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UN Secretary-General’s Remarks to the Opening of the Fourth CARICOM-SICA Summit, 3 March 2022

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, 

I want to start by expressing my deepest apologies for not being able to join you in person.  

I want to thank you profoundly for your understanding, but I am very sorry I cannot go.   

As you know well, pressing global events are keeping me in New York.  

My heart is very much with you. 

I look forward to seeing all of you in person in the near future.  

Belize is an inspired place to hold your joint Summit. 

Central American and Caribbean countries share many qualities.  

Like the United Nations, your two organizations bring solidarity to life.  

Today’s challenges demand more than ever this solidarity.  

COVID-19 has deepened structural vulnerabilities.  

Health systems are underfunded, understaffed and underequipped.  

Vaccine inequity is blocking recovery.  

Poverty is deepening, with widespread job losses.  

Your tourism industry has lost billions of dollars in revenue.  

Many of your countries are paralyzed by debt and liquidity issues. 

Both regions suffer from an epidemic of insecurity, organized crime, drug-trafficking and violence — including persistent gender-based violence.  

And the Latin America and Caribbean region remains the most unequal in the world.  

All these challenges have increased migration flows.  

For example, COVID-19 is accelerating the “brain drain” of Caribbean medical and health professionals seeking opportunity elsewhere.   

And there are over 470,000 Central American refugees and asylum-seekers around the world — a 33 per cent increase since 2018.  

I appreciate your support of the Comprehensive Development Plan for Central America to address the many root causes that lead people to make the difficult decision to seek safety and opportunity elsewhere.   

Meanwhile, the climate emergency and unchecked environmental degradation represent in today’s world an existential threat.  

Just this week, the IPCC issued an alarming body of evidence on climate impacts happening in every region of the world —but especially in vulnerable developing countries and small island states like the ones represented at this meeting that are really on the frontline.  

The era of climate disruption has started and you are exactly suffering the worst impacts.   

In areas of high vulnerability around the globe, over 100 climate risks will become more severe and potentially irreversible.  

Deaths from some climate events have been 15 times higher in the most vulnerable countries.   

Excellencies,  

Now is the time for action across four fronts.   

First — we need action on vaccines.  

The vaccination rate in the entire Latin America and Caribbean region is over 60 per cent — but many countries are far below that.  

It’s time for true vaccine equity, with governments and pharmaceutical companies working together to deliver vaccines to every person, everywhere — not just in wealthy countries — and expand regional capacity to manufacture them.  

At the same time, we need strong national vaccine-delivery systems at the ready — including efforts to counter disinformation and get these vaccines into arms. 

Second — we need action to reform a morally bankrupt global financial system.  

All countries should be able to access financing for recovery and support the Sustainable Development Goals.  

From health and education — to food systems and infrastructure.  

From social protection programmes — to increased support for women and young people, and to formalizing jobs in the informal economy.  

But developing economies — including small island states like those represented here today — face enormous barriers in accessing financing.  

Money that cannot be accessed is the same as money not being provided at all. 

And so, we need urgent debt relief and restructuring that brings all creditors to the table, and the establishment of a global sovereign debt workout mechanism that provides a framework to resolve this crisis and indeed assure debt relief.   

We need reform of the international financial architecture and a more accurate picture of a country’s economic potential, vulnerability and investment risk.  

The role of credit ratings agencies must be examined.  

We need to boost the resources of Multilateral Development Banks to better support developing economies with concessional funding.  

And we need a fair tax system to re-invest some of the massive pockets of global wealth into those people and countries who need it most.  

Excellencies, 

Third — we need bold climate action.  

The IPCC report demonstrates that the moment of truth has arrived.  

We need urgent, transformative efforts to eliminate emissions and halt warming at 1.5 degrees, and to build resilience against the impacts already underway.  

We need more ambition and action by all, but especially major emitters like the G20, which accounts for 80 per cent of global emissions.    

They need to keep hearing from you that their addiction to coal and fossil fuels is putting your people at risk. Keep up the pressure on them.  

We need a massive boost in technical and financial support to accelerate the phaseout of coal and create a just transition to renewable energy and green jobs.  

I have called for developed countries, Multilateral Development Banks and private financiers and other stakeholders to form coalitions to help major emerging economies reduce emissions.  

As promised in Glasgow, we need to see a doubling of adaptation finance, along with clear steps to ensure that vulnerable communities can access it through reformed eligibility systems.  

Wealthier countries must make good on the $100 billion climate finance commitment to developing countries this year.  

And we must ensure that the scale and pace of support continues to grow so that all countries can respond and build resilience.  

And fourth — we need action to build peace and security across both regions.  

The challenges your regions face have many interconnected roots.  

From underdevelopment, poverty and inequality…to weak democratic and governance systems…to crime, trafficking, terrorism and violence…to climate change that increases competition for shrinking resources.  

My proposed New Agenda for Peace aims to bring together the global community to address these root causes.   

It means building trust in national institutions that are inclusive, firmly anchored in human rights and the rule of law, and impervious to corruption and abuse of power.  

It means policies and laws that protect women and girls, minorities, migrants and refugees.   

And it means standing with one another in times of crisis.  

I am particularly grateful for your steadfast advocacy for the people of Haiti.  

Nearly five million people need humanitarian assistance.  

While we respond to the immediate needs, we will continue encouraging and supporting Haitian-led solutions to end the political crisis, craft a new constitution, and plan timely elections in a secure and peaceful environment. 

Excellencies,  

The revered former leader of Belize, the Rt. Honourable George Cadle Price, said: “Creation was not finished at the dawn of this earth, but creation continues, and we have a lot to do to make the world a better place.”  

His words remind us that it is up to us to create peace, hope and opportunity.  And that is the reason of Our Common Agenda.   

I look forward to working with you to do just that — for your people, your countries, your regions, and our world.    

Total solidarity and thank you very much.   

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