(PRESS RELEASE) — As he spoke at the United Nations Trade Forum currently underway in Geneva, Switzerland, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, also the present chairman of CARICOM, brought to the forefront the humanitarian tragedy and the complete destruction of physical infrastructure he witnessed in The Bahamas.
Saint Lucia’s prime minister and a CARICOM delegation visited Abaco and Grand Bahama following the passage of Hurricane Dorian where several people have died and thousands have been left homeless.
The forum in Geneva focuses on islands and coastal communities and Prime Minister Chastanet spoke during the open plenary session on the topic of “Blue Bio Trade and Climate Change: building economic diversity and resilience.”
“Many people I spoke with were coping with the loss or disappearance of loved ones at the very time they were coping with the loss of all their earthly possessions,” the prime minister explained. “The human tragedy is that many people have been displaced for the first time, with nothing. We cannot lose sight of the crisis that still exists in The Bahamas. Children need to return to schooling and people need their homes and lives rebuilt. Now, the onus is on the international community to effectively respond to yet another crisis in my part of the world.
“While we need to take preventative steps ourselves, there is much work that the international community needs to do to assist us in dealing with crises that are not of our making – tragedies we cannot control. We need assistance pre and post disasters. Moreover, the social impacts have not been sufficiently considered and mainstreamed into our planning and for that we would also require the support of the United Nations. How can we plan for the social impacts of such events? How do we adjust our development models to respond? Climate change does not discriminate, but it does affect the more vulnerable disproportionately.”
Prime Minister Chastanet called on all “to recognize the responsibility that we collectively have to force action on climate change” and singled out the that “the international community must go beyond engagement at the UNFCCC, the Bretton Woods institutions must provide us with sufficient policy space and support to grow our capacity to respond to these challenges”.
The UN Trade Forum on Small Island Developing States and Climate Change, from September 9-13, is being held ahead of the 2019 Climate Summit on 23 September hosted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in order to boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The UNCTAD Trade Forum is meant as a contribution to the Summit from the trade and developmental community. It will bring into focus the need for action on the means of implementation – finance, technology, and capacity building — and the role of trade as an enabling factor in meeting this need and leveraging the various co-benefits – economic diversification, jobs, innovation, better management, and communications.
In the prime minister’s absence, Minister for Economic Development, Housing, Urban Renewal, Transport and Civil Aviation, Guy Joseph, serves as acting prime minister.