UN General Secretary to CARICOM: COVID-19 Can Only Be Defeated With Vaccines

UN General Secretary to CARICOM: COVID-19 Can Only Be Defeated With Vaccines

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message for the opening session of the eleventh Caribbean Community (CARICOM)-United Nations General Meeting:

Let me begin by thanking you for taking part in this eleventh CARICOM-UN General Meeting.

The two years since our last Meeting have proved to be one of the most difficult periods in the history of our organizations. Last year, the GDP (gross domestic product) of the Caribbean contracted by nearly 8 per cent, with tourism-dependent countries experiencing a decline of nearly 20 per cent or more. This aggravates an already high debt burden and debt-service costs, constraining the fiscal space and threatening the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

But the Caribbean is, of course, confronting another, existential challenge: the increasingly destructive effects of extreme weather events and climate disruption. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record. And with Elsa two weeks ago, the region experienced the first of what is almost certain to be a very active hurricane season.

The combined effects of the pandemic and climate change have created the conditions for an epic “perfect storm”. This multidimensional crisis requires innovative thinking in a number of areas. Allow me to mention three.

First, we will only defeat the COVID-19 virus — and its multiplying variants — through an equitable distribution of vaccines. Earlier this month, I once again urged the G20 finance ministers to spearhead a global COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Second, the international community must urgently help countries in dire financial distress tackle both short- and medium-term debt and liquidity challenges. That means expanding debt relief, issuing additional special drawing rights (SDRs) to developing countries, and tackling long-standing weaknesses in the international debt architecture.

Third, as we approach the COP26 (Twenty-Sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Glasgow, financial and technical support to confront the effects of climate change is essential. Developed countries must meet their commitments — including their pledge to mobilize $100 billion annually for climate action in developing countries.

Adaptation, which is vital for many small States’ survival, currently only represents 20 per cent of climate funding, and I once again call on donors and development banks to increase the share of adaptation and resilience finance to at least 50 per cent of their climate finance.

Access to climate finance remains a major challenge for the Caribbean and I will continue to call on donors and the multilateral development banks to simplify and streamline access to climate finance for the Caribbean and other SIDS [small island developing States].

Finally, I wish to thank CARICOM for your unwavering support to the United Nations mission in Haiti. I welcome CARICOM’s willingness to play a role in facilitating this national dialogue. We will continue to count on your strong support as we strive to help Haiti.

As we look to all the challenges ahead, our partnership can only make us more effective in assisting the people of the Caribbean build a more peaceful, just and sustainable future.

I wish you a most productive meeting. Thank you.