A warm welcome to all and a sincere thank you for accepting our invitation today. Firstly, permit me to begin by expressing solidarity with our brothers and sisters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the neighbouring islands affected by the ongoing volcanic activity. Our thoughts are with those affected and for their continued safety.
I know, to many of us, it may feel that our Caribbean Region is in a constant state of recovery in some form or another. This is the stark reality of Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States in a climate-impacted, COVID-stricken and overall vulnerable situation. The reasons are clear and ever-present why resilience in multiple dimensions is the central focus of our strategic development planning as a Community.
It is enshrined in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that protecting the natural capital of our Member States is pivotal to achieving economic prosperity, and enhanced quality of life in the Community. Our food security, cultural traditions, trade and tourism are all dependent on our actions in that regard.
Momentum in the past years has been building in Member States towards exercising greater care of and sovereignty over the natural resources of our coastal and marine environments. It is a resource with potential greater than the terrestrial territory, but whose value is less known.
Our marine environment has been adversely affected by sea level rise and ocean acidification. Evidence exists that nature can recover and increase its provisions through effectively managed protected areas. Nature’s resilience is what we aspire to emulate, but it needs our assistance so we can benefit from the dividends.
There is, therefore, a tremendous opportunity before us today to consider a suite of activities that, if done inclusively and collaboratively, will help our Caribbean Sea to continue to help us.
We are pleased that the Cloudburst Foundation and its Partners are exploring the opportunities presented by our marine space. I am sure we are eager to hear their proposals for creating and supporting Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Region.
These Areas would serve to preserve and enhance the ocean and biodiversity generally, and provide employment opportunities. They would generate spin-off benefits, such as eco-tourism, which tends to bring in higher and more sustainable revenues.
I commend these proposals for your consideration.
It is in our Region’s interest to collaborate with such innovative and creative partners at the local, national and regional levels to build and implement a programme of work for the benefit of marine ecosystems and coastal communities in our Member States. This will promote actions for responsible and much needed sustainable growth of our maritime sectors, as well as climate mitigation and redound to the benefit of our Community.
The CARICOM Secretariat commits to providing some level of coordination among Member States and Regional Institutions. However, the project’s success is dependent on the engagement and input of all parties.
A special thank you to Baroness Patricia Scotland and her staff at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite for building the bridge connecting us to the Cloudburst Foundation, Common Earth and the Blue Marine Foundation. They are already doing fascinating work in Dominica, around community sustainable development with the Kalinago people, and conservation initiatives with Sperm Whales and other marine mammals.
I wish you a successful session with constructive dialogue, as we seek to explore proactive approaches for marine conservation and sustainable livelihoods in the Community.
I thank you.