The UN Secretary-General arrived at Barbados yesterday and is due to address a summit of Caricom leaders today as part of a whirlwind visit to the eastern Caribbean island, only the second visit by a UN Secretary-General to the region in the organisation’s history.
Ban addressed several Caricom foreign affairs ministers at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, Bridgetown.
Speaking with Newsday from Bridgetown where he attended the dialogue, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran said a key message from the UN Secretary-General related to climate change.
“It was a most absorbing exploration of the options for action for the Caribbean region in the future,” Dookeran said. “We heard from Ban Ki-moon that the time has come for the region to assert its interest in a number of global issues, one of which was the global climate change challenge ahead of us.”
Ban — who yesterday unveiled a plaque with Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart commemorating Barbados’ role in smallstate development — will this morning address a youth audience at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, as one of the sidebar events of the summit.
The summit, the 36th Meeting of Caricom Heads, is set to see several pressing regional issues addressed, including the situation at the Dominican Republic — involving the expulsion of native-born persons of Haitian descent — and the tension between Venezuela and Guyana. In relation to the latter, there were reports this week that Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro could visit.
“The issues that will emerge for discussion include the Guyana/Venezuela matter and the DR/ Haiti matter,” Dookeran said. “Those are two political issues which will be aired during the course of tomorrow apart from the other issues.”
The 17-item agenda of matters for consideration also includes the strengthening and utilisation of science and technology in the region, mechanisms of identifying Caricom candidates for international positions, as well as the establishment of a Multi-Donor Energy Co-Financing Facility for Caribbean Sustainability (Caribbean Energy Fund). Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development, Dr Bhoe Tewarie, is due to make a presentation in the Caribbean Energy Fund at the conference, which is being attended by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The Prime Minister was due to leave for Barbados last night, with Errol McLeod acting as Prime Minister in her absence.
At yesterday’s high-level dialogue, newly installed OAS Secretary General Alalargo Luis spoke on the rights of citizens as the basis for diplomacy, saying diplomacy cannot be divorced from the rights of the people.
Dookeran also said there was discussion of the issue of Caribbean debt by Alicia B?rcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission of Latin America.
“She presented a very innovative and well-received plan for dealing with the Caribbean debt issue underlining two things: firstly, Caribbean debt is minuscule in the context of world debt, and secondly, that a resolution of the issue once and for all will provide more fiscal space.” Dookeran said a detailed debt proposal was put forward.