Address by Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Philip Pierre, on the occasion of the first African-CARICOM Summit
Chairperson Uhuru Kenyatta, colleague heads of state and government, chairperson of the African Union Commission, Secretary-General of CARICOM.
While we are separated across land and sea, we have so much in common, including a rich culture and diversity, and our people as a fundamental asset for progress and achievement.
I announced on August 1, 2021, in my inaugural Annual Emancipation Day address, that my administration plans to take the Caribbean’s real African History to schools and to make Emancipation Day – already a holiday – a major annual event on our national calendar. As I said then, we strongly believe that while slavery was abolished over a century ago, the mindset and racial attitudes that brought African people to the Caribbean and the Americas still linger. I assure this historic first gathering of African and Caribbean leaders that, under my watch, Saint Lucians will have good reason to remember the struggles of our forefathers, while preserving and protecting the heritage they left us – and today is only the beginning: over 133 years later, but it’s never too late to start.
My administration also welcomes this ready platform for communication, cooperation, and coordination between Africa and the Caribbean, to share COVID-19 experiences and develop mechanisms to help reduce our common dependence on an unequal vaccine distribution system that our host – president Uhuru Kenyatta – described earlier this year (during a Black History Month Caribbean Webinar Exchange) as a stark, living reminder of the inequalities of the Apartheid system. Having to import ten times more pharmaceuticals than we produce in the Caribbean and our regional vaccination levels at only between 15 and 23 percent, we also support the recent initiative announced by PAHO executive director, Dr Clarissa Etienne of Dominica, to create a platform to increase regional vaccine manufacturing and production.
Unfortunately, we also share a particular vulnerability to the ravages of climate change. This means that, inevitably, we are all invested in securing sustained global action to arrest and reverse this scourge.
In this regard, close cooperation between Small Island Developing States, African countries, and other developing states were instrumental in securing the 2015 Paris Agreement and the 1.5 target for global temperature increase. In light of the climate emergency, the pursuit of a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the critical decisions to be made at the 26th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP 26; it is essential that the flame of collaboration kindled in Paris be fanned vigorously in Glasgow in November of this year, to ensure that the international community and, in particular, industrialised nations, manifest a level of climate ambition that will secure the safety of the planet and the survival of our countries.
Our countries must also continue to work under the banner of non- Annex 1 developing countries in the negotiating Group of 77 and China. Thus far, we have collaborated and strengthened our voices, having common positions on such fundamental issues as finance, adaptation, loss and damage. In the area of finance, it is imperative that we speak with one voice under the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism. Division simply retards progress for both our regions – something we can ill afford, in a process where we can only move forward with consensus.
Our regions must also maximize possibilities for collaboration outside of international arrangements, exploring areas such as technology, capacity building, research exchanges, and formal education opportunities. There is so much that we can learn from each other.
Already, within the climate change context, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 is consonant with CARICOM’s agenda, as you prioritise environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient economies and communities. We are aware that you have committed to act with a sense of urgency on climate change and the environment, with a focus on climate technology, women and youth, sustainable forest management, and climate-resilient agriculture, among other areas.
As we forge ahead, the Caribbean Community looks forward to deeper and more meaningful connections with the continent of Africa, working together in achieving the developmental aspirations of our nations and our people.