Statement by Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis to the General Assembly Debate of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, it is a privilege to address the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly.Every year at this time, Heads of State and Government from all over the world make this annual journey to the United Nations to deliberate on the current state of our world and to highlight concerns that keep us awake at night and to seek consensus on how best to create a world that is peaceful and prosperous, inclusive and integrated.

We all come ready to speak out and represent but the fundamental question is whether we have also come TO LISTEN. This global gathering will only be useful if even as we forcefully articulate our views, we listen with equal intensity to the concerns and proposals of others.

Multilateral System

Ralph J Bunche, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, stated that:

“The United Nations exists not merely to preserve the peace but also to make change – even radical change – possible without violent upheaval. The United Nations has no vested interest in the status quo. It seeks a more secure world, a better world, a world of progress for all peoples.” The people of St. Kitts and Nevis agree.

The UN is a force for good, a shining light in a sometimes dark and difficult world.  It is through multilateralism at the United Nations that smaller states can have their voices heard.  However, we are concerned about the weakening of the multilateral system.

Small nations are committed to meet our sustainable development goals, but developing countries are often not supported by sufficient resources.  We need a more coherent UN system-wide approach to sustainable development, both in terms of policies and through operational practices in UN processes and country programmes.

Developing countries often lack the capacity and capability to capitalise on the latest global trends in public sector innovation, government reform, and technology in addressing developmental challenges.  The UN’s role must be to help and stimulate the developing world and to provide support in critical areas such as education, training and human resource development.

Climate Change

One of the issues that is a clear and present danger to small and developing nations is climate change.  As we all seek to attain the UN sustainable development goals, our government cannot focus on achieving such goals when the very existence of our countries and our peoples is constantly threatened.

Let us be absolutely clear. Climate change is a product of developed nations’ push for economic growth and industrialisation. For far too long and with far-reaching consequences, rich countries have been allowed to emit greenhouse gases unimpeded.

Yet the brunt of climate change is borne by developing nations.  Small states such as St. Kitts and Nevis find themselves on the frontline of a war they did not start and do not want.  This is unfair and unjust.

People in developing countries will feel the impact first and worst because of vulnerable geography and lesser ability to cope with damage from severe weather and rising sea levels.

So, we need and are owed support, solidarity and greater assistance.

With increasing vociferousness, the Leaders of the Caribbean and indeed of Small Island Developing States from every corner of our globe have raised the issue of climate change and the grave and present danger that it presents to ALL OF US.  We speak out and we speak loudly because of the existential vulnerabilities that we suffer in the face of this growing threat.

Two years ago, my Colleague Prime Minister from Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit was at this podium, dispirited but dignified, straight from the frontline of the devastation that was Hurricane Maria. Yesterday Dominica; Today the Bahamas. Every hit is more devastating than that which preceded it! Hurricane Maria passed over Dominica with extreme ferocity, killed 65 persons and wiped out 200 percent of GDP.   Hurricane Dorian sat over part of the Bahamas chain and unleashed Armageddon with still unknown dead and incalculable destruction.  We extend deepest sympathy to our brothers and sisters in the Bahamas.

My Country has responded by providing security personnel and financial support to help the Bahamas in its recovery efforts.  We appeal to other nations to provide tangible expressions of solidarity and support to the Bahamas.

With every disaster comes a crisis of conscience in the international community that results in pledges and promises but few are fulfilled. Today I join my voice with that of Prime Minister of Saint Lucia Allen Chastanet to support the effort to establish a SIDS Foundation for climate adaptation and mitigation. We are tired of those who posture as champions of our cause but substantially are promoters of their own conceit. We are tired of the agencies whose brokerage of climate funds is more centered on implementation fees than on adaptation impact.

Rebuilding needs to start as soon as the disasters have passed, and we require a quicker process, which is sensitive to recovery.  We are tired, Mr. President, of empty promises.

Now is the time for us to take hold of our own destiny. We are almost out of time, short of options and lost for patience. The scientific community has further reinforced our call for limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius if we are to stabilize the global climate.

Exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius would mean ever increasing climate risks: extreme weather, sea level rise, increased poverty and a threat to hundreds of millions of lives.  Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius for SIDS is not optional.  It is a matter of our collective survival.

Graduation

The unfair practice of categorizing countries based on their per capita GDP, and denying their access to concessionary funding continues to pose a major challenge to our quest to achieve the sustainable development goals and our economic development.

We continue to demand that consideration be given to our vulnerability to internal and external shocks.

Blue Economy

I call for similar concern and protection for our threatened seas. In the face of global warming, we need a Blue Strategy to preserve and protect what is so important to our food security, the livelihoods of our fisher folks, our economic growth and development.

There is huge untapped economic potential in our seas, and this needs to be protected and nurtured.
Put simply, we need to protect the Ocean.  I call on the developed countries of the UN to offer their support to smaller countries so that together we can protect and nurture our Planet.

Health

Mr. President, the health of our citizens become critically important to us as we continue to grapple with the high prevalence rates of Non-Communicable Diseases. Just one year shy of our commitment to prevent and control NCDs, our government is happy to approve new commitments to building a healthier world through Universal Health Coverage.

St. Kitts and Nevis believes that UHC is key to reducing social inequities and a critical component of sustainable development.

It will provide greater access to health care services that will ensure a healthier population and provide financial risk protection to prevent people from being pushed further into poverty.

Securing the Future

International support is crucial to help build the economies in smaller countries.  The unfair practice of blacklisting by the EU is a burden from which SIDS must be freed.  An equally harmful practice is the de-risking policy of correspondent banks.  De-risking is an existential threat to the economies of SIDS.

Expanding diplomatic relations in order to pursue strategic alliances is beneficial for trade, development and global security.

St. Kitts and Nevis has nurtured relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan) and this has been of immense benefit to us given their experience and expertise in such areas as technology, renewables and health care. I call upon the United Nations to utilise Taiwan’s experience, resources and expertise and to enable other developing nations to benefit.  Our experience over the last 36 years is that the Republic of China (Taiwan) offers true friendship and solidarity to its allies and is prepared to assist the rest of the global community.

The Republic of Cuba has been a longstanding friend of St. Kitts and Nevis.  We shall continue to support the call for the removal of the economic and financial blockade, which has caused untold suffering for its citizens.

Hemispheric Challenges

St. Kitts and Nevis continues to monitor the situation in Venezuela and Nicaragua closely. St. Kitts and Nevis subscribes to the democratic charter for the Americas and urges all Member States to comply.

The ongoing crisis in Venezuela in particular occupied virtually all of my time when I was Chairman of CARICOM (January 1st to July 1st, 2019).  St. Kitts and Nevis continues to support the CARICOM position enunciated at Basseterre in St. Kitts, that the Venezuelan people must, through dialogue, find a peaceful resolution of their crisis and a restoration of peace, safety and security for their Country. St. Kitts and Nevis welcomes the recent dialogue facilitated by Norway between contending parties in Venezuela and urges all to resume such talks with alacrity.

St. Kitts and Nevis notes with deep concern the content of the Report dated July 05, 2019 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in Venezuela. St. Kitts and Nevis reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the maintenance of human rights and human dignity.

Conclusion

We can resolve many issues domestically, but regional and international solidarity and cooperation are critical.

I salute the United Nations and the international community for the contribution they have made to peace, understanding and welfare in the last seventy-four years. We must all resolve to strengthen our efforts and endeavour to ensure we are ready to deal with the challenges and opportunities offered to us in the twenty-first century.

In moving forward, we must help the vulnerable members of our societies, in particular the poor, to improve their lives, give hope to the young and help all countries reach their potential.  That was the vision of the United Nations that invited all nations small and large to become involved.  Let us deliver on the vision – peace and prosperity for all peoples and nations.

May God Bless Us All!

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