(PRESS RELEASE) – Parliamentarians from eight Caribbean countries affirmed the critical role that needs to be played by Parliaments in championing sustainable development and holding governments to account for national strategies and policies aimed at combating climate change and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Port of Spain Declaration was issued by members of the Parliaments of Barbados, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Saint Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, who gathered in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on 5 and 6 December 2019 for the Second Regional Seminar for Parliaments of the Caribbean entitled Strengthening parliamentary action on the Sustainable Development Goals.
The seminar was also attended by representatives of civil society from Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), which is an independent non-profit institute operating across the Caribbean. Ms Nicole Leotaud, CANARI’s Executive Director, presented on the critical role being played by civil society organisations (CSOs) to address climate change, especially meeting the needs of the most vulnerable including coastal communities and people depending on natural resources for their livelihoods. However, Ms Leotaud emphasised that, “Civil society needs more support, including financing, to scale up the important work that they are doing to address climate change and deliver the SDGs.” The role of Parliaments in ensuring appropriate budgetary allocations to address climate change and the SDGs was highlighted in the meeting.
The valuable work being done was well appreciated by Parliamentarians and is reflected in the Port of Spain Declaration which declares that “Special emphasis should be placed on developing parliamentary mechanisms for effective partnerships with civil society and other actors that work in communities.” A strong message emerging was the need for a whole of society approach to address climate change and the SDGs.
Another key feature of the meeting was recognition of the oversight role of Parliaments to ensure accountability and transparency, including in implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. The Port of Spain Declaration highlights the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Escazú Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, noting that, “We reinforce the urgent need for parliaments to use their budgetary and legislative powers to create an enabling environment for national ratification and implementation of these agreements.”
Currently, 21 countries have signed and five of these have also ratified the Escazú Agreement. CANARI and others are calling for the immediate signing and ratification of the Escazú Agreement, which can help to significantly strengthen the mechanisms for participatory environmental governance in Caribbean countries. CANARI, the Cropper Foundation, EquiGov Institute and Environment Tobago are currently leading a national advocacy campaign on the Escazú Agreement
in Trinidad and Tobago and CANARI is reaching out to partner CSOs in other Caribbean countries to launch a regional campaign in January 2020, with support from the European Union.
Civil society will be turning to Parliaments to enable ratification and implementation of the Escazú Agreement and strengthening of other institutional mechanisms, policies and budgetary allocations required for expanded and collaborative action on climate change and the SDGs in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean is faced with a disappointing lack of ambition and commitment to address climate change shown by
countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, Russia, China, India and Brazil at the recent global climate
change meeting held in Madrid. It is now more important than ever that all parts of Caribbean societies work together to address the very real crisis threatening our development and wellbeing.
Strengthening parliamentary action on the Sustainable Development Goals is available here: