Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle. (FILE)
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Santiago – The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, wants urgent attention paid to Caribbean countries in order for them to achieve the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The implementation of the 2030 Agenda is at stake and decades of progress in human development are at risk of being reversed if more attention is not given to supporting Caribbean countries in their pursuit of sustainable development,” she said in an address to a virtual meeting of the Community of Practice with Caribbean countries that are due to prepare their Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) at the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
The event is scheduled for July in 2020, and Bárcena said that the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is occurring at a time when Caribbean countries are already facing tremendous challenges in implementing the 17 SDGs, “given their unique vulnerability to external shocks, their high levels of indebtedness, limited access to concessional funding due to their middle-income status, their inability to counter blacklisting, compounded by the need for fiscal adjustments and debt restructuring, all within the context of their high exposure to climate change and extreme weather events, with a new hurricane season starting in two weeks’ time”.
The meeting was moderated by the director of ECLAC’s sub-regional headquarters for the Caribbean, Diane Quarless, and was attended by high-level officials and national focal points for the 2030 Agenda from Barbados, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
ECLAC said the United Nations Resident Coordinators covering these countries, as well as experts from ECLAC’s Caribbean sub-regional office and headquarters in Santiago also participated in the meeting.
Bárcena said she “recognised the commendable efforts being made by Caribbean countries to present their VNRs this year in such challenging times – this effort demonstrating the sub- region’s unequivocal commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“The process of inter-ministerial coordination, multi-stakeholder consultation and multi-dimensional analysis to account for the progress made in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which is already a complex task, becomes even more challenging in the context of a COVID-19 crisis, that is characterized by limited contact, competing priorities and huge economic, social, technological and human challenges,” she added.
The senior ECLAC official noted that only ten years remain for countries to meet the objectives of the 2030 Agenda, and that there are already warning signs regarding the achievement of the SDGs and in this regard, said that ECLAC had analysed progress on implementation of the 17 SDGs in the region, by reviewing 72 statistical series of indicators.
ECLAC said these showed that four targets have already been reached; 15 are likely to be reached given current trends; eight need more public policy intervention; 13 need significant public policy intervention; 27 are at a standstill; and five are suffering setbacks.
Bárcena said that in light of its impact on economic, social and environmental matters in the short and medium term, the COVID-19 pandemic represents the greatest challenge that the sub-region has faced since the financial crisis of 2008 and “a real threat to the region’s sustainable development path in the context of the 2030 Agenda”.
Barbados' Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle, in her contribution, noted that despite the very challenging prospect of contemplating the submission of a VNR in the current circumstances, “the occasion presented an important opportunity to highlight how the pandemic is affecting the achievement of specific SDGs and to scale up investments needed for the country, particularly in social protection, fiscal and financial inclusion policies, and debt restructuring schemes to enable transition to carbon neutrality”.
“It is not a business as usual kind of discussion or moment,” she said. “We are proposing to really focus on the SDGs impacted by COVID-19 and present opportunities to fast track achievements on the SDGs and on renewed partnerships (Goal 17),” she added.
Senior Economist, in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning, Sustainable Development and Information Technology of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Giselle Myers, highlighted the vision of her country to put people at the center of development.
She reiterated the government’s commitment to “leave no one behind” through the staging of a series of consultative processes for the VNR and through their continued effort to align their National Economic and Social Development Plan (2013 – 2025) with the 2030 Agenda.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning and Development of Trinidad and Tobago, Joanne Deoraj, spoke of the “inextricable linkages” between the SDGs and the National Development Strategy – Vision 2030, emphasising a “whole of government” and ”whole of society” approach, “which has underscored the importance of collaboration and partnerships across the public sector, private sector, and civil society, including for the recovery plan post-COVID-19”.
Considering the pandemic and related challenges facing the country’s oil and gas sector, she also stressed the importance of ensuring that SDG progress is maintained, and every effort made to build resilience.
Bárcena called on countries to incorporate in their VNRs any pre-existing or new challenges that might have emerged from the current situation..
“We must urgently move towards new development patterns that are oriented towards greater well-being, resilience, environmental sustainability, and inclusive and sustainable international governance based on the 2030 Agenda and other SIDS agenda as well as foster solidarity with Caribbean countries,” Bárcena said. (CMC)