Heads of state of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) began their two-day 62nd Authority meeting in Dominica on Wednesday, hoping to tackle issues such as health, climate change, food security and access to funding.
The heads of government chose Dominica for the meeting, as a show of solidarity with the country which is still reeling from the passage of Tropical Storm Erika in August. The storm battered the country; causing floods and landslides that claimed 30 lives and decimated homes and infrastructure.
It comes as the Caribbean islands prepare to make their case at COP21 in Paris. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says the talks are the region’s hope for concrete action to guard against the impacts of climate change.
“We believe that this is the last opportunity for us to conclude a lasting, binding legal agreement on climate change. For too long I believe we have kicked the can down the road at the end of every summit which we’ve had on climate change,” he said.
The Caribbean leaders will discuss a range of issues including health, climate change, food security and access to funding. Chairperson of the OECS Authority, Grenadian Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell says the problems are numerous.
He told the opening ceremony that, “The persistent threats of global terrorism, the challenged fiscal circumstances of virtually old members of our economic union, the persistent ravages of natural disasters, the systemic threats of global warming and climate change, the restlessness of our youth and the undaunted aspirations of our people for high standards of living or much higher ones, remind us of our economic union and the OECS is the correct response and the platform for development.”
The OECS’ director general, Didacus Jules, says while the grouping faces many challenges, there are indications of positive change, chief among them the increase in south-south cooperation.
“With more institutionalized forms and structures opening new avenues for foreign direct investment in the south and new options for development support, the emergence of ALBA, the emergence of the BRICS and their establishment of the new US$100 billion development bank can break the hegemony of western multilaterals,” said Jules.
The heads of government are also expected to discuss the application by French Caribbean Territories for membership in the OECS, as well as a proposed strategy for Dominica’s recovery and a proposal for OECS future disaster responsiveness.
On Thursday, they are scheduled to tour communities that were severely impacted by Tropical Storm Erika and engage with residents at a town hall meeting.
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