Press Release

Caribbean experts highlight opportunities for inclusive recovery from COVID-19 in Caribbean SIDS

17 June 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented disruptive effects on the lives of people in the Caribbean while exacerbating inequalities among already disadvantaged groups in society.

In this context, the Knowledge Series on Inclusive COVID-19 Recovery in Caribbean SIDS released on 17 June 2021, highlights vulnerabilities and development potentials in the Caribbean and offers policy recommendations for a more inclusive, equitable, and people-centered COVID-19 recovery in the sub-region. In ten Think Pieces, experts from academia and civil society discuss how COVID-19 has impacted groups in vulnerable situations such as people with disabilities, youth, LGBTQIA+ persons, female-headed households, and indigenous people in Caribbean Small Island Developing States, SIDS.

The launch event on June 17, which was held virtually under the theme "UNESCO Talk: Spotlight on inclusive COVID-Recovery," provided an opportunity to engage with the contributing authors who discussed concrete policy recommendations grounded on Caribbean realities.

"We do not know how long this pandemic will last and do not understand all the effects it will have on our societies. What we certainly know is that global solidarity, international cooperation, and knowledge exchange are fundamental to transform this crisis into an opportunity," Saadia Sanchez-Vegas, Director, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, said.

Addressing the foreword of the Knowledge Series, Saadia Sanchez-Vegas, Ph.D., Director and Representative of the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, urged for a “swift and coordinated response that mandates multi-stakeholder coalitions that have sufficient evidence available to make sense of the complex new reality for people and take appropriate actions.” She also emphasized the timeliness of this publication, which aims to contribute to the global discussion on inequalities with new perspectives, while shedding light on ethical concerns and underscoring specific potentials and challenges for people in Caribbean Small Island Developing States.

Providing a regional snapshot, Prof. Dr. Clive Landis, Chairperson of the Regional COVID-19 Task Force, University of the West Indies, Barbados, examines the resilience of people in he Caribbean in dealing with crises. In his Think Piece "COVID-19 among Caribbean SIDS: an effective public health response rooted in resilience", he argues that lessons learned from the annual hurricane season has prepared many Caribbean SIDS in stockpiling strategic supplies and preparing front line services to deal with the emergency.

"Caribbean people are remarkably resilient and generally willing to abide by public health and safety measures invoked for the common good. This level of public and private awareness of health and safety measures that need to be observed when tackling an emergency may explain in part how the Caribbean was able to mount an effective public health response to COVID-19," he adds. However, Prof. Dr. Landis warns that the worst economic consequences are yet to come, which can further impact the widening of social inequalities and the deepening of vulnerabilities in the Caribbean.

Rural or low-income women, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ people, youth, and single-parent households are among those most affected by the pandemic. Often these groups face multiple forms of discrimination.

To consider these groups in an inclusive COVID-19 response, Carla Moore, lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, University of the West Indies, Mona Unit, Jamaica, argues in her Think Piece "Leaving no one behind: Assessing the needs of vulnerable groups in Jamaica", for the need of an intersectional analysis of inequalities as a necessary tool to develop concrete measures “to ensure that no one is left behind”.

Building on the importance of an intersectional lens, Dr. Deborah McFee, Outreach and Research Officer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, University of the West Indies St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, analyzed through her Think Piece, the gendered impact of COVID-19. According to her research, women in the Caribbean have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her Think Piece, Dr. McFee highlights that “gender analysis must be cognizant of the ways in which the compounding old and emerging social classifications and categorizations (including race, geography, age, ability, sexuality, and socioeconomic standing), must form part of analysis of public policy towards the framing of governance committed to an elimination of persistent inequalities.” Furthermore, Judith Wedderburn, Caribbean Gender Expert, underscored in her Think Piece that “any recovery strategy must assume that the end-game is not to go back to where we were, as this would just end up reproducing or perpetuating the same social and gender inequalities.”

"Gender inequalities that were associated with the triple burden that women face in their care responsibilities, have significantly increased in this last year (2020)," Judith Wedderburn, Caribbean Gender Expert, said

With around one million people in the Caribbean living with some form of disability, in his Think Piece, Senator Floyd Morris, Ph.D. CARICOM Special Rapporteur on Disabilities and Member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, highlights the perspective of people with disabilities during and after COVID-19.

"In order to prevent the exclusion and isolation of persons with disabilities from any COVID-19 related activities, governments within the Caribbean must make a deliberate and strategic effort to include these individuals," Senator Floyd Morris, Ph.D., CARICOM Special Rapporteur on Disabilities, said 

The Knowledge Series is part of UNESCO’s broader initiative on Amplifying the Voice of Caribbean Small Island Developing States: Towards an inclusive recovery from COVID-19, which aims to mobilize inclusive social policy research grounded in Caribbean realities.

As the leading UN agency for Social Sciences, UNESCO works to equip Caribbean Small Island Developing States with the capacities, tools and resources to produce and make meaningful use of policy-relevant and human-rights-based social and human scientific research and knowledge, to promote inclusive and peaceful societies. The Knowledge Series represents a Caribbean contribution to UNESCO’s Global Inclusive Policy Lab, a platform that enables knowledge co-creation and translation into inclusive policies.

Caribbean experts highlight opportunities for inclusive recovery from COVID-19 in Caribbean SIDS

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