UNITED NATIONS (CMC): Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has called on the global community to do more to assist small island developing states (SIDS), including his own struggling island, to overcome issues that he said in the main were not their own doing.
Addressing, virtually, the United Nations High Level Political Forum SIDS session on Sustainable Development, Browne made reference to what he termed the rising tide of debt that is a major burden for SIDS.
He likened the situation to a “weighted vest dragging us further down”, adding “it is not the life jacket it pretends to be.”
“We are asked every year to demonstrate, remonstrate and find new ways to justify our call for debt relief,” Browne said, noting that despite the very best efforts, solutions to lift island nations from the debt crisis remain out of reach.
“To be perfectly frank, these are all rehearsals for what is really needed. The things nobody ever wants us to say out loud, but I am going to say them anyway.
“We need grant-based finance. We need debt forgiveness. We need others to know that these requests do not constitute handouts. Most of all, we need to be believed and we need you to honour your commitment to us,” Browne told the forum convened annually to seek solutions to many of the problems faced by SIDS that limit their ability to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Browne is the co-chair on the High Level Panel of the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI), which has been identified as a practical tool for developed countries to get an accurate measure of the needs of these countries so as to determine the scale of assistance they require.
“It provides the unbiased justification SIDS need for international financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF to no longer simply ignore our light when we are inevitably struck by crises beyond our control,” Browne noted, saying, however, that the MVI is not yet where it needs to be, but called it absolutely necessary.
“We will be banging on the door for another 30 years without it. In the face of multiple global shocks and new and emerging shocks, 30 more years we simply do not have.”
Antigua and Barbuda will host the fourth SIDS Conference next year, and Browne said it provides a major opportunity for island nations to accelerate the process towards the future that their countries need.
He said it will “ensure that the next 10-year blueprint for SIDS is one that delivers ‘resilient prosperity’ for all SIDS”.