Commonwealth secretary-general meets with PM on small-island concerns
By Valencia Grant, press secretary to the prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister the Dr. Honourable Timothy Harris met with the Commonwealth Secretary-General the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC today at Government Headquarters, joined by their shared values and concern for small island developing states (SIDS).
Scotland, who was born in Dominica, began her Caribbean tour Monday ahead of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs June 1-November 30.
Following today’s meeting with Harris, Scotland held a press conference, where she updated members of the local media on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held last month in London. “The Commonwealth Heads of Government concentrated a lot on small states and also climate change, and the intense vulnerability that small island states face as a result of climate [change],” she said, adding “it poses an existential threat. The fear we have is that next season will be potentially as bad as last season; some fear it might be worse. We have to prepare and build back better, if and when it happens. So, the Commonwealth came together to say, ‘what can we do about this practically?'”
She explained that one of the initiatives on this front is the Blue Charter of Principles for Sustainable Ocean Development, which the 53 Commonwealth nations adopted at last month’s CHOGM. This charter will help countries develop an integrated approach in building the “Blue Economy,” one that supports artisanal fishing and the contributions of young people and women. The World Bank defines the Blue Economy as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health. The Blue Economy encompasses climate change, fisheries, maritime transport, renewable energy, tourism and waste management.
During her visit to St. Kitts and Nevis, the Commonwealth secretary-general also held separate meetings with Cabinet members, including Minister of Tourism, International Trade, Industry and Commerce the Hon. Lindsay Grant and the Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Cooperatives et al. the Hon. Eugene Hamilton. Discussions touched on the Blue Charter, as well as a host of matters related to climate resilience, mitigation and adaptation planning.
“In the [Commonwealth] Secretariat, we are looking at creating a toolkit of all the best practice [on building climate resilience, for instance] to share,” Scotland said at today’s press conference. “One of the things that we know is that, structurally, there is more understanding of how to build sustainable buildings, which are more capable of withstanding hurricanes and climatic episodes. So, we are working with partners who have actually built resilient buildings that have withstood hurricanes with the force that we are now looking at.”
A CARICOM-United Nations High-Level Pledging Conference held last November in New York, which Prime Minister Harris attended, mobilized more than $2 billion from international donors to help hurricane-hit Caribbean nations “build back better.” It was held under the theme “Building a More Climate Resilient Community.”
Last September, Harris and his Cabinet met for a post-Hurricane Maria session. There, they began the process of critically evaluating disaster mitigation and preparedness with a view to upgrading present protocols. One of the considerations raised was the need for general improvements in current building codes in order to improve the resilience of commercial and residential properties.