Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Mr President, I take pleasure in congratulating you on your election to lead the proceedings of this historic conference. We have every confidence in the strong leadership of Brazil in steering this conference to a successful conclusion. You can be assured of the full cooperation of Jamaica in achieving this objective.
I wish to thank the Government and people of the Federative Republic of Brazil, and, in particular, the citizens of Rio, for their extremely warm and friendly welcome to your beautiful city. I appreciate the courtesies extended to me and my delegation. I also wish to commend Brazil on its organisation of this Conference.
Twenty years ago, world leaders meeting here in Rio agreed on an ambitious path towards sustainable development. Jamaica took the view at that time, a position to which we still hold that Agenda 21 and the principles of the 1992 Rio Declaration were fundamental in achieving sustainable development. Also critical to us as a small state, was the attention given in Rio to the needs and interests of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
It has to be acknowledged that progress has been mixed as the levels of development, environmental protection and social inclusion envisaged in 1992 have fallen short of international aspirations or, indeed, expectation. The unacceptable levels of poverty and underdevelopment which still exist in developing countries underscore the wide gaps between developed and developing countries and between social groupings within our countries. These need to be addressed urgently. As leaders, we must take responsibility for ensuring that they get done.
Mr President, ‘Sustainable development’ is without meaning unless it takes full account of the ‘triple bottom line’ – the social, economic and environmental pillars. We must use these three pillars to redress historic social inequities, build an economic base to improve standards of living and enhance the resilience of our economies to external shocks and natural hazards.
For our part, in Jamaica, early in my administration I sought to cluster land, water and environment with climate change under a single Ministry to ensure that it is approached with an integrated focus. This is a very critical area of concern for developing countries in general, and for us in the Caribbean, because of our vulnerabilities.
We are considered vulnerable because of:
· The openness of our economies,
· high levels of poverty,
· inherent limitations of economic diversification,
· limitations of capacity to trade
· and of course, being prone to natural disasters.
Additionally, developing countries also have to cope with:
· the current global financial and economic crisis,
· food insecurity,
· rising energy costs
· and climate change.
All of these factors are interlinked.
Our vulnerability to natural disasters has been heightened by the impact of climate change.
As each year passes we are increasingly seeing more variable rainfall patterns, increased tropical storm activity and sea level rise. These events can devastate small economies and significantly retard economic growth for a long period of time. This places our achievement of the Millennium Development Goals at great risk. Jamaica agrees and asserts that GDP alone is not a sufficient measure of human development. GDP masks inequalities and limits our capacity to access concessionary financing to facilitate the achievement of development objectives.
I call on the international community to actively explore and design more creative and effective flexible financial instruments and concessionary products to counter the effects of debt, reduce poverty, minimise and address risks and eventualities. Specifically, one such measure is to address the urgent need for a mechanism for catastrophic insurance for reconstruction and recovery of vulnerable developing countries given the frequency of major natural disasters in recent times. Such a mechanism should provide long term concessionary financing to affected states without stringent conditionalities.
Most importantly, our global quest for sustainable development must be linked to poverty eradication because, as we balance the books we must balance peoples’ lives.
I now turn to the matter of the Green Economy initiative. Jamaica broadly supports the initiatives toward a Green Economy. However the question remains whether the green economy will bring the poor into the centre of economic growth and development and improve the lives of our citizens.
The Green Economy as proposed can impact the ways in which developing nations pursue and engage in trade activities. The introduction of international environmental benchmarks and standards can serve to impose new conditionalities and barriers to trade. For small, vulnerable, lower and middle-income economies, the Green Economy initiative has the potential also to:
· negatively impact employment;
· it can negatively impact job creation; and opportunities for decent work as labour is replaced by technology.
· it can impact rural communities.
So even as we see its benefits, we must insist that every effort be made to ensure that the Green Economy does not become a market-driven concept that benefits only developed countries.
It is also critically important that the concerns of Small Island Developing States are included in the follow-up processes which will take place after we leave Rio. In this regard, Jamaica welcomes the call for the convening of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in 2014 and urges the necessary commitment to ensure that this Conference becomes a reality.
Of particular interest to my delegation are the ways in which highly indebted middle income countries will factor in the new development paradigm. I urge continued attention to the concerns of this group of countries in accessing concessionary forms of financing and for other criteria to be used in determining aid and assistance. We must also strengthen the framework in relation to financing, especially for adaptation to climate change.
As we recommit to a global development path aimed at eradicating poverty, we have to ensure that our efforts are in keeping with the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Our sustainable development agenda must adopt an approach that is just, inclusive, accountable and all-embracing.
We are being called upon by all citizens to take bold steps to attain ‘the Future they Want’.
We as Jamaicans share something special with Brazil in the person of your prolific songwriter and environmentalist Gilberto Gil. His love and consistent performance of Reggae music brought your Portuguese language to our Jamaican Rhythms. It is his words that remind us of the commonalities in our vision and the similarities of our collective mission. He sang simply:
Begin of the walk
To another place.
Let us respond to this call to action and carry the vision forward to that common place, the world we all want.
I thank you.