Prime Minister Gaston Browne calls for global solidarity at UN Economic and Social Council Forum

Earlier this month, Hon Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, was a featured speaker at the United Nations Economic and Social Council Forum on Financing for Development as Chair of Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). 

 The Economic and Social Council opened its annual financing for development forum on April 12th, 2020 amid warnings that, with more than 3 million lives lost to COVID-19 and infections still on the rise, Governments must urgently heed the lessons learned thus far if they are to avoid a lengthy global recession.

Opening the session was the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who made a case for choosing an equitable path towards recovery after COVID-19. “Solidarity will save lives and prevent communities and economies from falling into catastrophic debt and dysfunction,” the SG said.

The Secretary-General went on to state that just 10 countries account for 75 percent of global vaccinations, while many others have yet to inoculate their healthcare workers and most vulnerable citizens.  “Many developing countries face insurmountable debt that will put the Sustainable Development Goals out of reach.”  Some estimates place the global cost of unequal access and vaccine hoarding at more than $9 trillion. He called for urgent action — first and foremost to make vaccines available to all countries.

PM Browne, while speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said that small island developing States face the greatest pressure from COVID-19 as the pandemic — coupled with existing global challenges like climate change and growing inequality — represents “the biggest stress test that we have ever faced”. 

These States face unprecedented challenges in access to essential medicine and ensuring the widespread global availability of COVID-19 vaccines is critical not only for controlling the pandemic but also for the recovery of these vulnerable States.  He noted, however, that significant disparities remain in vaccine access despite efforts to address this issue.

Browne went on to state, “The Paris Club and IFI’s, donor governments, as well as other creditors, should consider a waiver of this year’s debt repayment for SIDS as a short-term measure, and the implementation of debt forgiveness as part of a long-term solution. Further actions should include the design of new and enhanced financial instruments to provide debt relief including debt cancellation, debt suspension, debt rescheduling, debt restructuring, debt swaps, as well as other support measures. Also, IDA funding terms should be expanded to include vulnerable SIDS, whose economies were decimated by COVID-19 and are now faced with unsustainably high debt service ratios and debt overhang.”

In closing Prime Minister Browne reiterated the need for the international community to adopt urgent and effective measures to eliminate the use of unilateral coercive economic measures.

“The per capita income criterion should be permanently shelved. The establishment and implementation of a multi-dimensional vulnerability index for SIDS is imperative and should no longer be delayed. Given the importance of climate finance to SIDS and in relation to the UNFCCC funding; we wish to make a call to developed countries to meet their existing collective mobilization goal through 2025. 

We also look forward to constructive discussions under the UNFCCC to setting a new collective quantified goal, beyond the floor of USD 100 billion per year, in order to increase climate finance to vulnerable SIDS. To defeat COVID requires global solidarity therefore, we firmly reject the imposition of unilateral coercive economic measures against developing countries, which will enlarge poverty and undermine their achievement of the sustainable development goals.”

 

The Economic and Social Council is at the heart of the United Nations system to advance the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental. It is the central platform for fostering debate and innovative thinking, forging consensus on ways forward, and coordinating efforts to achieve internationally agreed goals. It is also responsible for the follow-up to major UN conferences and summits.

 
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