Thank you, Mr. Munroe, for your welcome and opening remarks. Good morning, Bahamas!
It is my hope that today’s forum further solidifies our bond of commitment to the development of this country and for all who call it home.
Today I bring you greetings from the United Nations Country Team in The Bahamas and from our friends in Jamaica. Allow me to also thank the Government for its courtesies and the leadership of The Honourable Prime Minister Davis, who we will hear from later today. I recognize Under-Secretary Eugene Newry from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Roberto Valent, Regional Director, UN Development Coordination Office Latin America and the Caribbean, Sai Navoti, Chief of the SIDS Unit, Sustainable Development Goals Division of UN DESA, Nicola Virgil-Rolle, Executive Director (Lyford Cay Foundation), and Nicholas Higgs Manager of the B-D-B and other colleagues of the B-D-B here today. Other speakers will be recognized at the appropriate time.
Mr. Higgs, I also wish to especially thank you and your team for your partnership and collaboration in staging what we hope will be an annual event. Sumayyah Cargill and others have worked tirelessly with my office to bring this forum to life and what was an idea in our minds, a couple of years ago, has resulted in a stellar convening of some of Bahamas’ best and brightest strategic thinkers under one roof. Please give yourselves a round of applause.
UN Efforts since MSDCF
Earlier this year the United Nations and the Bahamas solidified the pact that we are indeed partners in your development. And in less than a year, our relationship is already seeing the fruits of your signature to the Multi-Country Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework.
- An over $ 1 million Dollar investment in efforts to improve innovative financing opportunities for women, girls and young people in the family islands – A joint programme being led by UN Women, UNDP, UNESCO and FAO.
- We’ve bolstered our relationship with the Government of India, through the India UN Partnership Fund, where UNDP leads our efforts to develop and document the best practice of building a multi-functional disaster-responsive shelter and community centre for the islands of Central Abaco.
- Through the UN’s Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) we have partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs to transform agri-food systems in The Bahamas, through the development of a Digital Territorial Village in Eleuthera. The initiative is a pilot program that is a part of the signing of FAO’s 2022-2026 Country Programming Framework (CPF), which allocated $200,000 in assistance to The Bahamas.
- Through a partnership between UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, Disaster Reconstruction Authority, and the Ministry of Social Services – particularly in Abaco and Grand Bahama we continue to support the response and recovery efforts post-Hurricane Dorian.
- Today we are launching the inaugural SDG Partnership Forum.
And there is still much more happening and to come – all this, as we strive to make available to The Bahamas - the multi-disciplinary expertise of the UN development system and our partners. Today’s Forum will see us highlighting and promoting measures for partnerships towards sustainable development, discussing solutions for national challenges and building effective multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development.
Why the Forum is Important
Colleagues, despite the triple shocks of today’s global challenges – Climate Change, Conflict, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the resolve of our commitment to the MSDCF and the SDGs must remain strong. The last two years have reminded us that partnerships as well as regional and global solidarity are critical to sustainable development. What did we learn?
The protection of Bahamians from COVID and your access to vaccines were directly impacted by the COVID Responses of your neighbours across the sea and affected by disruptions in global supply chains. Food costs and access to some local supplies were directly impacted by a senseless war, thousands of miles away – the impacts of which will be felt globally for generations. And even as one of the lowest contributors to climate change, in comparison to our friends in the developed world, The Bahamas has borne the brunt of the resultant weather extremities such as Hurricane Dorian.
These three Cs have been some of the greatest challenges of our generation, putting national and global development at risk.
We have seen a regression amongst several key SDG indicators globally – children have missed out on schooling, reports on family violence have increased, poverty – previously on the decline – appears to be on the rise, and the labour participation rate has fallen, especially among women.
This is not exciting news, but today’s outlook is a call for greater ambition and a stronger resolve to redouble our efforts, within this Decade of Action, and to accelerate progress towards Vision 2030 [MS1] and the SDGs. We all need to step things up to be able to achieve the 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals and Bahamas’ National Priorities.
The Work of the Government
But even in these challenging times and shrinking fiscal resources, I wish to recognize the resilience of the people and Government of the Bahamas as you continue to enact policies and programmes that even from our vantage point – have been so intimately aligned with the roadmap of the SDGs and the MSDCF.
In climate change and national resource management, The Bahamas has introduced the Climate Change and Carbon Market Initiatives Act, 2022, allowing for the creation of a carbon exchange that will allow The Bahamas to responsibly monetise its natural resources in the form of carbon credits. It is noteworthy also that The Bahamas has committed to reducing its carbon footprint through the installation of renewable energy systems throughout the Family Islands and increased electric vehicles beginning with Government/ public sector vehicles.
To harness the strength of the Bahamian people to support shared prosperity and economic resilience we note that the Government is investing $100 Million into agriculture to reduce reliance on food imports, has increased social assistance, and made targeted minimum wage increases for workers in the public sector, has increased social assistance by 50% and funding for NGOs by 10%.
Your efforts to promote equality and well-being have resulted in the Mental Health Act (Amendment) 2022 – responding to PAHO’s call for greater investments and focus to address this region-wide treatment gap. The Bahamas’ affordable housing projects in New Providence and the Family Islands is ensuring that home ownership is accessible to the wider population and efforts like these reduce the risk of leaving youth and vulnerable populations behind.
Call to Action
It's not all doom and gloom. There is work happening, but there is still much more for many more hands to do. This is why we are here today. Because like you, we have realized the heightened need for highly collaborative partnerships to assess and respond to a wide range of development issues.
Today’s speakers will share best practices and initiatives being employed to expand and realize our vision for sustainable development. We have been operating in a silo for far too long. And so, it is our hope that this Forum will inch us closer to a more unified way of working.
I also want to emphasize that this should not, and will not, be a one-off conversation. This week, The UN will also convene training workshops, with over 40 local leaders sharing best practice skills and techniques for building effective partnerships for SDG implementation and the Caribbean-wide Partnership Accelerator Training of Trainers workshop will then culminate here in the Bahamas.
Colleagues, Friends, I call on all stakeholders – private sector, academia, international development partners, civil society and government – to expand our support to the development agenda – through financial, technical and other resources, as well as through technological advancement, innovation and knowledge sharing. And to come together for the common goal of harnessing the strength of the Bahamian people to support shared prosperity and economic resilience and to ensure that this journey to sustainable development leaves no one behind.
Now, I do not want to keep you any longer, because I am certain that you are all eager to listen to the important words of our many distinguished speakers. You will hear more from me later in the programme today.