Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque Friday warned that next year will not be easy for Barbados and the rest of the 15-nation grouping.
However, in the wake of the devastating impact caused by hurricanes on the region this year, he said: “We have shown that we are a resilient people and we have demonstrated time and again that we achieve our best results when we work together.
“The same spirit and energy that drive us to be each other’s keeper in times of disaster is what we need to propel our integration movement forward,” LaRocque said in a Christmas message in which he urged the region to “harness that spirit and energy and build a truly resilient Community that benefits us all”.
He said the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) held in Barbados this year had shown that “the enthusiasm for the cultural extravaganza was not dampened by the threat of Hurricane Harvey as the people of the Caribbean showcased their creativity at various venues across the island”.
However, LaRocque said 2017 would be remembered for the various events that had a lasting impact on the 15-member regional integration grouping, none more so that the damage caused by subsequent hurricanes that swept through the Lesser Antilles.
In fact, he acknowledged that the storms, which affected six of the member states as well as other Caribbean neighbours “will cast a long shadow over our Community for some time yet”.
Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands were affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria that left a trail of death and destruction, estimated at billions of dollars.
The CARICOM top official pointed out that the heavy toll of lives, property and infrastructure had an effect wider than the affected countries.
“Our community has bonded together, as its governments, people and institutions render yeoman support to the stricken countries [and] the international community has been at our side in the relief undertaking in a highly appreciated show of solidarity.”
The secretary general also praised the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, saying it had “performed magnificently as it coordinated the relief efforts and helped to set the stage for recovery”.
He also praised the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility for promptly meeting its commitments to the affected countries.
“The climatic events that we have been enduring, whether floods, droughts or storms have become our new normal. We are living climate change,” he warned, while noting that the recovery and reconstruction phase was under way with an emphasis on building resilience in the region to withstand the expected onslaught of more intense and frequent storms.
However, given the magnitude of the damage caused by the hurricanes, he said the region could not rebuild without the support of the international community.
In this regard, he made reference to the recent international donor’s conference at which significant pledges were made to help the region rebuild.
LaRocque also said it was encouraging to note that CARICOM’s relentless advocacy with respect to the lack of access to concessional development financing appeared to be
“There is some re-thinking on this issue taking place at the level of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and some of our international development partners (IDPs). The stark reality of our vulnerability to external shocks, including climatic events, was laid bare by the twin assault of the hurricanes. This emphasized the urgent need for the international community to dispense with GDP per capita as a primary criterion for access to concessional development financing,” he said while pointing out that this classification of most of the CARICOM as middle to high-income countries denied them access to such funding.
“The criteria must now take into account our vulnerability as a matter of urgency. We will continue to advocate strongly for this change and to seek the help of friendly countries in this regard,” he added.