Bridgetown – Guyana Tuesday called on African and Caribbean countries to collectively advocate for greater financial flows so as to allow them to adapt to the impact of climate change.
“Climate change is a serious threat which is exacerbating and further weakening us. Developing countries like Guyana and our sister states in the Caribbean and Africa are facing great difficulties. We have not been historically responsible, but we suffer the greatest and are least equipped to respond,” President Irfaan Ali told the first ever Africa-Caribbean Community (Caricom) summit.
He told the virtual summit that the countries of the two regions are bearing the brunt of increasing and more intense climate related events.
“We must, therefore, collectively advocate for greater financial flows to help us adapt to the impacts of the climate emergency, including through the establishment of a Global Vulnerability Fund,” Ali said, adding that the largest polluters and developed countries which have already achieved economic diversification by transforming much of their natural assets into commercial activities carry a greater responsibility in this respect.
“Here in Guyana, we remove more carbon dioxide than we emit, something that most countries cannot claim. We therefore believe that we should benefit economically from this service that our forests are providing to the global eco-system, and, to this end, we hope that discussions on the ‘rulebook’ under the Paris Agreement will advance at the upcoming COP26,” in Scotland in October.
Ali said that Guyana’s development model is based on its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and that the strategic outcome of the LCDS is to find a pathway to prosperity and development that is non-polluting.
“The LCDS aims to transform Guyana’s economy to better deliver socio-economic benefits to our people by following a low carbon path while mainstreaming climate resilience, providing a model to the world of how low carbon, low deforestation, climate resilient development can be possible and beneficial for forested countries.
“We must also emphasise a compensation system for the Blue Economy and safeguard the Biodiversity,” he added.
The Guyanese leader said that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has reawakened the region’s vulnerability to food supply, the fragility of markets and sensitivity to price changes.
“It is therefore essential that issues surrounding food security, supply and availability form an important part of our actionable agenda,” he said, adding that the region has suffered immensely from the fallout in the rising cost of commodities and transportation services during the pandemic.
“We must therefore address these issues through a common theme as we, the developing economies would find it even more difficult to cope with and rebuild post COVID,” Ali said, adding that achieving the sustainable development goals (SDG) is severely threatened and “we must all point this out to the global community”.
In his address, Ali said that Guyana is looking forward to a sustained and strengthened relationship between the Caribbean and Africa and pledged “our wholehearted support to ensuring the success of this endeavour”.
“Africa and the Caribbean are no strangers to each other; we are brothers and sisters. Economic integration must be driven by people, technology, policies, and partnership aimed at one objective, the prosperity of both our peoples,” he said.
Jamaica’s Prime Minster Andrew Holness described the summit as a “timely dialogue which can only strengthen our paternal bonds”.
He said the common historical experiences between the two regions have been enriched by cultural, economic and political affinities.
“Potential untapped for centuries lies within our respective reaches as we not only develop national capacities but engage opportunities for cooperation with each other and across continents and oceans.”
Holness said that the challenges brought on by the COVID pandemic have reinforced the possibilities and value of the African-Caricom relationship.
“Most critically, Jamaica and the Caribbean region benefitted greatly from the African Union’s access to COVID-19 vaccines and other critical medical supplies…which has been a game changer for the Continent and for us,” he said, noting that the region can also benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area “creating an enabling environment for the flow of investment and tourism”.
He said for Jamaica, there is potential in the agro industry and logistic sector, noting that Jamaican companies have already invested in Africa.
“Opportunities also exist for scientific research and collaboration, investment in health care, technological innovation and digitisation as well as in the creative economy,” he said, urging that both Africa and the Caribbean “use all available platforms for securing meaningful outcomes from COP 26”.
Holness said that the works of people such as Marcus Garvey, Nelson Mandela and other Pan Africanists “who spoke of the manifest potential and greatness to be achieved from unified engagement” should be an impetus for forging closer unity between the two regions.
“Let us strive to fulfil their dreams and ours to unleash the full potential of the African continent and the African diaspora in the Caricom region,” Holness added.
Newly appointed Caricom Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett said the cycle of history has brought the two regions together again, noting that “centuries after enforced separation we gather around this virtual table to foster a new relationship between our Regions. One that is freely entered into”.
“We have had our moments of acting together to protect and advance our mutual interests, but today we are committing to forge a new more permanent alliance that has the potential to open new vistas of collaboration and cooperation.”
She said that the key to future relationships is the strengthening of institutional links and that over the years, the Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat has had the pleasure of interacting with the secretariats of integration movements in Africa.
“Representatives of the African Union Commission (AUC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have all been welcomed to our Guyana Headquarters. There have been reciprocal visits to SADC.”
She said that these exchanges began in 1997 and have continued periodically, and are aimed at exploring and exchanging ideas on the processes of regional cooperation and the systems and procedures of operations.
“Countries of the Caribbean Community and Africa have always been at the forefront of initiatives aimed at developing countries working closer together. We were both at the heart of the conception and formation of the Non-Aligned Movement, and similarly what is now the Organisation of African Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).
“What we have not done is use those links to create lasting mechanisms, which would bring together the strengths of our two Regions to elicit results to the benefit of our countries and our peoples,” Barnett said, noting that the recent experiences with respect to the acquisition and distribution of vaccines must serve as an impetus to drive this relationship forward.
“The imperatives that we both face more starkly than others with the phenomenon of climate change must also drive us towards ever closer unity of purpose and action. The sharing of skills and information between our scientific communities and our institutions, established to combat this existential threat, should be encouraged.”
She said that in 2018 at the high level discussions between the Caricom Secretariat and the African Union Commission, both sides agreed on the need for greater collaboration on matters of mutual interest in the international arena, such as climate change.
“The recent scientific reports spell out dire predictions for both our regions, given the continuing rise in global warming as it approaches 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels at a rate much faster than previously acknowledged. That matter of mutual interest is one that must unite us at the COP26 in the United Kingdom later this year.”According to the draft communique, the summit also agreed to a commitment to achieving sustainable development in member states severely affected by environmental challenges arising and affirmed their commitment to ensure the realisation of SDG 14 to conserve and sustainable use of the ocean seas and maritime resources towards sustainable development. – Jamaica Observer