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Climate change, economic recovery focus of CARICOM Heads meeting with UN Secretary-General

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Posted: Monday, November 2, 2020. 6:26 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Secretary-General to the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, was a special guest at last Thursday’s virtual meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government hosted by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Guterres and the participating Heads exchanged views on issues related to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Region’s economy, which has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, in particular, those related to high levels of debt and access to concessional financing.

The Secretary-General commended the Community for its efforts to become the first climate-resilient region. He also noted the similarity of views on climate change and recovery to the pandemic which were linked through their solutions. Recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and securing climate action are not separate efforts, he stated. He affirmed the United Nations’ support for a multi-dimensional vulnerability index to help in determining access to concessional financing.

The Heads welcomed the Secretary General’s firm support for the need for urgent debt relief for middle-income developing countries, and for the importance of the recourse to the criterion of vulnerability as opposed to GDP in measuring development. They recognized that the upcoming meeting of UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) XV, to be held in Barbados in April 2021, would provide an opportunity to discuss a more equitable multilateral trading system.

Belize, like its Caribbean counterparts, has had to deal with extreme weather patterns in recent years. A drought killed much of the sugar, vegetable, and citrus crops last year, leading to reduced revenues which were then further impacted by COVID-19 this year. The region has long been a target for tropical storms and hurricanes, with several taking their toll this year; meanwhile, rising sea levels are affecting coastal communities and the offshore cayes, particularly in the South.

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