In addition to the global challenges of climate change, security, and the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines drew the attention of the 76th United Nations General Assembly on Saturday to devastating volcanic eruptions and the oncoming Atlantic Hurricane season that his small-island developing States (SID) is facing.
Ralph E. Gonsalves noted a “real uncertainty” about the future in his address to the high-level General Debate, stressing that a “new paradigm” is rendering outmoded techniques obsolete and necessitating new efforts and “transformational leadership”.
The coronavirus epidemic has sent the world into “a veritable tailspin” according to the Prime Minister, who urged everyone to put their differences aside and work together to combat the pandemic. This has not been the case, though.
He mentioned vaccine apprehension among his country’s citizens, emphasizing the need to combat “anti-vax misinformation and disinformation,” and cautioned that the pervasive inequalities that characterized the pre-COVID political and socioeconomic order “must not become tomorrow’s nightmarish reality”.
Mr. Gonsalves also praised various global institutions for their important and moral efforts in making vaccines more accessible to poor and marginalized countries, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, and the COVAX Facility.
The Prime Minister cautioned that unless the world’s course is changed, humanity will face an impending ecological crisis. He emphasized that “climate change is an existential threat to humanity,” particularly for small island developing States, and urged big emitters of greenhouse gases to find “the political will and needed resources” to address this “grave challenge.”
According to the Prime Minister, Caribbean countries require “urgent, global, multilateral action” on a number of issues due to a history of underdevelopment.
He mentioned, among other things, meaningful debt restructuring, replacing per-head GDP with a Vulnerability Index to measure development financing, and reversing the slowdown of rich countries’ Official Development Assistance.
Mr. Gonsalves challenged the globe to restructure itself “locally, regionally, nationally, and globally” to find peace, stability, and development “to all countries and peoples,” noting that today’s lessons reflect many of those embedded in the exhausting, and at times tiresome, efforts of the past.