Issues of climate change, Haiti’s crisis and food security to top agenda of CARICOM meeting

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Fred Mitchell

When the 44th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) convenes in Nassau, topping the agenda of major topics for discussion will be climate change, the issues of Haiti, food security and energy security.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service, the Hon. Fred Mitchell said the three-day meetings will be extremely intense, as there are so many matters on the agenda to deal with.

This CARICOM Heads of Government meeting will officially open on Wednesday, February 15th at Atlantis Resort.  A special meeting of the Foreign Ministers will precede that opening. The meetings will conclude on Friday, February 17, 2023.

During a press briefing on the CARICOM meeting at the C.A. Smith building in Freeport on Monday, February 13, 2023, Minister Mitchell said that the issues that will take center stage have attracted a contingent of government officials outside of the CARICOM alliance, including Canadian President Justin Trudeau.

“Haiti has been descending into chaos as a result of the collapse of their political system and the countries of the world have been trying to see what can be done to help,” said Minister Mitchell. “The United States has been front and center of this and that’s one of the reasons why they’re bringing such a large delegation. With The Bahamas located 90 miles to the north of Haiti and the transit passage for Haitians on their way to the United States, the U.S. has been trying to find ways to solve the political situation in Haiti and improve the security in that country.

“The Canadians have agreed to take the lead in trying to resolve some of these problems, and that’s why Justin Trudeau is coming here, to have discussions with Prime Minister Davis.  Both Jamaica and The Bahamas have agreed to provide manpower,” if requested, he said.  “We obviously do not have the manpower which is required to undertake such an exercise, but we want to contribute to it and we want to contribute to a solution.”

Minister Mitchell said that Prime Minister Davis, who is the Chairman for CARICOM, will push to the forefront the issue of climate change, which he has been touting for months during his official travels around the world. Prime Minister Davis said that for The Bahamas climate change poses an existential threat.

Mr. Mitchell explained that sea levels are rising around the world and in The Bahamas eighty percent of the land is within three meters of the sea. “That means if there is sea level rise, the country will disappear,” said Minister Mitchell. “Or, like the Prime Minister said, we will either be climate change refugees or die in a watery grave. That is the stark reality of what is happening.

“So, we need to have a couple of things done. Money is the key issue – money for adaptation and mitigation and money for loss or damage. These are front and center on the international stage. So, what we are trying to do is lobby the world to provide the funding to deal with these issues.  We are not major emitters, but we are suffering the consequences of the emissions in the air. The Prime Minister has pointed out that almost 50 percent of our national debt is due to climate factors. That is a very serious figure.”

There are 14 nations in CARICOM plus the associated states like Bermuda, BVI, Monserrat and the Turks & Caicos Islands. At the start of the 44th CARICOM Heads of Government meeting, the President of Ukraine will address the conference via video link.

“We expect an exciting conference,” said Minister Mitchell. “There is a special delegation of American government officials expected to attend this year’s meeting.

“Also joining us at this conference will be representatives from South Korea, because they are campaigning for the support of the CARICOM countries in the vote at the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris, for the Exposition in the year 2030. The Assistant Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organization will also be attending, as will the Secretary General of the World Trade Organization. That will be a very important visitor.

“The president of the African Import/Export Bank will also be coming and some 40 Ambassadors will be visiting at the time. So, there will be a range of bi-lateral meetings taking place in the margins of the meeting.

“Security will be the key issue, given the number of important visitors who will be in town. We want to show them the best of country and have them move around our country freely, without having security concerns.”

Minister Mitchell explained that the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting takes place twice a year, once in February and then again on July 4th. The Bahamas assumed the current Chairmanship of CARICOM, with Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Davis serving as Chairman. His Chairmanship will expire in July, when he hands it over to Dominica.