CARIBBEAN-DISASTER-Barbados PM reiterates the call for the international community to reconsider lending policies to SIDS.


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Monday reiterated a call for the international community to re-think its lending policies towards small island developing states (SIDS) like those in the Caribbean, noting that some regional countries were faced with debt burdens because of having to deal with the impact of climate change.

“We also need to recognize that having arbitrary numbers for debt sustainability in the context of small island developing states does not work,” Mottley said as she addressed the Caribbean launch of the United Nations Early Warning for All (EW4ALL) initiative.

She said Barbados, for example, has been doing coastal preparations since the 1980s, and “part of our debt is to prevent the worse to our coastal environment.

“For every dollar of prevention, you save seven dollars in recovery in expenditure. We know that. But when you are then told your debt to GDP (gross domestic product) does not admit of you spending enough money to renew a school infrastructure that is more than …200 years, 250 years in some instances, how then do you provide the support systems for people to be re-located, both pre and in many instances post-disaster”.

Mottley told the event that the Caribbean countries do not have the capacity “genuinely to withstand serious hurricanes in this region that are category three and upwards,” adding, “and if the international community does not understand that, then they do not understand our circumstances.”

The Barbados Prime Minister said further that if the international community does not understand that both with the absence of a pact upon becoming independent where after centuries of extraction of wealth “we were just left to face as best we can, the needs of housing, education and health with a treasury that has been emptied for centuries then only to be foisted with international rules that are one size fits all like that from the WTO (World Trade Organization) that does not recognize special and differential treatment, but yet having now to allocate additional funding for environmental matters that were not even in circumstances where allocations for basic human rights development was already challenged, makes this journey even more complex.”

She said that when the countries understand the cause of the situation, “it is not our behavior or our values or attitudes, then we have a crisis.

“The problem is that the crisis is not unique to us. We are just the canaries, and whatever we thought before, 2022 put paid, I suspect to many people’s doubts”.

She said the Jamaican band Third World had sung a tune titled “96 Degrees in the shade,” but London and Europe “told us differently last year when 108 and 110 degrees became the standard.

“In the winter, the notion that a state in the United States could be 30 degrees from the temperature of Mars is a Sci-Fi movie or book,” she said, noting that as temperatures begin to plunge to “we know we are in dangerous territory|.

Mottley praised UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his “continued courage and compassion, his values and his global moral, strategic leadership, but I ask all of us…to recognize that it is in doing these practical things, which yes do require funding…we are nothing if we want to walk this journey alone.”

Mottley said that SIDS would continue to fight for the Adaptation funding that was promised at the COP 27 meeting in Egypt, “and we will continue to fight for the concessional financing, and we will continue to fight for the physical space …because every dollar for debt is not the same.

“Even if we do all of those things, there are still going to be some people who we have not reached, and that is why then the human partnership at the level of the community becomes so critical,” she said.

During her address, Mottley also noted that there was also a need for the region to have at least two ships stationed in the Caribbean, especially after a natural disaster, such as a hurricane.

“Islands do not have the benefits of road networks to deliver quickly, and in some instances, runways will be destroyed in disasters, and there are ships that….go around the world, some are hospital ships, but we need more than a hospital ship.

“We need a ship to provide fresh water immediately after a disaster,” Mottley said, recounting first-hand experiences having experienced hurricanes in Jamaica, the United States, and England.

“We need to coordinate as CARICOM (Caribbean Community) to work with the international community to ensure that there are two ships pre-positioned, the north and the south…because hurricanes do move quickly”.

She said the ships are necessary “because you will not always be able to land a plane where you need to go, and having access to clean water urgently in those first few weeks is critical if we are to avoid cholera.”

The EW4ALL is intended to drive coordinated political action toward strengthening multi-hazard early warning systems for hazards such as hurricanes, tropical storms, tsunamis, volcanoes, floods, landslides, and epidemics, among others.

It also aims to ensure that an early warning system covers every person on earth by 2027.

In November last year, at the COP27 Climate Change Conference in Egypt, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, launched the Executive Action Plan to implement the EW4ALL initiative. He asked the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to co-lead its implementation.

“Early warning systems save lives, protect livelihoods and deliver substantial economic and social benefits. Just 24 hours’ notice of an impending hazardous event can cut damage by 30 percent, yet vulnerable communities worldwide have no way of knowing that dangerous weather is on its way.

Earlier, St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Phillip J Pierre, told the launch that the Caribbean must continue implementing measures to “change our fortunes to become more resilient to natural disasters.”

He said early warning systems, in conjunction with other initiatives, are the key to impacting good social behavior and sensible reactions among people.

“We must acknowledge that emergency management involves prevention, preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery. However, the best disaster response is ensuring we can avoid it or take upfront measures to minimize the social and economic impact”.

Pierre, who has lead responsibility within the quasi-CARICOM cabinet for sustainable development, praised the work of the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) over the years, adding, “but there is still more to be done.

“The work of CDEMA has shown …the power of a regional approach comprehensive disaster management (and) as such investment in multi-hazard early warning systems remain a priority for CDEMA,” he added.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here