Focus on security, climate change at UK-Caribbean forum

26 May 2023

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has visited the Caribbean for the UK-Caribbean Ministerial Forum which was dominated by talks on climate change and security.

The 11th iteration of the forum, which was held in Jamaica on 18 May 2023, saw attendance of Foreign Ministers and other officials from across the region.

They also discussed Windrush and its contribution to the UK, trade in goods and services, financing for development, food security, health, education, and the situation in Haiti.

“This is a milestone year in the history of UK relations with countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. While I look forward to celebrating our close bonds of friendship and family, I am also here to renew and enhance our ties for the years ahead,” said Cleverly ahead of the trip.

Forum co-chair, Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith highlighted some of the current issues faced by the region including “the lack of effective financing for development, the lack of fiscal space due to high levels of indebtedness, and the inability to access grant and concessional financing due to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) criteria for graduation”.

Ahead of the trip, the UK government put out a press release indicating that Cleverly would announce some £15mn (US$18.6mn) in funding for a Violence Prevention Partnership to address organised crime, and up to £7mn (US$8.7mn) to boost efforts to combat climate change.

“People from Caribbean nations have played a disproportionate and positive impact in the UK, economically, socially, culturally and that’s not just over the last few decades, that is over centuries and so we must take full advantage of those long-standing ties by working bilaterally, by working regionally, and by working multilaterally,” said Cleverly.

At the meeting, Caribbean foreign ministers called on the UK and other developed nations to do more to cut their emissions and increase support for small island states and coastal developing states in the efforts to build climate resilience.

“As we get closer to COP28, we must face the looming climate crisis with a sense of realism and a spirit of innovation to achieve our sustainable development goals and, ultimately, meet our target of keeping average global temperature rise below 1.5 degree Celsius. The window of opportunity closes with every passing day,” said Dominican Foreign Minister, Vince Henderson.

He noted that while the CARIFORUM-UK economic partnership agreement ensures continuity of preferential trade for the region with the UK, the “key to the success of this agreement will be the ability to take full advantage of the opportunities that it provides, which will include addressing the capacity constraints”.

The forum also saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the bloc and the UK, on the establishment of a more concrete consultation and cooperation mechanism.

The MoU, which was signed by CARICOM Secretary-General, Carla Barnett and Foreign Secretary Cleverly, aims to deepen “the level of mutual understanding, and building on shared values and support for the rules-based international system; anchored in the United Nations Charter and International Law”.

In practical terms, it will serve to strengthen consultations concerning bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest; promoting the expansion and diversification of trade and investment flows based on existing agreements, including the UK-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement; and coordinating and advocating on addressing climate change.

A section also speaks to collaboration on improving access to finance for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), strengthening collaboration on regional security and governance, and fostering cooperation in the field of disaster risk reduction.

The document outlines that the Ambassador of the UK accredited to CARICOM and the Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations of the CARICOM Secretariat will co-chair the Mechanism, with meetings between the two sides held at least once a year.

Cleverly’s visit was the first visit by a UK foreign secretary to the Caribbean since 2017, and the forum was the first in person staging since 2016. The Foreign Secretary reiterated that he has long advocated for the UK to meaningfully engage with the region and avoid falling into what he termed to as “comfortable inaction”.

This is a lead article from Caribbean Insight, The Caribbean Council’s flagship fortnightly publication. From The Bahamas to French Guiana, each edition consists of country-by-country analysis of the leading news stories of consequence, distilling business and political developments across the Caribbean into a single must-read publication. Please follow the links on the right-hand side of this page to subscribe, or access a free trial.

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