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On Thursday, December 14, 2023, in Argyle, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, His Excellency Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and His Excellency Nicolas Maduro, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela held discussions on matters consequential to the territory in dispute between their two countries.

These discussions were facilitated by the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Pro-Tempore President of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Dr. The Honourable Ralph E. Gonsalves, and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica and Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit. Prime Ministers Gonsalves and Skerrit, together with H.E. Mr. Celso Amorim, Special Adviser and Personal Envoy of H.E. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, acted as principal Interlocutors. Also present were Honourable Prime Ministers of the Caribbean Community, namely: the Honourable Philip Davis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas; the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados; the Honourable Dickon Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada; the Honourable Philip J. Pierre, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia; Honourable Terrence Drew of Saint Kitts and Nevis and Dr. The Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Attending as Observers on behalf of His Excellency António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations were Their Excellencies Earle Courtenay Rattray, Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Miroslav Jenca, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. In addition, His Excellency Alvaro Leyva Durán, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia and Mr. Gerardo Torres Zelaya, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Honduras, in his capacity as CELAC Troika, also participated.

All parties attending the meeting at Argyle, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines reiterated their commitment to Latin America and the Caribbean remaining a Zone of Peace.

Guyana and Venezuela declared as follows:

 

  1. Agreed that Guyana and Venezuela, directly or indirectly, will not threaten or use force against one another in any circumstances, including those consequential to any existing controversies between the two States.

 

  1. Agreed that any controversies between the two States will be resolved in accordance with international law, including the Geneva Agreement dated February 17, 1966.

 

  1. Committed to the pursuance of good neighborliness, peaceful coexistence, and the unity of Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

  1. Noted Guyana’s assertion that it is committed to the process and procedures of the International Court of Justice for the resolution of the border controversy. Noted Venezuela’s assertion of its lack of consent and lack of recognition of the International Court of Justice and its jurisdiction in the border controversy.

 

  1. Agreed to continue dialogue on any other pending matters of mutual importance to the two countries.

 

  1. Agreed that both States will refrain, whether by words or deeds, from escalating any conflict or disagreement arising from any controversy between them. The two States will cooperate to avoid incidents on the ground conducive to tension between them. In the event of such an incident the two States will immediately communicate with one another, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC), and the President of Brazil to contain, reverse and prevent its recurrence.

 

  1. Agreed to establish immediately a joint commission of the Foreign Ministers and technical persons from the two States to address matters as mutually agreed. An update from this joint commission will be submitted to the Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela within three

 

  1. Both States agreed that Prime Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves, the Pro-Tempore President of CELAC, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, the incumbent CARICOM Chairman, and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil will remain seized of the matter as Interlocutors and the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres as Observer, with the ongoing concurrence of Presidents Irfaan Ali and Nicolas Maduro. For the avoidance of doubt, Prime Minister Gonsalves' role will continue even after Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ceases to be the Pro-Tempore President of CELAC, within the framework of the CELAC Troika plus one; and Prime Minister Skerrit’s role will continue as a member of the CARICOM Bureau.

 

  1. Both States agreed to meet again in Brazil, within the next three months, or at another agreed time, to consider any matter with implications for the territory in dispute, including the above-mentioned update of the joint commission.

 

  1. We express our appreciation to Prime Ministers Gonsalves and Skerrit, to President Lula and his Personal Envoy Celso Amorim, to all other CARICOM Prime Ministers present, to the officials of the CARICOM Secretariat, to the CELAC Troika and to the Head of the CELAC PTP Secretariat in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, His Excellency Dr. Douglas Slater, for their respective roles in making this meeting a success.

 

  1. We express our appreciation to the Government and people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for their kind facilitation and hospitality at this meeting.

 

Dated this 14th day of December, 2023.

Madame President,

The world is in an uncharted territory. There is but a narrowing window of opportunity to secure a liveable planet for all. 

With the climate crises raging around the world, affecting not only Small Island Developing States, like Saint Lucia and the members of the Caribbean Community [CARICOM], but developed countries as well, we are here to join hands together, uniting as a collective, to take ambitious action, with a sense of urgency to course-correct.  

We are here to ensure that every party answers our call at this COP to put us on a pathway that does not further compromise the futures of not only our particularly vulnerable nations, but all of our nations.

The impacts have been devastating to our Region.   Loss and damage have struck at the core of our economies and our societies.  At one extreme, lives and livelihoods have been lost. At the other extreme, our environment is under siege. 

We welcome the decision to at last make the loss and damage fund functional and look forward to the pledges to make it a reality. We thank the UAE and Germany for taking the first step and look forward to other states joining.

Madame President,

It is a fact that the international financial environment is ill-suited to support vulnerable countries access to affordable, sustainable, predictable, and scalable finance.

To address these financial challenges, CARICOM states including Saint Lucia are pursuing readiness projects to better access finance. 

We are also pursuing innovative financial initiatives from conservation bonds, to disaster clauses; and exploring new opportunities in carbon markets. 

We are pushing for a Reform Agenda for international financial institutions through the Bridgetown Initiative and new economic measurements that will include our vulnerability like the Caribbean Development Bank’s Recovery Duration Adjustment (RDA).

Madame President,

We are nearing the 1.5°C warming threshold and we must put people first before economic ratios and statistics.

We must leave Dubai assured of three key messages.

We leaders must commit to:

  1. Pursue 1.5°C Pathways for just, equitable and accelerated transition,
  2. Accelerate progress in implementation of the Global Goal on Adaptation,
  3. Deliver transformative finance for a 1.5°C Agenda

The time is now for world leaders to transform our world to a safer place for our children

and in this battle Taiwan must not be left behind.

Thank you.

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,

What does it mean to hold the pessimism of climate disaster and the optimism of climate action together?

For too many decades the member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have had to endure the Sisyphean task of pushing the climate disaster boulder up the mountain of climate ambition.

We raised the alarm in the 90s. In the decades that followed we put a human face on what was an esoteric scientific debate. We have been attempting to push multilateral negotiations toward conclusions that would save life and livelihoods and safeguard the very existence of our member states.

We have grown weary of telling the world and the major emitters that climate change is an urgent problem - that it is an existential threat, that it is the defining challenge of our times.

Our member states are leading the way in advancing adaptation and resilience initiatives, we continue to strengthen our renewable energy transitions and efforts to combat coastal erosion, sea-level rise and fresh water and agriculture challenges.

But the climate continues to change, the threat continues to grow and our member states continue to face an uncertain, potentially apocalyptic future.

This deepening climate crisis cannot continue to receive a response from major emitters that amounts to a reckless disregard of the consequences and obligations or their actions.

The current instrumentalism, lack of ambition and multilateral gridlock must be broken in the interest of our small island developing states, the vulnerable developing nations and the countries with a genuine interest in the success of solving our climate crisis.

And success has a clear definition:

  • Emissions targets that ensure global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius in relation to pre-industrial levels
  • Urgent, predictable, new and easily accessible adaptation financing, whose parameters will be determined by the needs of those most affected
  • And the delivery of pledges and commitments made

More precisely for CARICOM member states success will require:

  • Greater ambition to the 1.5°C goal from major emitters, with science driving all decision making on climate change, emphasizing the need for those who caused the problem to take responsibility and leadership in addressing it
  • The operationalization of the loss and damage fund and its funding arrangements at COP28 in the face of ever growing impacts on small island developing states
  • Systematic approaches for debt relief for CARICOM Member States in the context of unlocking new sources of finance for climate action and sustainable development including for robust work on vulnerability indices;
  • Targeted support for CARICOM Member States to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and adaptation plans as well as to support the just transitions for Member States
  • The inclusion of the Bridgetown Initiative as a new agenda item for the Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA5) and COP 28;
  • The identification of strategic areas for technical support available amongst CARICOM Institutions that can assist Member States with implementation and resource mobilisation.
  • Ensuring that both the political and technical outcomes of the Global stock take serves the purpose of correcting our course toward meeting all of the Paris Agreement Goals

The Secretary General’s Acceleration agenda provides us with a pathway to success, an avenue to fast track climate action in every country, every sector and in every time frame. CARICOM will continue to support this agenda and work with all to accelerate the pace and scale of a just transition to a more equitable renewable-energy based, climate resilient global economy.

CARICOM’s ambitions in the face of this climate crisis are to safeguard our people, to develop sustainably and to thrive. But we will never be able to achieve these goals in the absence of robust ambition and deliverable action from those who have the means and the responsibility to change and correct the course of this crisis.

Thank you.

In recognition of Africa-CARICOM Day, we now can officially celebrate the strong and enduring bond between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African continent. We welcome the rekindling. We look to our neighbours, to that which was lost to us, to our kin. To those bound to us by blood, by circumstance, and to those who have also survived oppression and thrived in the face of systems designed to break us.

As a small island developing state, Saint Lucia has never been limited in its vision or ambition. When building from the ground up, you are forced to function on the premise of possibility and find functional solutions to obstacles that stand in the way of growth and development. As a Caribbean Community (CARICOM), we acknowledged the need to work together. We knew that we needed to take realistic approaches, moving as a collective within the international system, as individually we were and still are at a distinct disadvantage due to the comparative scarcity of resources and finite political capital. Global realities of the last few years demanded a further shift. One which saw the Region looking beyond our traditional partners. In our time of need, the African Union stepped in and offered significant support, during a period when resources and support of any kind were limited and virtually unavailable to smaller states. With these lessons in mind, we look with renewed focus on developing our South-to-South connections.

The First Africa-CARICOM Summit was held virtually on September 7, 2021, under the chairmanship of His Excellency Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya. The theme of the Summit was: “Unity across continents and oceans: opportunities for deepening integration.” The African Region and CARICOM are one people, bonded by the legacy of slavery and colonisation, and connected through the African influence within our cultural heritage, those manifested and those forgotten.

During the Summit, Heads of State and Government looked back on the threads that wove our common history and looked forward to the future, focused on the need to purposefully move the needle, binding us closer to build more together. We saw what could be if we were to walk together and learned to lean on each other as partners in development, moving to strengthen linkages in trade, investment, air travel, and greater people-to-people contact between Africa and CARICOM. Together, we resolved to find pathways to overcome development challenges and amplify our voices in the global theatre, on issues that truly matter such as sustainable development and climate financing.

Recognising the significance of the occasion, September 7th was designated as Africa-CARICOM Day, aiming to forge a lasting connection and safeguard the future development of our people and Regions.

One of the main goals of the Africa-CARICOM Summit was to overcome the separation between Africa and the Caribbean. A separation built on more than just distance, fueled by misconceptions and inaccurate representations of what currently exists in Africa and what can exist if we were to work together. The first Afri-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF22) was held in September 2022 and aimed to promote trade and investment, across sectors, including Tourism, Manufacturing, and Agriculture. The ACTIF22 welcomed over 1,267 participants from 108 countries. The ACTIF22 was heavily supported by the Governments of CARICOM, the AU, and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank). The CARICOM offices of the Afreximbank were officially opened in Bridgetown, Barbados. Saint Lucia has signed onto a partnership agreement with Afreximbank, establishing a framework for cooperation, deepening the integration of our financial systems, and expanding the potential for Africa-Caribbean trade and investment relations. The Afreximbank has also made US$3 billion in funding available to participating member states of CARICOM to boost the development of trade. This year, the Caribbean Export Development Agency embarked on a trade mission in West Africa, aiming to facilitate business matchmaking between private companies in the two regions, as well as enabling dialogues between public sector agencies. Our very own Baron Foods Limited participated.

The relationship between the African Region and the Caribbean Community is an important one. In celebrating Africa-CARICOM day, it is crucial to also recognise the individual contributions that persons from the African Region have made to the Caribbean Region and more specifically Saint Lucia, in the fields of medicine, religious vocation, and industry, among others. For years we have been graced by their presence, efforts, and expertise, and we remain grateful.

I invite you to celebrate this Africa-CARCIOM day in your way, possibly by partaking in one of our shared cultural activities. The Regional Integration Unit, within the Office of the Prime Minister, has prepared a series of short video clips entitled Musings, from thought leaders across the Region, reflecting on the significance of the African-Caribbean connection. These musings will be made available on various social media platforms. I personally welcome your individual reflections as Saint Lucia and the Caribbean Community observe Africa-CARICOM day and engage in continued collaboration to further rekindle connections, as one people, growing, sharing, and caring, together.

Bridgetown, Barbados

August 10, 2023

 

Let me join in welcoming the President (designate) of COP28 Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaher and thank him for fulfilling his promise to visit our region. Let me also thank Prime Minister Mia Mottley for hosting this delegation and ensuring that the hospitability for which we have become used to excellent - as usual.

COP 28 is happening at a time when the world is in a climate crisis. However, this crisis is deeper more serious and more acute in our region CARICOM and other SIDS.

Mr. President in a matter of hours after the passage of a single hurricane an entire country can be ruined, the livelihoods of the population destroyed and the country plunged into instant poverty – that is the level of exposure that we face in CARICOM due to the effects of this climate crisis.

Mr. President under your leadership Caricom has high expectations for COP28.

The deliberations and results of COP28 will be decisive for keeping 1.5 degrees centigrade within reach. 1.5 degree Celsius means survival for SIDS like Caricom but as the science is showing and climate events confirms 1.5°C is at risk.

CARICOM supports your call for a transformational COP28 of action. It will be transformational Mr. President as long as its outcomes are ambitious.

For CARICOM it goes without saying that 1.5°C defines ambition and, in that regard, we expect the following:

  • The outcomes of the Global Stocktake (GST) must provide the political will for a climate action plan, guided by the best available science, to concentrate all efforts to keep global warming below 1.5C, to foster climate resilience, and to protect our countries that are facing increasing losses and damages.
  • Finance will be a critical component of the COP28 outcomes including the GST.  CARICOM expects in this regard that:
  • The loss and damage fund will be operationalized, capitalized, and its modalities will be fit-for-purpose to ensure ease of access for our small island and low-lying coastal states.
  • The call for scaling up beyond the $100 billion threshold is strident after all $100 billion is only a floor not a ceiling.
  • The commitment to double adaptation finance should be complemented with a plan for achieving that goal with particular focus on prioritization of public grant-based sources of finance for SIDS and additional financial support for SIDS specific finance windows such as Special Climate Change Fund and the Green Climate Fund.
  • The shareholders of Multilateral Development Banks (MDB) and International Financial Institutions (IFC) will respond to the call for reform.  
  • The region reiterates it call for institutional change among International Financial Institutions and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to allow for easier access to both private and public finance to developing countries.
  • The decision on the new collective quantified goal will specify that the new goal will address all aspects of climate action including loss and damage and that it will provide for adequacy, predictability, and accessibility of climate finance.
  • Financial support for capacity building and technological development and transfer will be fair and transparent.
  • The inclusion of disaster mitigation clauses in all loan and financial agreements.
  • Loss and damage will remain a matter of high priority and the selection of the host of the Santiago Network will be fair, noting in this regard that the   Caribbean Development Bank is contesting the bid for host. The region is fully supportive of the CDB.
  • The Adaption Framework will be finalized and the targets adopted will give due regard for the bottom-up approach of the Paris Agreement.
  • Mitigation outcomes will be robust and in line with the science to keep   1.5°C within reach. CARICOM underscores that major economies should be urged to increase near-term 2023 ambition and action plans in line with the science since the implementation of such actions remains critical to keep 1.5°C alive.
  • The just transition work programme will be comprehensive addressing all aspects of transition and not limited to the energy transition.
  • The integrity of markets and the creditability of non-state actors' commitments will be assured.

COP28 marks the end of the first ambition cycle of the Paris Agreement and the finalization of the First Global Stocktake process, which for SIDS, is the only Stocktake that can facilitate a course correction to keep 1.5°C within reach.

COP28 therefore must deliver an ambitious global climate action plan to 2030. The region is of the view that the outcomes of the Global Stocktake (GST) could provide the framework for that plan.

Excellency as a small region our people will be making the long journey to the other side of the world. We have undertaken many such journeys in the past but experience has taught us that in the heat of these large international conferences, the small states can often be overlooked.

We therefore urge facilitation for CARICOM and SIDS in terms of adequate and cost-effective accommodation, facilitation for visas, and special consideration for a CARICOM Pavilion which in addition to reflecting the work we do on Climate Change can also reflect the culture and uniqueness of CARICOM SIDS.

 Cooperation on Climate Action

Finally, I would wish to touch on the issue of cooperation. Mr. President designate the Region views its relationship with the UAE as one that extends beyond the confines of the COP.

We are aware of the extensive experience and leadership shown by the UAE on the issue of Green Bonds.

We are also aware of the UAE’s plans to become a global hub for innovation in maritime services and industry. As a region, CARICOM Heads have had extensive discussions on enhancing participation in carbon markets as well as expanding green and blue bonds.

In this regard, I would wish to propose a Technical Cooperation Initiative between CARICOM and the UAE, working with the relevant CARICOM institutions, to advance regional efforts to, benefit, grow and develop carbon markets and green and blue bonds.

Secondly, our Ministers of Environment have just highlighted the importance of elevating the dialogue on Just Transition in CARICOM’s advocacy recognizing that CARICOM and SIDS will require special consideration and support in transforming to low carbon green economies. In this vein, we would wish to also propose a Technical Cooperation Programme on the Just Transition. This can take the form of the first instance of a Dialogue to highlight areas requiring capacity support and developing joint initiatives, focusing on academia, labour and social partnerships.

These are just some proposals to advance the partnership between CARICOM and the UAE not just for COP 28 but beyond.

Conclusion

Finally, Mr. President, at the 45 Conference of the Heads of Government held in July in Trinidad and Tobago Heads of Government expects a strong political statement from COP that addresses the region's needs in relation to:

  1. Finance especially for adaption and loss and damage
  2. Improving access to finance for SIDS including through a Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Index as a complement to other eligibility criteria of concessional financing
  3. De-risking debt sustainability and innovation sources of finance
  4. Increasing capacity building and reducing barriers to technological transfer
  5. The roles of markets to support climate change
  6. Supporting the CDB as the host for the Santiago Network or Loss and Damage

Let me once more welcome you Mr. President and I look forward to a fruitful engagement.

I thank you.

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