In addition to the global challenges surrounding climate, security and the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Saturday drew the attention of the 76th UN General Assembly to devastating volcanic eruptions and the on-rushing Atlantic Hurricane season confronting his small-island developing State (SID).
In his address to the high-level General Debate, Ralph E. Gonsalves cited a “real uncertainty” about the future, explaining that a “new paradigm” is making outmoded approaches irrelevant and instead requires fresh initiatives and “transformational leadership”.
“We are at historic crossroads of a special kind. We must rise, collectively, to address sensibly, the requisite fresh imperatives in these, our most challenging, times”, he said.
World in a tailspin
The coronavirus pandemic has thrust the world into “a veritable tailspin”, the Prime Minister said, urging everyone to put aside their differences and work in solidarity to tackle the pandemic.
However, this has not been the case.
“Globally, we have witnessed unacceptable vaccine nationalism; the politicization of the roll-out of the vaccines; and the roll-out of vaccines for the rich first and the poor afterwards” he lamented.
He spoke of vaccine hesitancy amongst his country’s population, underscoring the need to stop “anti-vax misinformation and disinformation” and warned that the pervasive inequalities that defined the pre-COVID political and socioeconomic order “must not become tomorrow's nightmarish reality”.
Mr. Gonsalves also acknowledged “notable, and noble, work by some global institutions, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, and COVAX Facility, to make vaccines more accessible to poor or marginalized countries”.
Teetering on the brink
Unless the world changes course, the Prime Minister warned that a “looming ecological disaster awaits humanity”.
“Climate change is an existential threat to humanity”, and especially to small island developing States, he underscored, advocating for major emitters of global greenhouse gases to find “the political will and requisite resources” to address this “grave challenge”.
While “hoping for the best” at the upcoming UN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Mr. Gonsalves admitted, “we fear the worst”, namely “more procrastination and the ducking of serious responsibility by the major emitters”.
“Humanity is at the midnight hour. Can we meet the challenge? We may not live to find out the answer if the usual continues”, he said, calling on the world leaders to renew their efforts to protect “his planet that we all call home”.
Other pressing concerns
Having suffered a legacy of under-development, Caribbean countries need “urgent, global, multi-lateral action” on several issues, according to the Prime Minister.
He listed meaningful debt restructuring; replacing per-head GDP with a Vulnerability Index to assess development financing; and reversing the slow-down of Official Development Assistance by rich countries, among others.
Noting that today’s lessons “mirror many of those lodged in the tiring, and oft-times tired, struggles of yesteryear”, Mr. Gonsalves urged the world to reorganize itself “locally, regionally, nationally and globally”, to find peace, security, and development “to all countries and peoples”.