Castries, Saint Lucia, September 27:– Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre and the University of the West Indies Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) are together calling for regional and global attention to the vulnerabilities of small states and the magnitude of the challenges they face in achieving the United Nations’ Special Development Goals (SDGs) in the pandemic era.
Addressing the UN General Assembly’s 76th Session on September 25, Pierre “The good work of the UN is undeniable”, but more must be done by member-states in these times to assist small economies to overcome the increasing related and resulting challenges.
Pierre said “St. Lucia cannot pretend to be unconcerned by the fact that fellow Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) continue to suffer from a myriad of challenges” arising from their “smallness”, “island existence” and “vulnerability to natural disasters and Climate Change.”
However, he added, while SIDS “struggle incessantly to formulate solutions for these ills,” they’ve been “confronted with the novel Corona Virus, COVID-19.”
Old and New
But “while its novelty and evolving character is enigmatic,” the Saint Lucia Prime Minister said COVID-19 has also “enlarged and exacerbated the issues of old confronting SIDS.”
In this sense, he argued, “SIDS are now being inundated by the new, while still being overwhelmed by the old.”
“We continue to contend with the near-impossible balancing act of preserving lives and livelihoods,” he added.
PM Pierre noted that “SIDS have witnessed Vaccine Apartheid in various forms and not only in terms of production and distribution” and explained that “Some countries which have stockpiled vaccines are now in the middle of debates about ‘third doses’ and ‘boosters’, while other countries watch helplessly as COVID-related deaths continue to rise for want of a jab.”
Pierre said under his watch, “Saint Lucia recognizes all vaccines endorsed and administered by a country’s respective government, as we have entrusted sovereign states with the responsibility of following the science.”
In this regard, he said, Saint Lucia also called for “standardization of vaccine privileges across the global community, as it relates to quarantine, isolation and other related requirements.”
Climate Change and SDG’s
The Saint Lucia leader lamented that the COVID pandemic “seems to have slowed-down everything but the deterioration of our beloved Planet Earth.”
Noting that Climate Change “continues to wreak havoc across all areas of the globe,” he also observed that “While COVID-19 now grabs the headlines, it is a fact that the pandemic emerged at a time when the world was already on an unsustainable path towards the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.”
With less than a decade left to achieve the 2030 Agenda, Pierre said, “the UN’s Decade of Delivery requires urgent and adequate solutions towards salvaging our global living quarters.”
He added that “The resilience we need and the adaptations required system-wide to respond to COVID-19 are directly relevant to the resilience and adaptation required for Climate Change.”
“It can be argued,” he also said, “that the COVID-19 pandemic and the Climate Change challenge confronts us with an intermeshed problem of ‘symptom as cause’ and ‘cause as symptom’, as it provides us with a harsh and timely reminder that human health and planetary health are inextricably linked.”
PM Pierre said Saint Lucia, like many other countries, “is grappling with a decline in investment, trade, remittances from abroad and growing debt burdens,” as a result of which there is “an urgent need to accelerate global momentum towards the ambitious targets across various international agreements and development agendas.”
He also noted that “A common thread across these instruments is the need to address the unique vulnerabilities and special circumstances of SIDS.”
Saint Lucia, he said, “like all SIDS, continues to face huge spending needs to finance the immediate health responses, that are well beyond our capacities.”
Such a shift of focus, he noted, “will reverse achievements in Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) implementation and in building climate resilience.”
Pierre called for “urgent consideration of the harsh reality and the many and continuing challenges confronting SIDS like Saint Lucia.”
He said, “Now is the time for a change, the time to act, the time to overcome our challenges through global solidarity and mutual assistance.”
“The future of every nation and country is at risk,” he added, “so we need the global economy to work for the 99% and not just the wealthy and powerful 1%.”
“Sadly,” the Saint Lucia PM noted, “the cost of meeting these challenges and undertaking the resilience activities — whether it be for Health or Climate — is way beyond the financial reach of our small islands.
“We therefore appeal to all, especially those most-able financially, to contribute towards our recovery efforts — and to pay their commitments to the Adaptation and Mitigation Funds, so that SIDS can benefit.”
On the eve of COP-26, he also said, “Saint Lucia encourage the larger economies, the often-major contributors to Greenhouse Gases, to honor their financial pledges.”
“This,” he said, “would allow us, the smaller vulnerable economies, whose contributions to greenhouse gases are often negligible, the fiscal room to build climate-resilient societies.”
The Saint Lucia Prime Minister therefore appealed to the international community “to remain focused on working in partnership with SIDS…”
He concluded that: “For the balanced development of the global community, we need the powerful to behave responsibly and cooperate more effectively, to enable a more inclusive and sustainable humanity for all, and to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Meanwhile, many of the issues raised by PM Pierre last weekend will be discussed tomorrow when the UWI’s SALISES hosts its 22nd Annual Conference.
The September 28-29 conference theme is Reimagining Development for Small island Developing States (SIDS): Post Pandemic Transformations with presentations by President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Gene Leon, UNECLAC’s Caribbean Director Diane Quarles and UWI Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles.