Thank you Mr. Chairman.
It is a pleasure and a privilege for me to moderate this panel at the ministerial session of our meeting, on the topic of “Celebrating resilience-Charting the way forward for Caribbean SIDS.”
This panel seeks to set out the socio economic context of and progress made by the Caribbean SIDS, and assess the role played by the MSI in their national, regional, and international sustainable development efforts. As the aspirational and affirmative title suggests, it will seek to chart the way forward by identifying key strategies, priorities and modalities that will help Caribbean SIDS to maximize the utility and sustainable development dividend of the MSI.
We have with us distinguished panelists and specialists from the region-Dr. Len Ishmael, Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and Mr. Garfield Barnwell from the CARICOM Secretariat, and me speaking on these themes. As Director from OHRLLS, I will particularly address in my own presentation as panelist, the international dimension of the Caribbean SIDS endeavours and the strategies required to derive most benefit from the MSI process and its 5 year review.
Let me begin by emphasizing that OHRLLS has a global advocacy and mobilization of resources role vis-a-vis the SIDS in the context of the MSI implementation. I will therefore focus on some strategic issues that reinforce the SIDS efforts in general and the Caribbean SIDS efforts in particular to leverage MSI with partners and operationalize their implementation commitments with particular focus on international support measures.
It is pertinent to recall that the value of the MSI and the BPOA before that is the recognition that the SIDS have special vulnerabilities and needs in the context of global sustainable development efforts and objectives and that the international community, development partners, and international organizations are committed to provide special treatment and support to them in the key areas that have been identified as well as MDG 8 target.
This MSI framework has also been a good guide post to SIDS member states to position themselves for such support by pursuing policies delineated by MSI in these key areas. From this perspective therefore and not wishing to repeat what has been clearly brought out in the Caribbean Regional synthesis report for the MSI+5 review, let me make some suggestions for the way forward:
Firstly, the national and regional surveys and reviews have clearly brought out that the Caribbean SIDS individually and collectively have, withintheir means, tried to put in place the necessary policies, institutions, and governance structures. They have integrated the MSI into their development plans in different ways. Caribbean SIDS should highlight this and claim credit for sincerely doing their part and assuming ownership.
At the regional level, the Caribbean SIDS have – as Caricom- made big strides towards regional cooperation and integration, institution building, and common and joints programs in the MSI thematic areas. For this too, credit should be taken and for which support from the international community earned and received.
All areas of the MSI are important in one way or another to Caribbean SIDS.But going forward, it is advisable to prioritize among these to some extent for purposes of getting urgent and enhanced financial, technical, targeted, and policy support from the international community.
These should be areas where the partners have an interest and the international organizations can make a significant contributions and difference. Marine and coastal resources management, energy security, especially with and through renewable sources, transport, communication, food security and agricultural development, diversification of productive capacity for enhancing sustainability of their economic growth and development and for increasing trade competitiveness are some focus areas that Caribbean SIDS could zoom in on.
MSI+5 review could be used to get some down payment from partners on their implementation commitments and some concrete deliverables in terms of projects, funds and initiatives, facilities, and resources centres that they undertake to support should be identified. So go to the review with bankable, doable proposals which have crosscutting regional and interregional applicability and multiplier effect, which seek to advance MSI priority areas important for the SIDS and which also respond to international partners concerns. They should demonstrably result in reducing sectoral and general vulnerability and buildresilience of the SIDS. Examples of such projects are: renewable energy resources centre for SIDS for disseminating technologies and renewable energy equipment and use; Marine and coastal resources centres for capacity building in this vital areas; Natural disaster management and resources centres.
In the MSI and otherwise the sustainable development plank and the climate change related concerns is critical for advancing the SIDS cause. It may be necessary to use the MSI+5 process to press ahead on seeking a Copenhagen accord- plus legally binding accord with international commitments that reduce global emissions so that global average surface temperature increases be limited to well below 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However quite apart from the feasibility of that being realized between now and the Mexico meeting, it may be necessary for Caribbean SIDS to also deploy some political capital to get dedicated and higher level of resources for their climate change adaptation strategies implementation.
The MSI+5 is also the right platform to make a strong pitch for recognition of special needs of SIDS and the developing countries- plus treatment required in regard to aid and finance flows, trade, FDI, and remittances. In the case of aid, access to World Bank concessional window-IDA and other facilities otherwise reserved for low income countries should be more widely available to SIDS. Some quantitative target for aid commitment by donors could also be attempted based on need assessments of SIDS.
Similarly, IFC could be encouraged to increase its lending to support enterprises and financial institutions in SIDS. A case needs to be made for enhanced Aid for trade. Most donors who have not included SIDS in their Aid for trade priorityshould undertake to do so. IFC lending for SIDS enterprises and financial institution building should be enhanced as should access to IMF facilities with reduced conditionalities.
In the WTO, the Doha declaration of 2001 agreed to a work programme to examine issues and frame responses relating to the trade of small economies but did not agree to the creation of a sub-category of WTO members. Efforts to get recognition in WTO of SIDS category deserving special and preferential market access and development flexibility and policies space as well as trade related technical and financial assistance could be stepped up in the context of the Doha round.
Their special existential vulnerability and need for additional support in the context of climate change mitigation funds should be firmly embedded in all relevant agreements and access to GEF stepped up.
Given that most Caribbean SIDS are burdened by high domestic public debts and also have an external debt burdens, special debt relief and moratorium may also be sought. Particularly so given the impact of the global economic crisis under which the SIDS have been reeling. Though many Caribbean SIDS benefited from SDR issues as a crisis mitigation measure, they could make a case for continued issues of this to meet their continuing liquidity needs. Similarly, some commitment on a trade finance facility for SIDS could be sought, including help in setting up regional and interregional EXIM and Development Banks for SIDS.
To more effectively achieve these objectives, the advocacy strategies could then include the following elements:
1- Continue highlighting the ecological and climate change related vulnerabilities, and susceptibility to natural disasters. Point out that these countries face existential dilemmas every day, and fall into the category of crisis prone countries. At the same time, every effort should be made to link these vulnerabilities to that of economic and social vulnerability, which is both a knock-on effect of environmental vulnerability as well as a function of their small and undiversified economies.
2- Underline the smallness quotient in their vulnerability build up, continues to be important but also use smallness as positive value to get solidarity and support. For example, additionalities of aid in support for projects in SIDS may not cost much to donors and international partners, but can make a big and visible impact and difference to so many countries. In other word, it will counter the “drop in the ocean” fatigue of donors and give them satisfaction that “every drop helps”.
3- Emphasize the importance of the 52 SIDS to global concerns and the sustainable use of the global commons such as oceans and marine resource development, climate change, peace and security, combating terrorism, biodiversity, and economical sustainability, fight against AIDS, malaria, TB, and communicable diseases.
4- Underscore the fact that for Caribbean SIDS in particular, it is important to maintain a certain balance in projecting vulnerabilities and risks. They should use the fact that they are generally politically stable with rule of law and following good governance practices so that private financial flows also get attracted and that donor countries can produce and provide incentives to their companies to invest in these countries.
5- Success stories and lessons learnt should be effectively used to show how strategic and catalytic help from the international community and organizations made a difference as an encouragement to them to do more.
6- Linkup and seek a separate slot, voice and participation in international development and economic decisions making fora such as the G20, the IMF, World bank, and the Development Committee etc. The point has to be made that SIDS are vitally affected by global governance decisions-be it macroeconomic issues, exchange rate, financial system regulation etc.
7- Similarly every UN Conference and fora and the burning issues that are raised there needs to be linked to the SIDS agenda and visibility and focus to this agenda sought.
8- SIDS could also seek and build on solidarity from other developing countries and their groupings including forging issue-based coalitions. In seeking trade, investment, transfer of technology and technical and financial support the cooperation potential of the emerging countries of the South like China, India, Brazil should be tapped. Triangular, north and south-south cooperation is a promising prospect in the case of Caribbean SIDS.
9- SIDS should seek to mine their human resources as Thomas Friedman put it and leverage their English speaking and educated workforce effectively.
10- Making best use of their proximity to and trade and economic partnership agreements with major developed countries such as the US, the European Union, Canada, Australia and other developed countries to attract FDI, access markets and obtain development support packages in the MSI areas.
11- Mobilizing the diaspora to establish and strengthen the trade, investment and development links between the SIDS and destination economies and leverage that and the remittances received to institute schemes for co-development whereby the governments and the diaspora work together to generate a ‘brain gain’ and ‘brain circulation.
This panel has been appropriately entitled: “Celebrating resilience-charting the way forward for Caribbean SIDS”. The reference to celebration, to resilience, and to way forward is not only an expression of natural exuberance of the people here, which by the way is an asset, but it is also a reflexion of the sincere efforts Caribbean states have made to reduce and overcome vulnerabilities, build resilience, through national institutions, good governance, strategic planning, regional cooperation and integration, and engagement with international partners. They have made good progress despite heavy odds such as natural disasters and more recently the economic crisis to achieve MDGs and other development goals. As compared to other SIDS, they have better connectivity, contiguity, and closeness to major northern and southern markets (US, Canada, and Latin America). This has enabled them to forge common positions and develop a regional identity with common interests and institutions and build synergies with developed and developing country partners.
The OHRLLS, as your advocate, will be happy to contribute to and participate in the journey towards this celebration, and work closely with member states, DESA, ECLAC, and others UN partners agencies and organization to help in mobilizing support for the implementation of the MSI using some or all of these ideas as guide post as you deem fit.
I thank you.