It is really a pleasure for me to participate in this Ceremony, which is a clear indication of the strong ties between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the United States.
These Regional Development Objective Agreements are rendering assistance in areas that have been identified as critical to the well-being of our citizens. They have been structured based on consultations between the Community, both at the regional and national level, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with issues drawn from the priorities identified in the Community Strategic Plan.
Combatting the challenges posed by Climate Change, HIV/AIDS and crime and violence, with particular reference to youth involvement, is right at the forefront of the issues facing our Community today. Therefore these interventions could not be more timely.
The existential nature of climate change to CARICOM Member States will be made clear to world leaders when they gather in Paris in six days time for a Summit on the issue. While we continue to insist on measures to hold the increase in global average temperature to not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, we must act to adapt to and mitigate the effects of global warming and climate change.
Many of our Member States are already facing the adverse effects of climate change. It is not coming. It is here. And may I take this opportunity to thank the US for its assistance to our Member States who have been affected by natural disasters. We welcome this support by USAID which seeks to assist in reducing the risks to human and natural assets resulting from climate vulnerabilities by strengthening institutional capacity to generate and use climate data and information in decision making. This assistance will also strengthen institutional capacity to assess feasibility of, and implement innovative adaptation approaches including the management of agricultural, coastal and water resources. All are areas critical to our economic and social development and dare I say survival.
So too is the effort to combat the threat to our populations posed by HIV/AIDS. We have made impressive strides in reducing the rate of infection of the disease in our Community. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to reduce the rate of transmission among vulnerable communities including women and adolescents. Increasing access to appropriate and high-quality prevention, care, and treatment services by key populations is an important factor and is one of the major aims of the project.
The United States has been an active partner with the Community in our efforts to reduce the effects of the virus among our citizens. The support of the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been instrumental in helping to reduce mother-to-child transmission of the virus and in other areas of the work of the Pan-Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and Aids (PANCAP).
The objective of our third agreement goes to the heart of the pre-eminent issue in the Region today. The scourge of crime is affecting all our Member States and sadly it is adversely affecting our youth. Therefore a thrust to reduce youth involvement in crime and violence in targeted communities is one that will be embraced across the Community.
Increasing the technical and institutional capacity of regional, state, non-governmental, and community organizations to address problems associated with youth crime and violence should have a positive impact on the situation. A critical aspect of this programme is its emphasis on community involvement and on family participation. It is there, at that level, that anti-social activities can be curbed and energies channelled into positive endeavour. The battle against crime starts in the home, the street, the village along with the presentation of alternatives. We all have our part to play.
Opportunities must be created for our youths, including those who are outside of the formal school structure, so that they can see a path to be productive citizens. It is heartening that this element is factored in to the programme.
The relevance of these three subject areas to the Community cannot be overstated. These projects continue our long-standing co-operation with USAID which has been beneficial to the Community in the social, economic and environmental sectors to name a few. Among the other areas I must mention our co-operation in renewable energy. This is not only in relation to climate change but is also an issue of competitiveness for us in CARICOM. We have had positive engagements with President Obama and Vice President Biden on this issue of renewable energy.
In closing, I thank the USAID and the Government of the United States as they join hands with us to find solutions to the problems that plague us. That’s what friends are for.
I thank you