Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott. (FP)

The UN Sub-Regional Team today launched a COVID-19 Multi-sectoral Response Plan (MRP) and a US$29.7 Million Funding Appeal for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

And, this UN effort, which is to support countries in fostering international solidarity and help mobilize financial resources to meet some of their needs over the next eight months, has been praised by Barbados’ Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott.

During the launch, Senator Walcott expressed appreciation for the extraordinary support of the United Nations agencies, commending them for trying to help mobilize vital resources to meet the immediate to medium-term needs of the countries. 

“We certainly welcome the efforts of the UN in responding to our pleas and our needs at this point in time ….

“And, I am calling on our development partners to try to help us address a number of these challenges, which are now being posed, and indeed exacerbated by COVID-19, by earmarking resources to the Eastern Caribbean through funding to this appeal,” he urged.

The Minister said small island developing states (SIDS) were already facing a number of challenges, and noted that the pandemic would have a tremendous impact on the vulnerable states.

“We have our fragile economies, dependent primarily on tourism, which has been devasted by this pandemic.  We have to face external economic shocks; I believe some of us are facing…the blacklisting…from the EU as we try to create another niche for our economies.

“We have, indeed, limited access to funding; we have been told we have graduated to middle income level and we don’t qualify in terms of grant funding.  We have limited fiscal space and indeed we face every year the scourge of climate change in the forms of hurricanes.  And so, as we battle with all of these, we are now faced with the pandemic of COVID-19,” he lamented.

UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq, said at this time of greater global uncertainty, the Caribbean had never needed the level of assistance it required today.

“The region not only requires adequate fiscal space and resources to embark on a comprehensive socio-economic response to COVID, but it also needs technical expertise to effectively target the most vulnerable now, as well as in the longer-term as they seek to restore livelihoods and income security following this crisis.

Dr. Walcott urged the region’s development partners to assist the Eastern Caribbean in addressing a number of challenges which were now being exacerbated by COVID-19. (Stock Photo)

“We have heard the resounding call from CARICOM countries for urgent debt restructuring or forgiveness.  We have also heard the most recent appeal for urgent attention to be given to Caribbean SIDS and for “moral leadership” made by CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, last week during a TV interview. Please count on the UN to help garner a wider support,” Mr. Trebucq stated.

He noted that the MRP and the appeal were aimed at supporting the ongoing advocacy by the Eastern Caribbean states for differential treatment, based on their vulnerability, and to support their access to more resources.  

Describing the MRP as an integrated strategy of 11 UN agencies coming as one, he explained that the key objectives were to: contain the spread of COVID-19; minimize its social and economic impacts and ensure resilient recovery; as well as promote the protection and well-being of the most vulnerable.

It will be implemented through eight pillars, including Health and Wellness; Food and Nutrition Security; Economic Recovery and Livelihoods; Education; and Social Protection.

The UN Resident Coordinator said that to date, the UN had responded to the immediate needs of the Caribbean by repurposing and mobilizing resources, up to US$7 million for the COVID-19 response.  

He added that countries will also benefit from the refocusing of US$1 million grant per country from the India-UN Partnership Fund for COVID-19 response, while USAID has already contributed to this UN response in the Eastern Caribbean.

“It cannot be business as usual.  I, therefore,make this urgent appeal for international solidarity for the needs of Eastern Caribbean SIDS to be given the highest priority,” Mr. Trebucq urged.

Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Allen Chastanet, and Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, also made presentations during the launch via ZOOM.

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