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Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, left, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres  speaking at Argyle International Airport on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.
Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, left, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking at Argyle International Airport on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.
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Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres praised the resilience of Vincentians as he arrived in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on Thursday ahead of the one-day CELAC Summit.

Guterres is the first UN chief to visit SVG and arrived in the country three years after the explosive eruption of La Soufriere.

When the volcano erupted in April 2021, it displaced about one fifth of the country’s population and left significant damage to housing and agriculture.

Speaking in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at Argyle International Airport, Guterres paid tribute “to the courage, the resilience, and the solidarity” of the people of SVG.

“When the volcano exploded, and when these islands and its population faced the dramatic tragedy, I could witness the way this country was able to mobilise everything, the solidarity of the people, the courage of the people, the determination of the people,” he said.

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“That is something that is an example for all of us everywhere. And once again, I want to express my enormous appreciation for what was done in the immediate response and in the reconstruction that follows.”

Gonsalves is chairing the summit in his capacity as pro tempore president of CELAC, a block of 33 Latin America and Caribbean States that was founded in 2011.

SVG is the first Caribbean country to be pro tempore president of CELAC.

‘a continent of peace’ amidst ‘proliferation of wars and conflicts of all kinds’

Guterres paid tribute to Latin America and the Caribbean as “a continent of peace in a world where we see the proliferation of wars and conflicts of all kinds.

“Today, I was shocked to know that in another episode of the war in Gaza, 100 people that were queuing to receive humanitarian aid were killed,” he said.

“I think a situation like this would require an effective independent investigation to detect how it was possible and who’s responsible for it.”

He noted that the latest deaths have occurred even as the number of civilians killed in the conflict since Oct. 7, have been estimated at 30,000, “making it an unprecedented number of civilian kills in a conflict since I am secretary genera”.

Guterres said it was in this context that he wants to pay tribute to Gonsalves “for his permanent role, always very attentive, of any possibility of conflict and is engaged, active and effective mediation” when “a problem” arose recently between Guyana and Venezuela.

He was referring to the flare up in tensions last year between Georgetown and Caracas over their century-old border dispute.

In his capacity as pro tempore president of CELAC, Gonsalves acted as a mediator and brought the two countries together for dialogue at the same airport, which led to the Argyle Declaration for peace between the two South American neighbours last December.

“As I also have seen, in relation to his very strong commitment to the solution of the problems in Haiti and paying tribute to him,” Guterres said of Gonsalves.

Meanwhile, Gonsalves sad the United Nations has been “very good to us — generally, in the multilateral system, but at moments of real national emergency.

“I will never ever forget that in 2021, in April, within 24 hours of the first cataclysmic eruption of the La Soufriere volcano, I got a call from my brother, Antonio,” he said.

The prime minister said the UN secretary-general wanted a report.

“And he said simply to me that he had given instructions for all the UN agencies to be at the disposal of the government and people of St. Vincent and Grenadines,” Gonsalves said, adding that within hours, Didier Trebucq, the representative of the United Nations in the Eastern Caribbean had gotten in touch with him.

“And the rest is history about their important role in helping with humanitarian assistance and with development work after the immediate crisis, the humanitarian crisis had passed,” the prime minister said.

“I’ll never forget that because you know your friends, when you really need them, and they stand up for you and with you.”

He said that under Guterres’ leadership, the UN has “demonstrated this repeatedly all over the world”.

One reply on “UN SG praises ‘courage’, ‘resilience’, ‘solidarity’ of Vincies”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    A wonderful tribute from the head of the UN, one of the world’s most bloated, inefficient, wasteful, incompetent, biased, and corrupt global bodies the world has ever known.

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