The Commonwealth can play a critical role in helping small states to get funds after natural disasters, according to Dominica’s foreign affairs minister.
Speaking after appearing at an Overseas Development Institute ‘Building Back Better: a resilient Caribbean’ event alongside Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, Minister Francine Baron said, “We are, in the Caribbean, mostly middle income and high income countries but we are very vulnerable to extreme weather events. So far we have had great difficulty in accessing assistance because we do not have the expertise to present projects in the manner that is required for funding.
“The Commonwealth has massive convening power, it can bring all its members together and work with us to understand the challenges, particularly those we have accessing development assistance.”
Dominica, the birthplace of the Secretary-General, and many of its neighbouring islands were devastated by Hurricanes Maria and Irma last year. As extreme climate events become more frequent, the minister said, it was essential that long-term resilience was embedded in the reconstruction process. But vulnerable states needed funds from Official Development Assistance (ODA), as well as expertise, to achieve this.
Secretary-General Scotland, who visited Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda in the wake of the hurricanes, has been campaigning to facilitate access to ODA.
“I have undertaken to do everything in my power to challenge rules which render a high-income but climate-vulnerable country which has just lost all its economic sectors and its entire GDP to a hurricane ineligible,” she said. “We have already seen progress on this, with donor countries now committed to a review of the rules.”
She added: “The Commonwealth has also been trying to respond to its members’ needs in a holistic fashion, whether it is trade, environment or people..
“For example, we’ve been looking at debt management. Why is the Caribbean one of the most heavily indebted regions in the world? Because it is one of the most affected by climatic episodes. We’ve been working on an index which helps to show this vulnerability is inherent, not a result fiscal imprudence.”
The Commonwealth Secretariat is currently refreshing and strengthening its climate change programme in the light of recent natural disasters. The Secretary-General said that the Commonwealth was a family and this was an opportunity to pool information about “what works to build back better for a truly resilient Caribbean”.
'Building back better': a resilient Caribbean - keynote speeches View video