Spain commits to post-hurricane economic recovery in CARICOM

 October 19, 2017 @ 11:49 am   

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The Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) advocacy for resilient reconstruction within its Member States that were affected by the recent hurricanes, was positively acknowledged by the Government of Spain on Tuesday, 17 October, 2017.

A newly accredited Plenipotentiary Representative of the Spain to CARICOM, His Excellency Javier Carbajosa Sanchez, said his country “will certainly contribute through the institutional channels already established, to promote economic recovery.” This is in light of the loss of live and material damage cause by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

He was at the time presenting his letter of credence to the CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, at the CARICOM Secretariat headquarters in Georgetown Guyana.

The Spanish Government closely followed the disasters and their impact, and they had stirred its most sincere solidarity, Mr. Carbajosa said, as he conveyed his government’s condolences.

“These are difficult times for all of us,” he told the Secretary-General.

“The world is facing a huge amount of simultaneous challenges which compel us to do our best and to strengthen our ability to work together in order to provide a reasonable response to global challenges. Transnational crimes, climate change, economic inequalities, political instability, etcetera, require our unwavering political will and determination,” he added.

Signalling Spain’s keen interest in strengthening the political and financial instruments which allowed it to work with CARICOM, he underscored his willingness to begin preparations for a 2018 CARICOM-Spain Summit. The last summit was held in Antigua and Barbuda in 2014.

In addition, he said the convening of a Joint Technical Committee before the end of the year will allow the pursuit of projects of interest to the Region in the areas of security, as well as energy and energy efficiency.

With regard to security, he said Spain had taken note of the emphasis CARICOM Heads of Government had placed on transnational crime at their 2017 Summit in Grenada. Spain was therefore following developments concerning the CARICOM Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which is being finalised for adoption by the Heads of Government.

Within that context, he noted Spain’s gratitude for CARICOM’s support of his country when it experienced terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils on 18 August, 2017.

In the area of energy and energy efficiency, he said Spain’s financial support the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) is consistent with his government’s commitment to the goals of Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and to United Nations sustainable development goals.

Referencing Heads of Governments’ commitment regarding the Common Single Market and Economy (CSME), and providing appropriate mediation efforts aimed at solving territorial disputes among its member states, the Spanish Ambassador said the Community can be assured of his country’s understanding and support in those endeavours.

CARICOM-Spain diplomatic ties spawn 18 years of cooperation. Spain has resident embassies in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Haiti. It is a Permanent Observer to CARICOM, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The new envoy said Spain’s broadening interest in the Caribbean region is reflected in the recent change in denomination of the Secretary of State within the Spanish Government dealing with this part of the world, from Secretary of State for International Cooperation and Latin America, to the Secretary of State for International Cooperation and Latin America and the Caribbean Region.

CARICOM ramps up advocacy for climate change financing (with video report)

 October 5, 2017 @ 10:20 am   

New Austrian envoy to CARICOM, Her Excellency Marianne Feldman and CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque
New Austrian envoy to CARICOM, Her Excellency Marianne Feldman and CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque

The unparalleled destruction in CARICOM Member States by hurricanes Irma and Maria has heightened the urgency to advocate for meaningful assistance to mitigate the effects of extreme weather events.

Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, was poignant in emphasising to a new Ambassador of Austria, Her Excellency Marianne Feldmann, whom he accredited on Wednesday, 4 October, there was no doubt “climate change is here.”

In his remarks at the ceremony at the CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters in Georgetown, Guyana, Secretary-General LaRocque recalled that Hurricane Irma devastated, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Anguilla, as well as St. Maarten and St. Barts. He noted that it caused significant damage in The Bahamas and affected St. Kitts and Nevis. Ten deaths were confirmed and a losses were pegged at US$2B according to preliminary estimates.

Just over two weeks later, Maria struck Dominica and left in its wake 27 confirmed deaths and more than 30 people missing. The scale of the devastation in Dominica was conveyed by massive destruction to property. More than 95 per cent of the island’s buildings were damaged or destroyed. The island’s agriculture sector and its lush rainforest were decimated. The cost of the damage in Dominica alone could run into billions of dollars.

Please see more photos of the Accreditation Ceremony 

Against this backdrop, Secretary-General LaRocque noted that the unprecedented scale of destruction wrought by recent weather events, placed a demand for more concerted and aggressive global action to address global warming.

Small Island Developing States (SIDs), the Secretary-General noted, are the least contributors to global warming, the major factor in climate change, but they bear the brunt of the impact.

In this context, Mr. LaRocque said that Austria’s strengthened cooperation with CARICOM, through a Memorandum of Understanding the two parties signed on Wednesday, could not come at a more opportune time. The MOU has a strategic focus on disaster prevention and disaster risk reduction, as well renewable energy and energy efficiency,

Emphasising that the paradigm of providing development funding based on GDP per capita must change, he noted that post-hurricane reconstruction was likely to artificially inflate GDP.

CARICOM has long advocated that access to concessional development financing should not be based on what the Secretary-General described as the “grossly inadequate and inaccurate criterion” of GDP per capita. This criterion has resulted in the graduation of most CARICOM countries from accessing concessional financing.

“We believe that this, as applied to SIDS, must be changed as a matter of urgency to include the concept of vulnerability,” he stated as he urged CARICOM third states partners, including Austria, to lend strong support to the Community’s efforts to effect this change.

Secretary-General LaRocque told the new Austrian envoy that this was a particularly trying time for CARICOM given the economic situations in many Member States, which recent weather events compounded. He added that the burdensome debt that confronted Member States, was in large measure incurred through demands for reconstruction after climate events. He noted therefore that the need was urgent for international development partners to re-examine criteria for access to resources such as the Green Climate Fund.

The Austrian Ambassador is on her second tour of duty in that capacity in the Region. The Secretary-General noted that CARICOM anticipated she would be “a source of influence in promoting awareness” of the Community’s capabilities and the limitations in its aspirations for economic development.

Such limitations include what he described as “economic discrimination” instituted through labels of some Member States as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, despite not being so labelled by the relevant global authorities. He called on Austria to encourage other Member States in the EU to desist from such punitive actions and to be guided by the informed position of the Financial Action Task Force and the OECD Global Forum.

Dominica Minister says Caribbean can learn from its rebuilding efforts

 October 17, 2017 @ 8:36 pm   

Still recovering from the destruction caused by Tropical Storm Erika two years ago, the small island of Dominica was hit by Hurricane Maria – a category five storm about a month ago.

The country’s entire infrastructure was left in ruins, leaving its population of approximately 74,000 people without potable water, electricity, shelter and food.

Despite the challenges, Dominica’s Minister of Housing, Reginald Austrie told the News Room that other Caribbean States can use the island’s experience as a model for rebuilding.

“Dominica is a test case. Hurricane is a threat to the region, or other natural disasters and one of those days it could be the turn of another country to face those challenges and so we are saying, if we can resolve or identify some of the critical areas that Hurricane Maria has exposed then the other countries in the region can piggyback on whatever advancement we can make and whatever solutions we can find,” he explained during an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association Conference being hosted at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston in Guyana.

Read more at: News Room

Hurricane recovery: Children to benefit from OECS-UNICEF ‘Return to Happiness Programme’

 October 17, 2017 @ 5:19 pm   
children-drawing-pencils-case

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 — 214 children from Barbuda received psycho social assistance, after the trauma of hurricane Irma, through the Return to Happiness Programme implemented from October 2-7 by 17 education specialists. The Saint Lucian delegation of volunteers, who successfully completed the first mission, will extend their operations to other affected countries.

The passage of two category 5 hurricanes resulted in major material damage in several countries of the region and also left significant psychological marks on the victims, which is more difficult to evaluate. Natural disasters of this magnitude often leave survivors suffering from trauma and, especially when children are affected, their emotional suffering needs to be given special attention.

As a result, the OECS Commission and UNICEF partnered to implement a psycho social programme dedicated to children between 5 to 12 years old: Return to Happiness Programme (RTH). The RTH methodology has been used worldwide in countries impacted by a human or natural catastrophe such as major armed conflicts or high magnitude earthquakes. Its goal is to support the recovery of young children by giving them opportunities to share their feelings.

A team of 17 education professionals trained in the Return to Happiness methodology have been sent from Saint Lucia to Antigua and Barbuda on a mission from October 2 to 5. These educators received logistical support from the OECS Commission to ensure air transportation and the necessary accommodations on the ground.

Read more at: Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

CARDI taking action to help rebuild agriculture in Barbuda, Dominica

 October 16, 2017 @ 1:12 pm   

CARDI Executive Director, Mr. Barton Clarke speaks about reviving agriculture in Barbuda, Dominica from Caribbean Community on Vimeo.

As we observe World Food Day today, we tell you that the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) has already begun taking action to restore the recently battered agriculture sectors in Barbuda and Dominica.

And while he lamented the destruction of thriving sectors that was caused by monster storms, Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Executive Director of CARDI, Mr. Barton Clarke, said that agriculture in the two islands will flourish again.

He said that CARDI had participated in the initial assessments of the damage to the islands, and was now looking at what their needs are. He said that the regional institution will liaise with the Secretariat of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) which has been mobilising assistance in agriculture. In an interview with CARICOM Today on 5 October, ahead of the 71st Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development on Agriculture at the CARICOM Secretariat, Mr. Clarke said that the Region had some internal capacity to assist immediately to plant short-term crops.

The Region has small seed banks with pumpkin and red kidney beans, for example, in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, and also has a relationship with big seed companies which will supply material to assist in rebuilding the sector.

 

Destruction

Assessing the impact of the two Category Five hurricanes, Mr. Clarke pointed out that there was “almost total devastation” of agriculture in the two islands which has caused a domino effect in terms of food supply in the Region.

For example, Barbuda had coconut germ plasm that was free of lethal yellowing and was expanding its production of peanuts when the hurricane hit.

In Dominica, the hurricane snapped trees, destroyed the coconut, avocado, bead fruit, citrus and other crops, and uprooted even root crops, destroyed the production and agro-processing capacity. Dominica was also self-sufficient in eggs. The country’s ability to provide food products to other territories in the Region was also totally disrupted.


Please see excerpts of the interview above.

 

Caribbean storms show urgency of rethinking aid for small island states

 September 27, 2017 @ 4:10 pm   
Aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, BVIs (Photo via OECS)
Aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, BVIs (Photo via OECS)

A series of devastating storms in the Caribbean has highlighted the vulnerability of small island states, where a single hurricane can undo years of development and plunge prosperous households into poverty from one day to the next.

Hurricane Irma turned 90 percent of homes on Barbuda to rubble and left financial losses of USD 100-200 million. Hurricane Maria has knocked out power to the entire US territory of Puerto Rico.

For most developed countries, a natural disaster triggers action from national governments to provide emergency relief and compensation – witness the recent emergency spending provided by the US Congress following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. But unlocking emergency funds is not always straightforward for small island developing states, not all of which have easy access to capital markets. Small island states often have high public debt ratios and insurance coverage among households and businesses can be limited.

Grenada is still paying the consequences of being hit successively in 2004 and 2005 by Hurricanes Ivan and Emily. Estimated losses amounted to 200 percent of gross domestic product, and Grenada is still in “debt distress” according to the International Monetary Fund. The Cook Islands are still subject to austerity measures under a 1998 debt restructuring agreement prompted by the reconstruction costs that followed Cyclone Martin two decades ago.

Read more at: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

Spotlight on the Environment – Barbados Minister targets major upcoming UN meeting

 October 19, 2017 @ 9:36 am   

Barbados’ Minister of Environment and Drainage Dr. Denis Lowe, speaks about the importance of the upcoming 3rd United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya taking place the first week of December 2017. Minister Lowe also addresses Barbados’ pollution challenges and asks everyone to join efforts towards a Pollution-Free Planet. #BeatPollution.

Agencies collaborate to tackle praedial larceny

 October 19, 2017 @ 9:19 am   
GLDA CEO, Nigel Cumberbatch (Photo via Ministry of Agriculture)
GLDA CEO, Nigel Cumberbatch (Photo via Ministry of Agriculture)

The issue of Praedial Larceny and its negative impact on local farmers was the focus of a workshop held at the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) headquarters in Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara.

The GLDA, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Law Enforcement from Jamaica and local farmers have joined forces in an effort to tackle the theft of farm produce.

Chief Executive Officer of GLDA, Nigel Cumberbatch, said that the Authority views the act of praedial larceny as a serious offence and is committed to supporting any initiative that seeks to protect farmers from losing their livestock.

He stated that “we are committed to ensuring that if we cannot eliminate larceny of agricultural products, we can at least reduce it to the point where it does not affect the farming community.”

CARICOM representative, Nigel Durant observed that agriculture is a business and should be treated as such. To that effect, Praedial Larceny severely impacts the profitability of businesses and the incentive to continue in the field. With the exception of Jamaica, most other member states have not successfully addressed the issue.

Read more at: Guyana Ministry of Agriculture