Excellency, on behalf of the CARICOM Heads of Government and on my own behalf, let me start by saying that it is a great pleasure to come together with you on the occasion of this high-level gathering.
While my colleague Heads and I have had the opportunity to dialogue with you since your assumption of your country’s highest office, it is the first time we are meeting within the framework of the CARICOM-Cuba Summit. We would have much preferred to have joined you in the beautiful city of Havana, but the current circumstances compel us to meet virtually.
We in CARICOM express our appreciation to the Government of Cuba for the arrangements made for the holding of our Seventh Summit, during this exceptional time. Despite the challenges of conducting the meeting virtually, I trust we will still be able to have frank and open discussions on the issues before us, and deliver tangible results for the benefit of our respective countries and peoples.
Since we last met on the occasion of the Sixth CARICOM-Cuba Summit in Antigua and Barbuda in December 2017, several major developments have taken place in our hemisphere and indeed globally.
The protracted and multifaceted challenges resulting from the Coronavirus have caused significant disruption and hardship in nearly every aspect of our lives, and they continue to weigh heavily on the health, economic, social, and security dimensions of our regional and global families.
COVID-19 has devastated our people’s lives and livelihoods to an extent not witnessed for a hundred or so years. We are certainly in unprecedented perilous times in our living memory; we must thus understand and know these times, and act accordingly, in solidarity with each other. Our Draft Declaration signals all this and more.
The pandemic has resulted in a sharp downward revision of the regional outlook for economic growth. Overall, most countries are projected to experience double-digit contractions in economic activity in 2020. The International Monetary Fund has forecast an average decline of 13 percent for the Region, but some CARICOM countries will experience a decline as high as 20 percent. This projection could worsen in light of the re-instatement of lockdown measures in tourism source countries in Europe.
Our high-level political dialogue is also taking place in a wider hemispheric geopolitical environment enveloped by other deeply divisive and challenging issues. These challenges, too, demand of us in this Region to strengthen further our collective actions.
Mr. President, the value that your country places on multilateralism, respect for international law and international cooperation is well known. The importance of this is magnified as we are living at a time when multilateralism is being undermined by some powerful nations.
It is imperative that we strive to protect, always, the fundamental principles and rights outlined in the United Nations Charter, inclusive of non-interference, and non-intervention in the affairs of other States, the prohibition of the threat and use of force, the maintenance of the international law, and the re-affirmation of the right to self-determination.
These principles and rights have provided a protective cover for the security, territorial integrity and sovereignty of small states against significant global powers and regional hegemons.
The unjust and unilateral imposition of the financial, commercial and economic embargo on Cuba is a prime example of the violation of these principles. The Caribbean Community condemns unreservedly the continuation of this embargo and calls for its immediate cessation.
The concept of universality has been diminished in a number of major international institutions and bodies through vainglorious assaults and subterfuge. Among the institutions subjected to unsavoury stratagems by some powerful states are the International Criminal Court, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the World Health Organization. Even international public servants who are carrying out their legitimate responsibilities have been unjustly and unilaterally sanctioned. All these actions, and more, by some dominant countries have undoubtedly been corrosive of multilateralism, which is the foundation-stone of an orderly global architecture of relations between sovereign states.
It is our hope that this disruptive approach would soon undergo a profound transformation. CARICOM has to engage the Biden-Harris administration in the USA in this matter after January 20, 2021.
Cuban diplomacy is justifiably regarded for its soft-power assets, especially South-South Cooperation and international solidarity, which have always been the conjoined fulcrum around which Cuba’s foreign policy revolves.
The provision by your Government of public health personnel to Caribbean nations to reinforce and enhance our response capacity in facing the public health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic is a stellar example of Cuba’s solidarity.
As the Chairman of the Caribbean Community, I wish to place on record our gratitude for that timely and comradely initiative; and I thank our sister nation of Cuba for its unwavering support to CARICOM.
It is unfortunate that there are those who seek to denigrate such acts of solidarity and human compassion by linking it to criminal activity. We reject that notion entirely.
Your Excellency, your Government and the heroic Cuban people have once again shown to the world your humanitarian and generous character through Cuban cooperation and solidarity, even as you have been grappling with the severe problems faced by your own country.
Your Excellency and Colleagues, today’s session offers the opportunity to have a dialogue on strategies for confronting the challenges to the sustainable development and the welfare of the peoples of CARICOM and Cuba. There is hardly a greater threat in that regard than that of climate change.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has recently indicated that the average global temperature in 2020 is set to be about 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. Further, despite efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, temperatures are expected to continue rising.
The WMO also now predicts a one-in-five possibility of the temperature reaching 1.5 degrees between now and 2024. Lest we forget, climate modelling done by scientists from CARICOM and Cuba, working in collaboration on the impacts of global warming, have stated that it is likely that humanity would attain the 1.5 degree centigrade warmer world within this decade.
These indications are very troubling and of great urgency. This extent of global warming will bring even more frequent and intense storms, severe droughts and other unusual climatic events that carry an existential threat to our Region. We in CARICOM are of the settled view that working together with Cuba can make a difference in mitigating the worse effects of this phenomenon.
This Seventh Summit also provides us with the opportunity to reaffirm our shared commitment to South-South Cooperation in the promotion and protection of our common interests.
As we embark on our deliberations, we are confident that they would further strengthen the friendly and committed relationship which has been forged between CARICOM and Cuba over the past 48 years.