June 08, 2020
The 1st virtual Extraordinary Inter-Sessional Summit of Heads of State and Government of Members of the Organisation of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) was held on June 3rd, 2020. The virtual summit was convened by The President of the Republic of Kenya and President – in – office of the an with the European Union (EU) with respect to the policing of money laundering and tax evasion; and increased support for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dialogue was facilitated by six Heads of State and Government of the OACPS regions. Heads of Government representing the Caribbean region were Barbados and Jamaica. H.E Maria O’Brien Ambassador of The Bahamas to the Kingdom of Belgium and Head of Mission to the European Union represented The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The three-hour virtual summit comprised two segments. The first segment was made up of OACPS Heads of State and Government who discussed identifying key challenges and consequences amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Consideration was given to the way forward in terms of opportunities and actions to be taken by member states in the fight against the coronavirus.
The second segment of the Inter-Sessional Summit featured a high-level exchange with global strategic and development partners. The key development partners at the summit included H.E Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr.Charles Michel, President of the European Council, H.E. Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic of France, H.E Mrs. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, H.E Mr. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and H.E Mr. Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia and H.E. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesys, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Development partners shared details of several projects and programmes which were initiated as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, and gave assurances of their commitment to ensuring that developing states would receive assistance to adequately fight COVID-19 and the socio-economic consequences.
In his opening remarks President Kenyatta provided the background against which the Extraordinary Inter-sessional Summit was being held: with 112,243 cases and 3,046 deaths across the regions of the OACPS as of 31, May 2020, the major economic disruptions to key industries and supply chains, which reflected a dire economic situation for Members of the OACPS.
The OACPS Secretary-General, Mr. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, who took over leadership of the organisation in March 2020. In his statement indicated his intent to strengthen partnership in order to cultivate the national health system and revitalize economies.
The Chair of CARICOM, The Honorable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados emphasized the right to be heard in order for small island development states (SIDS) to flourish.
Sentiments of discrimination and unjustness toward OACPS states were raised and exemplified using the George Floyd killing in the United States. She further communicated the importance for the orderly restructuring of debt with attentiveness to the fast approaching Caribbean hurricane season.
Noteworthy during the contribution by Prime Minister Mottley was her determined champion of the case of The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Ghana and other nations “placed on a list of shame” as High Risk Third Countries on AML/CFT by the European Union, unilateral actions which she unequivocally “rejected” on behalf of the Caribbean region and further decried as “lacking transparent processes with no concrete and clear benchmarks” which would serve the purpose of “further decimating the economies of these countries at a time when the financial and international business sectors as key engines of growth in the Caribbean were the only sectors untouched by COVID-19 until the unfortunate action taken by the publication of the shame list”.
The impact of the publication of the proposed List of High Risk Third Countries on Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing by the European Commission was also communicated as ravaging economies and categorized as non-reflective of state principles of good faith and the ongoing commitment to multilateral cooperation.
She underscored the increasing difficulty for countries to financially protect their populations against the pandemic due to the listing.
Prime Minister Mottley also shared in her address, the historical use of the GDP per capita. She explained that it was an outdated and ill-suited definition of Caribbean nations vulnerability used over the past 30 years, resulting in the denial of opportunities from global strategic and development partners.
She further stated that the classification of Caribbean islands as middle-income nations does not reflect the highly vulnerable economic security due to small size, economic structure, and natural disaster susceptibility. In her closing remarks, she posited that the key development of the mobilization of OACPS within multilateral forums should include a new definition criterion for equitable access.
Further support and denouncement of the unilateral actions undertaken by the European Union were issued during the remarks of the Chair of the Pacific Group, H. E. Mr. Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu and H. E. Mr. Adama Barrow, President of the Republic of the Gambia and Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Guest speaker H.E. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesys, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), stressed that while the caseload in Members of the OACPS countries was not high as had been feared, with no cases in 12 of the OACPS’ 79 Members and 38 Members having less than 500 cases, the OACPS was still very vulnerable for many reasons and that there is still the need for a comprehensive approach to maintain essential health services.
In concluding the Summit, OACPS Secretary General expressed the view that the innovative, first-ever OACPS Inter-Sessional Summit has come out with a more united mandate to meet the demands of its Members. Subsequently, President Kenyatta in his closing remarks, thanked all participants noting that, “If one of us fails, we all fail.”
We will only win this battle if we are together.”
The OACPS has mobilized over €200 million from the 11th European Development Fund which is financed by the European Union and co-managed by the OACPS, to aid its Member States to boost health systems towards preparedness in the fight against COVID-19.
The Bahamas has to access to the funding by way of the Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme through the Caribbean Public Health Authority. As an outcome of the 1st virtual Inter-Sessional Summit Members of the OACPS reaffirmed their global solidarity to combat COVID-19, as well as their unity against the proposed actions to be taken by the EU blacklisting of countries, their stance to mitigate climate change and the economic recovery of their respective countries.