Rowley addresses issues of crime, climate change and reparations at UNGA

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Rowley addresses issues of crime, climate change and reparations at UNGA

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, has reiterated T&T’s commitment to doing its part to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Speaking at the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Thursday, Rowley said like crime, climate change is an existential threat, where small island developing nations are the most vulnerable. He called for a global stocktake at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (CoP 28).

“It is undeniable that climate change is an existential threat to all of us and does not recognise geographical boundaries. We also acknowledge that our people, the people of small island developing states, those who bear the least culpability for the climate crisis, are the ones who continue to be most disproportionately affected,” he said.

“The experts have told us that this past July was the hottest month on record and that global ocean temperatures were also at record levels. Most disconcertingly, we noted with justifiable alarm the recent dire warning by scientists that without ambitious climate action, we will exceed the critical 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature threshold. However, recent developments have shown that over-ambitious net-zero targets ought not to be forced upon small island nations.

“As we are called upon to be game changers, on this issue we have a responsibility for the survival and continued existence of life on this planet that no other generation of leaders has had. A Global stocktake at CoP28 is crucial. The stocktake must result in a road map that brings the world nearer to the track by ensuring that NDCs are aligned with the 1.5-degree temperature goal. Nationally determined contributions must become nationally implemented contributions. Trinidad and Tobago is in the process of implementing its commitment to installing some infrastructure for sustainable energy supply.”

During his 22 minute speech, Rowley also addressed the urgent need for member states to join forces to assist Haiti.

While applauding the efforts of countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, Bahamas and Jamaica offer to help, he also urged the international community to collaborate with Haiti towards the achievement of a credible solution to its current crisis.

Rowley said T&T remains fully committed to working with the Government of Haiti and all other stakeholders to arrive at an indigenous solution to comprehensively address the crisis in that country.

“Trinidad and Tobago, as it fights its own battles in this area (crime), remains deeply concerned over the developments in our fellow Caribbean country Haiti that are causing unimaginable, humanitarian, socio-economic and security consequences … Just like anywhere else in the world, Haiti deserves peace! Haiti deserves prosperity! Haiti deserves progress and Haiti deserves sustainability! Haiti requires the intervention of the United Nations now!”

Quoting lyrics from David Rudder’s 1993 song, Haiti, Rowley drove his point by saying, “I refuse to believe that we good people would forever turn our hearts and eyes away. Haiti, I’m sorry, we misunderstood you. One day we’ll turn our heads and look inside you.”

He added that to rebuild trust and reignite global solidarity there must be universal adherence to the Charter of the United Nations and International law.

Rowley also called for reparatory justice to be served as millions of people have suffered in the developing world because of the slavery and exploitation of African people.

He said: “The persistent under-development of Caribbean nations and so many others is directly attributed to the unpaid debt for centuries of enslavement and economic exploitation of African people by Europeans.

“The descendants of these people populate the Caribbean islands where they struggle manfully against the residual rigours of these historic crimes even as they are visited by the worst effects of climate change and the constant threat of exclusion from the world’s mainstream financial systems. In this regard, Trinidad and Tobago continues to call for bold decisive action to ensure reparatory justice for the untold suffering of millions of people in the developing world. We would welcome Africa’s support in this quest for justice.”

Rowley also celebrated the UNGA’s leadership by a “son of the soil of Trinidad and Tobago”, Ambassador Dennis Francis.

The PM also used his platform at the UNGA to address crime.

He said T&Ts ability to safely navigate our destiny to the harbour of sustainable development by 2030 is stymied by challenges and threats, some of which are existential.

“One such threat is the proliferation and use of illegal firearms in our society, which, just like in other jurisdictions, bring untold suffering to many families and communities and the nation as a whole. Only today Mr President, we experienced a loss of life of four members of one family killed by an assailant with an assault weapon. Mr President, this situation has worsened largely because of the accelerated commercial availability coupled with illegal trafficking from countries of manufacture into the almost defenceless territories of the Caribbean.”

“In a population of 1.4 million people Trinidad and Tobago experienced over 600 murders last year, 90% of which involved handguns and increasingly, assault weapons. Within our best efforts and a huge consumption of our already scarce resources, we have seen over 400 violent firearms-driven killings already this year. This is a crisis shared by almost all the Caribbean territories and is to be added to the challenges that stand in the way of any successful tackling of the Development Goals already identified.”