Inaugural Africa-Caricom Summit: Urgent action needed to recover from COVID-19 – Pres Ali

…calls for greater financial flow to help adapt to impacts of climate emergency

The inaugural Africa-Caricom Summit got underway virtually on Tuesday, with President Dr Irfaan Ali warning leaders of the need to use upcoming international summits to advance the cause of their small states, particularly to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Irfaan Ali

In his address to the summit, President Ali spoke of the need for African and Caribbean Community (Caricom) states to come up with a common strategy for advocacy. This is especially important ahead of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and the UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26.
“For us the global pandemic awakens the harsh reality of the differentiating treatment between the developed and the developing world. It also reemphasises that fundamentally, it is the developing world that suffers the most under these circumstances,” President Ali said.
“I am therefore of the view that this forged collaboration must address the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery. Climate change, mitigation, and adaptation measures. Food security; and cost of commodities and transportation,” the President also said.
According to the President, the group needs to have a forceful message when it comes to common issues like rescheduling loans, debt financing and access to capital in the region’s rebuilding efforts. Additionally, there must be an evaluation of the global vaccination system, as well as its failure to respond to the most vulnerable in the world.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta chaired the historic summit

He also spoke about the seriousness of climate change. According to Ali, the African-Caribbean states face the greatest challenges from climate change, despite not being responsible for the conditions that have escalated the phenomenon.
“Developing countries like Guyana and our sister states in the Caribbean and Africa are facing great difficulties. We have not been historically responsible, but we suffer the greatest and are least equipped to respond. Our countries are bearing the brunt of increasing and more intense climate-related events.”
“We must, therefore, collectively advocate for greater financial flows to help us adapt to the impacts of the climate emergency, including through the establishment of a Global Vulnerability Fund,” President Ali said.
According to him, the largest polluters in the developed countries have already achieved economic diversification by transforming much of their natural assets into commercial activities. Ali noted that they therefore carry a greater responsibility in this respect.
President Ali noted other issues that must be addressed including food security and the rising cost of commodities. The vulnerability of African and Caribbean states, he pointed out, were particularly exposed by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to him, these challenges have all presented hurdles to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Common theme
“We must therefore address these issues through a common theme as we, the developing economies would find it even more difficult to cope with and rebuild post-COVID. Having regards for all of the above, achieving the SDGs as outlined in agenda 2030 is severely threatened and we must all point this out to the global community,” the President said.
The Africa-Caricom Summit, which was attended by Heads of State from Caricom and Africa, and members from regional and international organisations, is a historic initiative that is geared at increasing collaboration between the two regions.
The summit was chaired by the President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and was held under the theme “Unity Across Continents and Oceans; Opportunities for Deepening Integration”.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd and Director of Projects in the Office of the President Marcia Nadir-Sharma were also at the summit as part of the Guyanese delegation.
There had been previous plans for Kenya to host the Caricom and Africa Summit in 2020. These, however, had to be put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The summit follows on the Declaration by the African Union of the Diaspora as the sixth region of Africa.