(CMC) — Trinidad and Tobago Tuesday reiterated a call for a “robust, inclusive and coordinated global response” to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, telling the international community that such an initiative is “imperative” in dealing with the impact of the virus.
Addressing the United Nations High level Roundtable on Extractive Industries, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said an essential element of this response to the pandemic is ensuring equitable and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines, particularly for small island developing states.
“I have been advocating for such equity in my engagements with the Director-General of the World Health Organization and with many heads of government as prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and as the chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
“And I take this opportunity to commend the work being done by my counterpart, the prime minister of Jamaica, who with the Prime Minister of Canada and you, Secretary-General, launched an initiative that has resulted in an agenda of over 250 policy options to address financing for development in the era of COVID-19 and beyond,” he added.
Rowley told the roundtable that is being held under the theme “Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond Initiative,” that the international community has now endured more than one year of the worst health and economic crises of this generation.
He said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stated that the Caribbean together with Latin America, are among the economies most adversely affected globally by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This statement is eminently accurate, as we are currently witnessing a shift in the trajectory of the pandemic, where its epicentre is moving away from the developed countries to the developing world, where fiscal space remains limited in respect of resources required to cope with the pandemic,” Rowley told the Roundtable that is also being attended by representatives of the private sector, civil society, academia, indigenous groups and youth.
Rowley said he remains confident that there will be significant opportunities for sustainable development in the post-COVID world.
But he said while there will continue to be traditional modes of operations in the extractive industries which cannot be replaced, “the world as we know it has changed.
“There will be new modes of operations in the future, which we cannot envision today. How well we embrace and master these new modes, turning them into sustainable opportunities, will depend on how well we prepare ourselves for the post COVID environment. In the past, in this industry, we have always had to chase a moving target, our reality today is no different.”
He said Trinidad and Tobago’s National Development Strategy, ‘Vision 2030’, is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and takes into account the country’s development imperatives.
He said the incorporation of renewable energy and energy efficiency into the national energy mix has been identified as a key medium-term sustainable development goal.
“In this regard, I can proudly state that Trinidad and Tobago has been and continues to be on the right side of history, having initially used natural gas for electricity generation in 1959 and by the early 2000s being able to boast of 100 percent natural gas usage in our electricity mix.
“We have achieved over two decades ago, what many countries today are now implementing. Trinidad and Tobago also continues to see natural gas playing a pivotal role as the transition fuel while we all do our part in adhering to our commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”
Rowley said that Trinidad and Tobago commends the secretary-general for this initiative and during the deliberations over the past months, “there would have been many divergent views.
“This, together with the discussions today, will certainly contribute to the establishment of a universally applicable foundation for your inaugural Policy Brief on Extractive Industries,” he said.
Earlier, UN Secretary General, António Guterres said mineral resources are one of Earth’s great endowments and that their extraction plays a dominant role in the economies of 81 countries.
He said these countries account for a quarter of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), half the world’s population and nearly 70 per cent of people living in extreme poverty.
“Of the world’s 72 low- or middle-income countries, 63 have increased their dependence on extractive industries over the past two decades. These industries generate large amounts of foreign exchange earnings, foreign direct investment and government revenues. They have the potential to drive economic growth and poverty reduction.”
But he noted, yet there is no escaping the fact that extractive industries are also potentially associated with a litany of ills including corruption, exploitation, colonialism and racism; environmental degradation, worsening climate change and biodiversity loss; armed conflict, gender-based violence, population displacement, cultural harm and human rights violations.
“We have all heard talk of the resource curse. Our shared responsibility is to ensure that the benefits of mineral resources reach all people in society, not just elites, while safeguarding the natural environment today and for future generations.”
Guterras said that over the past eight months, the United Nations Regional Economic Commissions have organised a series of roundtables on these issues and the event on Tuesday is the culmination of a richly insightful process.
He said a common thread through the regional roundtables has been the need for the extractives sector and the resources generated to be managed sustainably, inclusively and equitably.
“This means taking into account the needs and rights of women, indigenous peoples, local communities and other stakeholders who are affected by the industry yet excluded from the design and benefits of extractive operations.
“For women, indigenous peoples, local communities and other stakeholders, extractive industries could provide opportunities for a better life, through increased and better employment opportunities and expanded investment in the local community if designed in ways that respect their human rights.”