A Happy New Year to you all!
We usher in a most auspicious year for both the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and The Bahamas, as we both celebrate our 50th Anniversaries.
For our Community, this milestone comes at a time when regional co-operation has never been more urgent and necessary. The shock of and response to the Covid-19 pandemic was a stark illustration of the limitations of working alone.
Working alone, none of us will be able to overcome the existential threat posed by climate change. Working alone, none of us will be able to fully seize the opportunities of the new world order, where old certainties are fast disappearing, and new technologies favour the agile and the clever.
We all share common histories— trials, traumas, and triumphs. As regional neighbours, we have, through the years, encountered many of the same hurdles, beat down the same walls, and conquered the same challenges. And indeed, we owe it to ourselves and each other to recognize that we are and always have been in this together.
We are at a tipping point, where it is imperative that we build on and strengthen the foundations of the past 50 years. There is already much on the agenda.
Our Community is making great strides towards ensuring food and nutrition security. And we are on track to reduce our food import bill by 25 percent by 2025.
With the help of international partners, we also want to make further progress on our plans to increase the use of renewable energy. This is not only an alternative to expensive fossil fuel-based energy, but a critical means of reducing carbon in the fight against climate change.
We will also continue to work closely and vigorously with other Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS) to continue our advocacy on the many issues relating to climate change, which impact us all. In particular, we will aggressively push for the ‘Loss and Damage Fund’ agreed at COP27 in Egypt, to be made fully operational.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations has assured us of his continuing support for our advocacy to pursue debt relief, reform of International Financial Institutions, and to establish a Multi-Dimensional Vulnerability Index for fairer criterion for access to concessional development funding.
At home, we are determined to help Haiti resolve its challenges. The beleaguered people of Haiti desperately need respite from the political, economic and security crises which have engulfed the country.
We will continue to support all stakeholders to craft a Haitian led solution. For CARICOM, the resolution of the immediate crisis will be a first step towards the crafting of a long-term sustainable development plan for Haiti.
My thanks to the President of Suriname, His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi, for his superb stewardship of the Community over the past six months. With the help and support of my colleague Heads of Government, I look forward to building on his legacy.
This New Year holds much promise for our Caribbean Community. Over the next 50 years, we will continue to seek to strengthen our partnership, so that the lives of all of our peoples are made better.
A Prosperous and Productive 2023 to you all!