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UN chief lauds Dominica's vision to become first climate-resilient nation after recent devastation

8 October 2017 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visited Dominica on Sunday, taking stock of the immense damage caused by Hurricane Maria last month and the relief efforts underway, as well as paying tribute to its leaders for their vision to not only rebuild but to become the world's first climate-resilient nation.

The category-5 storm made landfall on 18 September, thrashing the country with extreme winds and rain. It left people without electricity and water, destroyed homes and health clinics and isolated communities on the mountainous island. The UN and its partners recently launched an appeal for $31.1 million to reach over 90 per cent of Dominicans – some 65,000 people – in the next three months.

“I have never seen anywhere else in the world a forest completely decimated without one single leaf on any tree,” said Mr. Guterres, who flew by helicopter over some of the most affected areas. “In every community, most of the buildings are destroyed or heavily damaged.”

Speaking at a joint press conference (transcript below) with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit in the capital, Roseau, Mr. Guterres echoed concerns similar to those expressed yesterday during a visit to Antigua and Barbuda, where he witnessed the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma and met with displaced persons.

“One is to make sure the international community fully recognizes that the intensity of hurricanes and multiplication of hurricanes in the Caribbean in this season is not an accident. It is the result of climate change.”

Read the full story by UN News:
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57835#.Wdt37DOZMhs
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Joint press conference of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, with Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit

(Roseau , Dominica, - 8 October 2017) .- Thank you very much, your Excellency, for your kinds words and for the warm welcome the Government and the people of the Commonwealth of Dominica.


This visit of solidarity with your people and your Government and I have to say that even if I had heard about it, if I have seen images in the media and our own UN system, I was deeply impressed by two things: first by the dramatic level of devastation, systematic devastation in your country. I have never seen anywhere else in the world a forest completely decimated without one single leaf in any tree and even if I come from Barbuda, and in Barbuda, I could see also most of the houses destroyed, Barbuda is a small island linked to Antigua and Antigua can support Barbuda. But your country is the whole country that’s been decimated and it’s been in every community I see. Most of the buildings destroyed or heavily damaged. And on the other hand, I was impressed by the effective response that your Government and your people with the resilience of your communities was able to put together. A response that allows what I see today to be very different already from what we could see immediately after the hurricane.


I want to thank the distinguished of the media that have accompanied me and I apologize if I repeat myself, but wanted to address also particularly the media of Dominica, and to say that, in the expression of the solidarity that these visits represents, I have to main concerns: one is to make sure that the international community fully recognizes that this intensity of hurricanes and these multiplications of hurricanes in the Caribbean this season is not an accident. It is the result of climate change. I see sometimes people saying, well, we always have hurricanes, we always had storms, or we always had droughts. It is true. But what we never had is this intensity, this frequency and these devastating impacts. According to the research done by the World Meteorological Organization in the last 30 years, we have seen tripled the number of natural disasters and vie times more the economic damage caused by them. And obviously, it’s climate change that is behind that.
And today there is the scientific proof of the link between climate change and the intensity of these hurricanes, and it is linked to the increased temperature of the water in the oceans. When a hurricane moves through the ocean, as the water is warmer, there is more evaporation, there is more vapor in the air, rains in general, rainstorms tend to be much heavier, but the hurricane, instead of dissipating, is fueled by moving over the ocean because of the increase in the temperature of the water and that is why we see hurricanes starting with one level and going up to level 5 and that’s why we see such devastating impacts. Today, there is a scientific proof that climate change is largely responsible for this dramatic increase in the intensity and devastation caused by the hurricanes in the Caribbean and by many other phenomena around the world.


And the other expression of solidarity is to say that it is clear and it must be clear for the international community that the level of support that Dominica requires cannot be achieved through the traditional instruments. There must be, even if Dominica is a middle-income country, but a middle-income country with an enormous vulnerability that was proven in a very dramatic way, there must be a review of the way middle-income countries that are particularly vulnerable to external shocks, are supported with direct support with concessional loans. There must be new financial instruments, bonds of different natures, linked mainly to the buildup of resilience. There must be a way to look into the debt of these countries and to transform it into an instrument of reconstruction and resilience. There must be a number of innovative ways of financing that are essential for this country to be able, even with the extraordinary effort of the Government of the people, for the country to be able to rebuild itself and I would like to say how much I appreciate the vision and the wisdom with which the Prime Minister has claimed that, not only he wants the country to be reconstructed, but he wants the country to become the first entirely climate resilient country in the world and I would say the first green climate resilient country in the world because that is what I heard in the different meetings we had. In whatever we will be able to do, the United Nations is entirely at your side. We have been cooperating in your efforts with our limited capacity but I am proud that my colleagues are doing their best but our voice will be together with your voice claiming for the world to assume its responsibilities in relation to climate change for the Paris Agreement to be implemented and for increased ambition to be put in place and at the same time for the adequate financial instruments to be created and with easy access in order for your reconstruction that you are so determined in pursuing your reconstruction becomes a real possibility for the benefit of the people of Dominica but also for benefit of all the  citizens of this region of the Caribbean that can face at any moment a similar situation as the one that you have faced. My total solidarity and my gratitude for your very warm welcome.

 

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Historic participation of Caribbean countries at the UN General Assembly

Caribbean countries made one of their most memorable participations in history during the latest General Debate of the UN General Assembly last week.

Emotional pleas to mitigate climate change and to support the costly measures necessary to adapt to its effects, as well as to “build back better” after the devastating effects of extreme weather were expressed by the region’s delegates. On the top of everyone’s mind were the catastrophic effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria as the latter was still making its destructive way across the Caribbean.

Even on the wake of the catastrophic hurricanes, preparedness, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction were not the only issues raised by the region.  Delegates also made compelling statements about the importance of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals, and highlighted many of the vulnerabilities shared by Small Island Developing States. These included social and economic challenges, that range from debt to single sector economic dependency, human trafficking, migration and others.

Click on the links below to watch videos on demand of the Caribbean participation, or to read summaries and transcripts of the statements at the General Assembly.

 

H.E. Mr. Gaston Alphonso Browne,
Prime Minister
Antigua and Barbuda


Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/ag_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/antigua-and-barbuda

 

H.E. Mr. Darren Allen Henfield,
Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Bahamas

Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/bs_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/bahamas

 

H.E. Ms. Maxine Pamela Ometa McClean,
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
Barbados


Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript   https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/bb_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/barbados

 

H.E. Mr. Wilfred Elrington, 
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
Belize

Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/bz_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/belize

 


H.E. Mr. Roosevelt Skerrit,
Prime Minister
Dominica

Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript  https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/dm_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/dominica

 


H.E. Mr. Elvin Nimrod,
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Grenada

Video of speech  http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/gd_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/grenada

 


H.E. Mr.  David Arthur Granger,
President
Guyana

Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript  https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/gy_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/guyana

 


H.E. Mrs. Kamina Johnson Smith,
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
Jamaica

Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/jm_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/jamaica

 

H.E. Mr. Mark Anthony Brantley,
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Saint Kitts and Nevis

Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript  https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/kn_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/saint-kitts-and-nevis

 


H.E. Mr. Allen Michael Chastanet,
Prime Minister
Saint Lucia

Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/lc_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/saint-lucia

 


H.E. Mr. Louis Straker,
Deputy Prime Minister
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/vc_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/saint-vincent-and-grenadines

 

H.E. Mrs. Yldiz Pollack-Beighle,
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Suriname

Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/sr_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/suriname

 

H.E. Mr. Dennis Moses,
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Trinidad and Tobago

Video of speech http://webtv.un.org/
Transcript  https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/tt_en.pdf
News story https://gadebate.un.org/en/72/trinidad-and-tobago

 

 

 

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‘To deny climate change is to deny a truth we have just lived’ says Prime Minister of storm-hit Dominica

Pleading with all countries in the United Nations General Assembly – large and small, rich and poor – to come together to save our planet, the Prime Minister of Dominica, where the landscape, ravaged by back-to-back hurricanes “resembles a warzone,” said his and other islands in the Caribbean need help now to build their homelands back better.

“I come to you straight from the front line of the war on climate change,” Roosevelt Skerrit said in an emotional address to the General Assembly’s annual general debate. He said he made the difficult journey from his storm-battered country “because these are the moments for which the United Nations exists!”

Mr. Skerrit said that warmer air and sea temperatures have permanently altered the climate between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Heat is the fuel that takes ordinary storms – “storms we could normally master in our sleep – and supercharges them into a devastating force.

The most unfortunate reality, he said, is that there is little time left to reverse damages and rectify this trajectory. “We need action and we need it now,” he said.

“The stars have fallen, Eden is broken. The nation of Dominica has come to declare an international humanitarian emergency.”

He concluded by urging ownership and responsibility for perpetuating harm that desperately begs attention: “Let it spark a thousand points of light, not shame.”


Full story: http://bit.ly/2htfD1R
Video of full statement: http://bit.ly/2jZQSPi

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