By Kenton X. Chance
LUANDA, Angola (CMC) – The Caribbean bloc within the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) says it does not “sit helplessly” in the face of a number challenge affecting the region, including the lingering effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the impact of climate change.
“We do not sit helplessly in the face of these challenges,” Bahamas Prime Minister, Phillip “Brave” Davis told the opening of the 10th Head of States and Government Summit of the OACPS on Friday, adding “we are actively pursuing a number of strategies to develop innovative solutions, especially in the green, blue and orange economies.
“And in several instances, we are working together to improve and secure our common destiny,” he said as he spoke on behalf of CARIFORUM, a subgroup of the OACPS, who members are the 15 Caribbean Community states, along with the Dominican Republic.
“It is a self-evident truth both for the OACPs in general, and our region in particular, that many of the challenges and opportunities we face are common to each other,” Davis said, adding that despite efforts to suppress the long term effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, “inequality in the supply, distribution, and administration of vaccines continues to be detrimental to all.
“We must continually join our voices to remind the industrialised world that they will not be safe until we are all safe,” he told OACPS leaders and their representative..
The Bahamas Prime Minister said that a financial intermediary fund has been set up with a critical resource to address pandemic challenges, particularly prevention, preparedness and response, especially for small economies, such as those in CARIFORUM.
Davis said the war in Ukraine continues to make worse the vulnerabilities of Caribbean countries with procurement challenges, steep inflation, and supply chain disruptions being the most visible symptoms.
“Most CARIFORUM states are heavily dependent on tourism, both the pandemic and the war led to significant downturns in the industry, rising food prices and energy costs are putting great strain on our economies and our people.
“As most of our countries are net importers of food in order to address the issues we face, we need to substantially improve our infrastructure, secure better and greater access to financing, overcome high trade costs and deal with the challenges inflicted by the rapid changes in climate.”
Davis said he was pleased to report that CARIFORUM countries have made progress in line with OACPS efforts to build diversified partnerships beyond the long standing and evolving partnership with the European Union.
The European Union remains the OACPS’ main development partner and could sign in Samoa next year, a new 20-year partnership agreement.
Davis said that following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, CARIFORUM successfully completed arrangements to govern its trading relationship with the United Kingdom.
“The aim being to ensure continuity in our preferential trading relationship which was provisionally applied from first of January 2021. Now, perhaps more than at any time in history, we need to secure pathways and opportunities for the countries and the peoples of the world to come together.”
He said increasing destabilisation of the established world order is happening at a time when the existential threat posed by climate change raises the spectre of complete catastrophe.
“We must seize the opportunity of the 10th summit to confront the hard truths. We must, here in Luanda, accelerate our drive for innovation and ingenuity. Through our exchange of ideas, we must not let up in our determination to find solutions to our most pressing challenges and maximise the benefits for all our peoples,” Davis said.
“Though we span many oceans and continents, we share one destiny if we come together and do the right thing, catastrophe is not inevitable, together, we can make it better,” Davis added.