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SEEN UP NORTH: Positioning for Global finance

Tony Best

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Positioning themselves to take advantage of global financial opportunities is a favourite course of action and a top priority for developing countries.
That’s precisely what Caribbean nations are doing at the United Nations (UN) and elsewhere these days as the international community focuses its intense gaze on the need to tackle the major challenges of global climate change. And with tens of billions of dollars being earmarked for climate change adaption and mitigation, Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines and their Caribbean neighbours are moving to ensure that they aren’t left behind.
A premier regional financial institution that’s leading the pack is the Barbadian-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which has just chosen a climate change financial adviser to help countries and their agencies tap into the vast pool of money, running into tens of billions of dollars, that’s being set aside by the rich states and the plethora of development and environmental agencies to finance climate change initiatives in the world’s most vulnerable regions.
And the Caribbean’s top climate change negotiator selected by the CDB to head up its crucial arm is Selwin Hart, a senior foreign service officer in Barbados’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who until a few days ago was the region’s leading spokesman at the United Nations and at international conferences in North America, Europe, the Middle East and other regions of the world.
“He is competent and knowledgeable and has represented the Caribbean exceedingly well,” said Raymond Wolfe, Jamaica’s United Nations Ambassador.
Dessima Williams, Grenada’s top diplomat in New York, couldn’t agree more.
“We have always felt comfortable with Mr Hart at the table putting our case,” she said.
Hart, who is due to take up duties at CDB headquarters on the first day of the new year, was vice-chairman of the United Nations Second Committee during the 60th session of the General Assembly, a panel that deals with economic and financial issues.
“We are certainly going to miss him at the UN and in our mission to the UN where he is a reliable and efficient resource for Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean,” said Joseph Goddard, Barbados’ Ambassador to the world body.
Hart, Counsellor in the Barbados United Nations Mission, is an economist who has specialized in international finance with certification in trade planning and strategic management. He has been speaking for the Caribbean Community on a host of issues that range from macroeconomic policy questions and international tax cooperation to marine and coastal affairs and, of course, climate change financing.
“The Caribbean is extremely vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change and we must be in a position to secure some of the financing needed to help us cope, adapt and reduce our vulnerabilities to the serious fall-out from climate change,” Hart said.
“As much as $100 billion is being committed by the international community, and the small islands in the Caribbean and elsewhere are well placed to benefit from the resources. After all, we are extremely vulnerable when it comes to the consequences of climate change and we must do everything to receive our fair share of the resources being made available.”
Although his first priority is to the Caribbean islands, by “we”, Hart, a member of the Kyoto Protocol Adaptation Fund Board between 2009 and 2010, was referring to the scores of members of the Alliance of Small Island States, AOSIS, in the United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change. He was the alliance’s lead negotiator for several years.
“The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, a regional clearing house for research and climate-related activities, will tap into the global pool of resources as we seek to deal with far more intense hurricanes and floods, sea level rise, droughts and other weather events,” said the 42-year-old father of two, who has spent the past 13 years at the consulate in New York and the mission to the United Nations.
Several key sectors of the Barbados and Caribbean economies are exposed to the vicissitudes of climate change. Tourism, agriculture and fisheries are on that list and both the region and AOSIS contend they are the quintessential victims of the changes in weather patterns.
“The international financial resources are to be dispersed in the form of grants and loans. In Barbados’ case our geography is somewhat different from neighbours and we have been placed in a special category. We must come to grips with the consequences which will involve governments and the private sector,” Hart said. “Many of our reefs are dying because of the erosion and therefore it is vital that we restore our reefs which are vital to our environment and our economy.
“The donor countries and institutions are using a variety of avenues to channel funds, including the multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, to developing countries,” he explained.