Antigua and Barbuda’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Tumasie Blair painted a bleak future for Small Island Developing States should the status quo that has denied them the opportunity to build resilient economies and achieve prosperity be allowed to continue.
Blair joined a distinguished panel of speakers during an interactive discourse during last week’s Paris Summit in France. The panel included President of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr. Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon, leading economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and Canada’s Minister of International Development Harjit Sajjan who delivered keynote addresses during the event.
Blair joined the speakers in discussing the pressing challenges being faced by SIDS and the urgency in devising the solutions that would help them escape a perilous future during the Paris Summit in France late last week.
Heads of government and leading experts from across the globe were brought together for two days during the Paris Summit in an effort to address frontally the inequalities in the international financial system that make it difficult for countries like Antigua and Barbuda to overcome their unique developmental challenges.
To achieve this, the conveners of the Paris Summit headed by President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados indicated that the goal must be a more responsive, fairer and more inclusive international financial system to fight inequalities, finance the climate transition, and ultimately bring developing countries closer to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Blair was however quick to remind that SIDS no longer find comfort and encouragement in ‘talk’ and only firm and decisive action would help them escape a vicious cycle that keeps them constantly pleading for support to recover from burdensome debt and the devastating impacts of climate change.
“I will be frank. We have been having these conversations for the past 30 years and the overwhelming analysis is that SIDS are in trouble,” Blair declared. “If SIDS are in trouble, then the world is in trouble,” he further warned.
The Antiguan and Barbudan diplomat, a key figure in the work by a high-level panel co-chaired by Prime Minister Gaston Browne in the creation of the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI), however noted that all hope is not lost.
He pointed to the MVI, which seeks to establish a country’s vulnerability as a factor in qualifying it for concessionary financing, as well as the UN’s SDG Stimulus Plan and the Bridgetown Initiative as practical solutions that can create the necessary fiscal space in developing countries for them to achieve resilient prosperity.
“Now if we take these into St. John’s next year, where Antigua and Barbuda will host the 4th SIDS conference, then all these combined will provide the means of implementation of the next 10 year framework for SIDS,” Blair explained.
He further indicated that Antigua and Barbuda will put forward a proposal to establish a Center of Excellence for SIDS as a strong deliverable from the 4th SIDS Conference. The Center will address the data challenges of SIDS, allow for capacity building for all affected teritories, provide an analysis and track all financing related to SIDS and will allow for homegrown solutions and biannual assessment of the next 10 year framework that will be adopted in Antigua next year.