United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres envisions Barbados becoming a hub of knowledge to not only better provide for its people but the entire region, he said here on Sunday.
After being “inspired” from a dialogue involving young members of Future Barbados, touring coastal protection projects on the West Coast before heading to Codrington College where families displaced by Hurricane Elsa are being housed, Guterres expressed confidence that Barbados is on the right track but expressed concern that its efforts like those of other small island developing states are being stymied by inequality.
He said: “This visit is a visit of solidarity, solidarity with Barbados and its people, solidarity with the Caribbean and solidarity to all SIDS. That solidarity is entirely justified because these countries and Barbados are the main victims of the inequality that prevails in the world. We have seen that inequality in the way vaccines have been distributed, he said, adding that SIDS were also the first victims of the impact of climate.
“The impacts are already there; I had the opportunity to see some very important works of adaptation.”
The UN secretary general is the fourth to visit Barbados since the landmark global conference on the sustainable development of small island developing states when Boutros Boutros-Ghali attended the first UN conference organised in a small island in 1994.
In January 2002, Kofi Annan inaugurated UN House at Marine Gardens, the home of the world body’s national and Eastern Caribbean offices.
Ban Ki-moon visited twice: in July 2007, he launched a major report on HIV/AIDS and in August 2015 he took part in a high-level symposium focused on sustainable development in the Caribbean.
Guterres’ visit came one day ahead of Barbados’ hosting of the 15th meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and with just a month to go before the world body brings world leaders together for a crucial climate summit, COP26, in the Scottish city of Glasgow.
After getting a first-hand look at the impact of climate change on Barbados, Guterres said that SIDS have not received the help from the international community that they are entitled to and the support that is provided is only a small portion of what is needed.
The UN SG said: “Developing countries were able to organize about 28 per cent of their GDP in support of their economies, middle-income countries about six per cent and Least Developed Countries about two per cent and the truth is many countries are facing a dramatic situation because being middle-income countries they have no access to a number of instruments that would be necessary, namely in relation to debt relief.”
Prime Minister Mia Mottley stressed that Barbados and SIDS were in the middle of a climate crisis even as they battled other challenges.
She said: “It is important to show what we are doing and why we are having to spend money on coastal protection at the very time that we also need to be spending money on education, health care and all of the other things to make our society whole, to get us to the sustainable development goals. But because of the climate crisis in particular we have to divert our spending to be able to protect our people.”
Mottley said climate change remains a pressing issue as she pointed to Glasgow’s COP26 which is expected to attract representatives from the UN’s 197 member states to advance global efforts to tackle the phenomenon’s global impact. (SD)