Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean speaking at the United Nations. (FILE)
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UNITED NATIONS – Lamenting the ignoring of clarion calls made over the years by Barbados and other leaders from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in addressing climate change, Barbados on Friday called on the United Nations and the World Bank to convene an International Pledging Conference on the Recovery and Reconstruction of Caribbean islands ravaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“I urge all member states to support the recovery and rebuilding of the Caribbean,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Maxine McClean in addressing the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
“For Barbados and other SIDS, whether in the Caribbean, the Pacific, Asia or Africa, climate change is a matter of life or death.
“It is not an issue for sterile debates and endless meetings,” she added.
“For our people, it is about loss of life and livelihood. For our economies, heavily dependent on tourism, it is about a cycle of constant recovery and rebuilding, which is a serious impediment to sustainable development.”
Still, McClean said Barbados remains committed to ambitious action on climate change, and continued to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, viewing the proposed UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in 2019 as “an important opportunity to take stock and to give additional impetus where necessary.”
“Today, I regret that I must report not on a potential threat but rather on the destructive impact of climate change on the globe,” the Barbados Foreign Minister declared.
“I speak most specifically of the utter devastation being visited on several Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean overwhelmed by an unprecedented wave of hurricanes.
“Barbados, by the grace of God, has so far been spared, but we in the Caribbean are one family; we are brothers and sisters, and, when one of us hurts, we all feel the pain,” she added.
McClean warned that the threat of disease from the destruction must be avoided, stating that one possible consequence of the recent floods and serious infrastructural damage in the region is the outbreak of diseases.
“Our ability to detect and respond to such biological threats must be strengthened,” she urged.
“There must be bilateral and multilateral cooperation to minimize and, indeed, eliminate such threats. A focus on Bio-security must be part of our response.”
McClean also urged that attention be paid to a global health security agenda, stating that, as an island state, the ocean is a priority for Barbados.
She said ocean governance and the promotion and conservation of marine resources are, therefore, among the island’s primary concerns.
The Barbados Foreign Minister said the road to recovery and reconstruction for Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica, and the other islands affected by this year’s devastating hurricane season will be “long and difficult.”
“I take comfort in the spirit, will and determination of Caribbean people,” she said. “We are down but not defeated.
“Our neighbours in the Caribbean affected by the recent hurricanes can be assured of the full and unconditional support and solidarity of the Government and people of Barbados,” McClean added.
“However, our friends in the international community must accompany the Caribbean region on this journey to rebuild Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and the other affected islands. We are all morally obligated to do so.”
Barbados also took the opportunity to convey its solidarity with the Government and people of Mexico “suffering the painful effects of two deadly earthquakes in quick succession.”
While regretting that there can be no peace of mind for the people of the Caribbean who must rebuild their homes and their livelihoods in the wake of the passages of devastating hurricanes, the Barbados Foreign Minister noted that the Mission of the United Nations is to secure global peace.
“So, each and every member of this international community has an obligation to support efforts and take action to create an environment in which peace can flourish,” she said, stating that the countries of Latin America and Caribbean have declared the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.
McClean, therefore, used the opportunity to express the “unwavering support” of Barbados for the “protection and preservation” of the territorial integrity of sister Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries of Guyana and Belize.
Stating that Barbados has been a “consistent and vocal advocate” for the treatment of SIDS as a special case for sustainable development because of their inherent natural vulnerabilities, McClean said there is “a pressing need for the international community to address the specific needs and interests of SIDS in a holistic manner.”
She said effective partnerships on a multi-sectoral basis are also required to assist SIDS in implementing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
She said Barbados welcomes the on-going efforts of the UN to focus international attention on the challenges facing oceans and the need for the international community to take meaningful steps to protect the marine environment.
McClean said she was pleased to head the Barbados delegation to the UN Oceans Conference in June this year, committing to ensuring the continued active participation of Barbados on this issue.
“Barbados signals its interest in working with UN agencies and other international partners to develop an oceans economy trade strategy, as well as effective systems to manage our fish stocks,” she said. (CMC)