18 October 2022 -- The 29th session of the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC) concluded on 14 October in Paramaribo, Suriname. Some of the most urgent and challenging issues facing the Caribbean were discussed at this meeting, inspiring a commitment to strategic action-oriented follow-up, to assure more dynamic sustainable development process.
Convened by ECLAC Caribbean, the CDCC meeting is held every two years and gathers Caribbean Prime Ministers, Ministers and distinguished government officials, with a focus on strengthening their countries’ institutional and technical capacities to improve their resilience to economic, social and climatic impacts.
Participants also included regional and international development thinkers and practitioners, leaders and senior policy makers from ECLAC member States and associate member countries, representatives of the UN System, regional and international financial institutions, academia and civil society, including the private sector, as well as other development partners.
The meeting immediately followed the Seventh Caribbean Development Roundtable, which was held on 12 to 13 October, in Paramaribo, Suriname. The CDR provided a space for intellectual exchange of views and ideas, with a view to identifying workable solutions to address the development challenges facing the Caribbean. Experts deliberated on practical solutions to promote recovery, repositioning and resilience building, including through strategies for economic transformation, taking fully into account the multidimensional vulnerabilities of the subregion.
Outgoing chair of the CDCC, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Keisal Peters, reflected on her country’s experience of the adjustments that were needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The CDR and CDCC meetings had to take place virtually for the first time. We were forced to share the priority attention usually given to long-standing development challenges in the Caribbean, such as high public debt, rising unemployment, and widening inequalities, with the more urgent and severe concerns regarding the health impacts of COVID-19 and their implications for social protection in our countries.”
Minister Peters recounted the other challenges faced during this time, including the natural disasters which occurred in the Caribbean. This included the volcanic eruption in her own country; extreme flooding events in Guyana and Suriname; an earthquake in Haiti; tropical storms and hurricanes too numerous to count. “It is our repeated exposure to such extreme, recurrent, exogenous shocks that defines our multidimensional vulnerability; that underscores the structural and institutional fragility of our countries, demanding a comprehensive response; one that includes strengthened advocacy, solidarity, partnership and international cooperation.”
Minister Peters added that the challenge lies in finding the right strategic approach, to secure the support of the donor community and international financial institutions. In this regard, she commended ECLAC for its recent research, as presented in the Caribbean Outlook, before handing over the chairmanship to Suriname’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation, Albert Ramdin.
Minister Ramdin stated that he hoped to build on the work done by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines during their tenure, especially with Suriname being in the unique position as a leading voice of the Caribbean subregion, as chair of the CARICOM, and now chair of CDCC. He lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet ended, and the world was now confronted by high inflation and increasing fiscal stress as a result of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
He described these events as placing upward pressure on the already elevated inflation, of over 40 per cent, and which put further stress on the poor and most vulnerable. “We are doing our best to cushion these effects. We also had to cope with major flooding events which have reminded us of our extreme vulnerability to natural disasters.”
Minister Ramdin pledged Suriname’s support towards ECLAC’s call for the establishment of a Caribbean Resilience Fund, which he said can attract long term affordable finance, to support various structural gaps. “Suriname will certainly support such a venture as we need to source additional finance to diversify our economies and the search for new areas of growth especially those that embrace our youth.”
In a video message to the meeting, recently appointed Executive Secretary of ECLAC, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, expressed his regrets that he was unable to attend the CDCC and declared his commitment to pursue solutions to the many issues that confront the subregion. “I am very familiar with the development challenges faced by our small States and I pledge the continuing support of ECLAC to Member and Associate Members, in line with our Caribbean First strategy.”
Salazar-Xirinachs acknowledged the adverse impact of COVID-19 on Caribbean countries, including widening inequality, weakening social protection systems, elevating already high debt service costs, rising poverty, inequality and unemployment levels, particularly among women and youth. He stated that: “Combined, these factors heightened the subregion’s vulnerability to climate change and disasters. This is an issue of real concern for the Caribbean, being one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world.”
Salazar-Xirinachs said the economic, social and environmental fragility of the subregion increases the deservedness of Caribbean countries for support from the international community. He said, in this regard, “I am advocating for the establishment of a Caribbean Resilience Fund (CRF) and other innovative financing solutions, which could leverage long-term affordable development financing for the Caribbean.”
The CDCC received a summary presentation of the Caribbean Outlook for 2022, which addresses “Recovery and repositioning in the era of COVID-19 and beyond”. Presented by ECLAC Caribbean’s Deputy Director, Dillon Alleyne, the Outlook delivers some pertinent recommendations, including the promotion of sustainable management of natural resources, by strengthening institutional mechanisms, human resource capacities, data systems and use of environmentally sound technologies.
The Outlook also suggests that attention be given to promoting sustainable ocean and coastal resources management, which create opportunities to diversify the economic base; to utilize economic, social and environmental impact and valuation techniques for making informed decisions on the use of natural resources; and to encourage public-private partnerships at all stages – planning, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Alleyne advocated for these recommendations, and encouraged the public and broad-spectrum private sector, to work together. “This includes everyone, including women and youth,” he said.
Alleyne also outlined the strategies, policies and plans to support the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Decade of Action, that are identified in the Outlook. He shared some real-world examples of these, as he encouraged the recognition of dignity through decent work and empowering marginal groups, striving for gender equality and addressing the problems of youth, and creating social protection floors, among others.
The meeting was encouraged to consider that the trade policies of member States should be modified to support intraregional and extra- regional trade and investment. Attention must also be given to strategies to assist in the recovery of the tourism industry of the subregion, through innovative approaches.
Assuming Chairmanship for Suriname, Minister of Foreign Affairs International Business and International Cooperation, Albert Ramdin, expressed his gratitude for the lively debate that ensued over the previous days. He commended former ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, for her commitment to the subregion, and the Caribbean in particular.
“I also welcome the new Executive Secretary, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs. I am hopeful and expect that he will take on board, the issues and challenges faced by our countries,” Minister Ramdin ended.
The CDCC is a subsidiary body of ECLAC, which convenes biennial meetings to provide an opportunity for ECLAC Caribbean to highlight work undertaken, and to develop its future programme of work. The subregional office located in Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) serves 29 countries in the wider Caribbean.
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