and measurable actions that will make good on the promise of this 11th UK-Caribbean Forum as a vehicle for meaningful cooperation to benefit our people.

I thank you.

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