Americas

Caribbean leaders ask U.N. for help in reducing poverty

Grenada’s Foreign Minister, Nickolas Steele, addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014.
Grenada’s Foreign Minister, Nickolas Steele, addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. AP

Caribbean leaders meeting for the United Nations General Assembly said a lack of favorable financing options is hampering their countries’ efforts to reduce poverty and spur development.

Their concerns come as the sun-kissed region once again begins to enjoy positive economic growth.

“Our GDP per capita has increased, and as a result of that we are penalized by no longer being able to access these loans at concessionary rates,” Grenada’s Foreign Minister Nickolas Steele told the Miami Herald Monday before he addressed the U.N. General Assembly later in the evening.

The issue, Steele was expected to say in his address, “must be counted among the many challenges of our time.”

The need for more financial assistance is among a handful of issues being broached by Caribbean leaders during the high-level debate that opened last Wednesday and ends Tuesday. Other issues raised included climate change and economic growth.

“This year we were quite pleased to see that some of the issues that are specific to us — climate change, renewable energy and the economic benefits or downfalls from that — are and were on the agenda,” Steele said. “For small-island developing states, any and every natural disaster is a national disaster for us in terms of the effects.”

Ten years ago, when Hurricane Ivan hit Grenada, the eastern Caribbean nation had damages worth “200 percent of GDP,” Steele told world leaders.

“Even as we are here, this week, Grenada was plagued with unseasonably high rains that have caused numerous landslides. The value of damages is yet to be determined,” he said.

Caribbean government representatives told U.N. members that they will remain engaged on climate change and growth, while pressing for greater Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) assistance for vulnerable small-island developing states.

A July conference on development financing is “critically important for ensuring that a meaningful and effective global partnership … will become a reality” to implement a post-2015 development agenda, said Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who addressed the assembly on Friday.

The MDGs are a development-focused poverty-reduction agenda set by the U.N. in 2000 and is due to expire at the end of next year, with replacement by a post-2015 agenda that the U.N. currently is negotiating. While Caribbean members have reached some of the goals, a recent MDG report projects that few will meet all of the targets.

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