by Donella Hosten
Prior to her brief visit to Grenada, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC paid a visit to Antigua and Barbuda, as well as her motherland Dominica, both ravaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The Baroness noted that despite the heart-breaking tragedies and devastation that these small islands faced, it was clear that there was an unbreakable spirit of resilience and revival. She heard leaders of these ravaged nations deliver powerful speeches and declare their intent to continue to rise.
During her short stay, the Baroness met with Prime Minister Dr the Rt Keith Mitchell on Tuesday, 3 December 2017. A press briefing was held to inform the public about a number of actions that will be taken to combat the issue of climate change and its ‘cataclysmic onslaught of climate disasters.’
One such action will include the Official Development Assistance (ODA) rules, which governs the aid for developing countries, and is based on the country’s GDP. “Last week in Paris there was some movement with the funders saying they were going to look at the new aid rules. The Baroness used the example of Dominica, which lost 200% of its GDP after being hit by the hurricane. She noted that a country’s economic position can change after an event, and this is exactly what happened to the BVI, which according to her, had the highest per capita income in the world prior to hurricane Irma’s passing.
No single country in the Caribbean can rebuild on its own, therefore, there is a need for committee and international support. “None of us are on our own, we can’t do everything on our own, we need the international community to work with us.”
“In the Commonwealth, we’ve been working hard with the OECD and with the World Bank to look at creating something new; something different.” On this note, the Baroness announced the creation of a Finance Access Hub for the region, which is based in Belize, as they already have a Climate Change Centre.
The hub stemmed from the many difficulties countries have when making the technically complex applications to the Green Climate Fund and other agencies. According to the Baroness, countries needing assistance can request it through this pool of expertise. This include the legislative draft and promotion of ‘best practice’ and sharing of what works. The hub is expected to provide technical assistance needed to enable applicants to be successful.
The Paris Agreement, according to the Baroness, needs to be implemented. As a Commonwealth, it is imperative to note that this situation of climate change effects affects everyone, including those in Sierra Leone, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where hundred were killed and thousands displaced. “This is about all of us, not just some of us. It’s the Caribbean today and the rest of the world tomorrow.” She described the issue of climate change as being a ‘goliath-like problem’ therefore they are seeking to create ‘a perfectly weighted stone, for David’s slay.’
From Grenada, the Baroness will be going to COP23 Climate Change UN meeting in Bonn, where she will carry with her the evidence of what has transpired in the Caribbean, in order to get the international community to have a better understanding of the ‘true long-term consequences of what hurricanes and storms can do to small and vulnerable islands.’ According to her, COP23 is extremely important, as this one is about implementation and action.
Speaking too about the commitments made in Paris in December 2015 and their aspirational targets set. These are ‘the practical things that each country can do in order to deliver on the outcomes needed to reduce global warming.’ Additionally, she spoke briefly about the Climate Change Toolkit, that the Commonwealth will be launched in Bonn in order to bring legislative provisions needed to implement and put into Law the aspirations of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Notably too, Grenada participated in the creation of this Toolkit, which is expected to serve for the small states in the Caribbean and the Pacific, which are most vulnerable.
As the Baroness thanked Grenadians for their many efforts to assist the neighbouring islands that were hit by the hurricanes, she stated, “the commonwealth is a family, and we have always helped each other,” especially since they have all committed to the Commonwealth Charter. “I think everyone has a commitment and it is important for us to recognise that [as] long as we remain part of humanity, we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in other countries.”
She went on to say that “We now have to accept this paradigm shift… and interrogate the nature of the problems of coordination that we’ve experienced during this period, and come up with a better coordinated response…”