In a momentous address at the 78th UN General Assembly, The Honorable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Corporate Governance, and Public Private Partnerships of Antigua and Barbuda, delivered a comprehensive and impassioned call to action. Addressing a spectrum of global challenges, the Prime Minister underscored the imperatives of unity, collaboration, and equitable representation, with a particular emphasis on the urgent issues confronting Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Acknowledging Achievements in the Caribbean Community
Antigua and Barbuda initiated their statement by extending congratulations to His Excellency Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago on his election as President of the 78th Session of the General Assembly. The Prime Minister expressed pride in the contributions of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to internationalism within the United Nations, highlighting Guyana’s election to the Security Council as a testament to the capacity of CARICOM nations in global decision-making.
Smallness is not an Impediment
Prime Minister Browne dispelled the notion that smallness is a hindrance to making substantial contributions to international decision-making. Pointing to St Vincent and the Grenadines’ active participation on the Security Council, he stressed the importance of recognizing the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and advocated for their inclusion in various global forums, including G20 meetings.
The World is Failing Developing Countries
Echoing the recent words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Prime Minister Browne asserted that the world is failing developing countries. While acknowledging the strides made by developing states in lifting millions from poverty, he highlighted the pressing issues of rising prices, overwhelming debts, and increasing climate disasters, emphasizing the unresponsiveness of current global frameworks to these crises.
Unity in the Face of Challenges
Calling for a unity of purpose, Prime Minister Browne urged nations excluded from global decision-making to collaborate and advance their collective interests. He emphasized collaboration over confrontation and cooperation over division, underscoring the need for a united front among developing nations.
International Legal Initiatives
Antigua and Barbuda, in collaboration with other small island states, initiated a landmark legal effort seeking an Advisory Opinion from the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The objective is to clarify the obligations of states to combat pollution linked to climate change and its impact on marine environments. The creation of the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS) attests to the commitment to protecting the oceans, crucial for the identity and survival of small island developing states.
Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI)
Prime Minister Browne highlighted the importance of the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI) as a tool for assessing the vulnerability of small island developing states to climate and other shocks. The MVI, endorsed by the General Assembly in 2021, was presented as a fairer alternative to the traditional per capita income criterion, facilitating access to concessional financing and addressing the structural problems faced by SIDS.
Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States
Antigua and Barbuda announced its intention to host the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States in 2024. The conference, themed “Charting the Course Towards Resilient Prosperity,” aims to develop a decade-long strategy addressing the unique challenges faced by SIDS. The establishment of a Centre of Excellence for SIDS, in collaboration with the private sector and UN entities, was also unveiled to achieve sustainable resilient prosperity.
Urgent Action Needed on Climate Change
Prime Minister Browne underscored the urgency of addressing climate change and emphasized the need for immediate action at COP28 in Dubai. The Loss and Damage Fund, crucial for small island states, was highlighted as a priority. The Prime Minister called for the fund’s operationalization and adequate funding, warning that failure at COP28 could undermine global trust and collaborative efforts on various global challenges.
Climate Justice and Reparatory Justice
The statement asserted the deep intertwining of climate justice and reparatory justice. Historical wrongs, including the exploitation of enslaved generations, were acknowledged, and the moral and ethical obligations stemming from these wrongs were emphasized. Antigua and Barbuda called on nations to recognize, reconcile, and redress these historical injustices.
Rebuilding Trust and Global Solidarity
Addressing the theme of rebuilding trust and global solidarity, Prime Minister Browne stressed the importance of dialogue, mutual respect, and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter. He urged the United States to reconsider its stance on Cuba and advocated for the removal of sanctions on Venezuela, emphasizing the impact of these sanctions on humanitarian crises and neighboring Caribbean countries.
Haiti’s Challenges and the Caribbean’s Security Concerns
The enduring challenges faced by Haiti were acknowledged, with Prime Minister Browne calling for urgent, comprehensive, and coordinated intervention to restore governance, security, and the rule of law. The Prime Minister also highlighted the security concerns in the Caribbean, specifically the prevalence of illegal guns originating from the United States and the potential threat posed by autonomous weapons falling into the hands of organized criminals.
A Plea for Global Cooperation
Concluding the statement, Prime Minister Browne emphasized that despite Antigua and Barbuda’s small size, the nation stands tall in its commitment to global cooperation. The Prime Minister highlighted the shared destiny of nations, emphasizing the need for equity, fairness, and social justice. He called for transformative action, echoing the success of global cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic as evidence that collective action can address global challenges.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Call for Global Unity and Sustainable Prosperity
Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s statement at the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly reflects a comprehensive and impassioned call to action, addressing a myriad of global challenges. Antigua and Barbuda’s commitment to collaboration, climate justice, and the equitable representation of small island developing states resonates as a plea for unity in the face of pressing global issues. As the world looks towards the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States in 2024, the call for a decade-long strategy and the establishment of a Centre of Excellence for SIDS underscores the nation’s commitment to resilient prosperity and global cooperation.