Minister Chet Greene addresses 22nd meeting of CELAC
In his presentation to the body, Minister Greene acknowledged the challenges of the past two years while recognising the work done by the group to cope with and come up with solutions to the immense strain the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the region.
Greene went on that the present challenges, which are far from over, will require resiliency and the full cooperation of CELAC member states to ensure that the region can overcome its present dilemma.
“Last year was a difficult year for all of us. Countries faced immense challenges, and unfortunately, our resilience is still being tested. The Omicron strain is now proving to be another game-changer, as countries struggle to combat and contain this new variant.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a burden that we all share. It has exacted a heavy human and economic toll on countries around the globe, leaving devastating consequences in its wake. As such, Antigua and Barbuda commends the proposed Work Plan for 2022 put forth by Argentina.
“We look forward to engaging in comprehensive discussions with CELAC Member States to work towards a post-COVID 19 economic recovery that is inclusive, and reduces long-standing inequalities and vulnerabilities.
“In addition, Antigua and Barbuda looks forward to improving regional self-sufficiency in health matters, as outlined in the Work Plan, especially given the stockpiling and hoarding of coronavirus supplies and vaccines by the world’s wealthiest countries,” said the foreign affairs minister.
Greene noted that continued cooperation on several key areas will be vital as plans are formulated by CELAC in the present year and beyond.
He also called the group’s larger members’ attention to the unique challenges Small Island Developing States (SIDS) continue to face, many of which have been exacerbated
“We laud the efforts by Member States to encourage collaboration in science, technology and innovation, as evidenced by the vital cooperation in healthcare, as well as the signing of the Convention establishing the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency (ALCE). We are also eager to strengthen the regional disaster risk response to enhance resilience to natural and man-made hazards, and protect lives, property and livelihoods.
“With regard to the 2022 Work Plan, Antigua and Barbuda applauds the PTP for identifying gender equality as a vital component for sustainable recovery in a Post-Covid-19 world. The meaningful participation of women, and other vulnerable groups, such as youth, must guide sustainable and durable recovery efforts, as the region seeks to build back better, and leave no one behind.
“Inclusive digital transformation is also a vital part of recovery. We must continue to bridge digital divides to meet the needs of the younger generation and vulnerable groups. Trends indicate that 2022 will be the year for the enhanced development of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, e-commerce, and blockchain technologies, and other digital areas that proved helpful, and resilient during the pandemic.
“As we work together, Antigua and Barbuda requests continued solidarity, and high-level advocacy for the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Considered the most vulnerable to exogenous shocks, SIDS have been disproportionately affected by the effects of the pandemic and climate change,” the minister said.
Further, Greene outlined the specific issues which are of paramount importance to Antigua and Barbuda and other SIDS, and his hopes for cooperation with their larger CELAC partners.
“For tourism-reliant nations, such as Antigua and Barbuda and other SIDS, the impact of the pandemic on socioeconomic ‘lifelines,’ such as tourism and travel, has resulted in significant GDP losses.
“In addition, access to concessional financing remains a top priority for SIDS to create new pathways, especially within the context of COVID-19 and climate change mitigation, where the rescheduling of debt payments and debt forgiveness has become an even greater necessity for survival. The promotion and development of a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index by International Financial Institutions is crucial, as we strive for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing disparities regarding access to critical resources. In the Caribbean, we need more testing kits, and oxygen supplies and equipment, which all play an essential role in treating COVID-19.
“Other matters of priority include climate change, and the issue of ‘de-risking,’ where foreign banks have been scaling back on activities in our jurisdictions, despite comprehensive compliance efforts,” Minister Greene concluded.