Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


January 12, 2022 - Washington, DC

Prime Minister Harris

Excellencies, good morning.

Honorable Prime Minister, I am deeply honored to welcome you to this virtual Hall of the Americas and since you are joining us so early in the year, I extend my best wishes for a happy, healthy and productive New year to you and the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. Allow me at the outset to congratulate you on your stellar stewardship of your country during this critical moment of the pandemic, which has been so challenging for so many of us. I join the Pan American Health Organization in commending you in the success of your vaccine roll-out which has resulted in nearly 80% of your citizens vaccinated and only 28 deaths reported as of January 2022. According to the IMF, St. Kitts and Nevis entered the COVID 19 pandemic in a position of fiscal strength, and projects a 10 percent GDP growth for St. Kitts and Nevis in 2022, dependent on a strong tourism recovery. And so, I commend you and your government and wish you continued success in 2022. Congratulations also on your designation as the 2021 person of the year by the St. Kitts and Nevis Observer.

I further commend the government of St. Kitts and Nevis for putting forward the timely theme of resilience during its tenure as chair of the Permanent Council over the next three months. The unprecedented global crisis posed by the COVID 19 pandemic, and the ongoing threat of natural disasters have given our region reason for pause and have accelerated the need to reflect on our resilience building agenda- what it means concretely and how best to evaluate the resilience of the countries of this region, as we work towards our recovery.
I believe that this recalibration of what it means to build resilient societies must have PEOPLE at the center. Our citizens must be the priority of our decision-making as we rebuild our societies in the post covid era. For too long, far too many have been left behind and the pandemic has laid bare this reality. This is the moment when our region and its leaders must recommit to ending inequality once and for all.

I am equally convinced that our resilience-building agenda begins with strong and effective governance and public institutions operating with the highest standards of transparency and accountability. To this end, I strongly believe that every policy must be viewed through the lens of resilience. How can we properly measure the costs and benefits of public policies? How can these policies best prepare a country for future shocks such as a pandemic or increasing and recurring natural disasters?

Prime Minister, I committed to work with our Caribbean member states on their resilience building agenda and today I re-affirm that commitment. For many of our member states with high levels of indebtedness, building economic resilience means reducing high debt burdens and high debt to GDP ratios. This requires comprehensive external debt relief. This is critical for combating poverty and spurring economic growth, and more urgently, to help the countries of our region confront the threat of climate change. Our member states too often face the choice of either investing scarce development dollars in essentials such as education, health care, and climate action or servicing their debt. If we are to truly set a path towards attaining economic resilience this critical issue must be addressed. I intend to continue to lend my voice to the many who are calling for urgent action in this area.

For your country, like others in the Caribbean, climate change poses an existential threat with rising sea levels, coastal erosion and natural disasters of greater frequency and intensity. I take this opportunity to recognize your leadership in this area and your announcement at the recently held COP 26 of reducing economy-wide CO2 emissions by 61% by 2030 with a proposal to achieve this target by switching to 100% renewable energy in electricity generation and the decarbonization of the transportation sector. This ambitious goal will no doubt require financing and partnerships from all sectors. I pledge the OAS’ continued support in helping to shape policies, programs and partnerships to propel progress in this area. In February, the OAS will convene the Ministers of Energy of the region together with the private sector within the context of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas to continue to advance our work in this regard. Going forward the OAS will expand our work in innovation and technology to include training and capacity building on climate related skills through the recently launched Youth Academy on Transformative Technologies, as well as our ongoing Human Development Programs. In 2022 we will accelerate our work to strengthen post-disaster business continuity in the tourism sector in partnership with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the Caribbean Hotel Tourism Association, the University of the West Indies and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. In our quest to ensure inclusive economic recovery, the OAS will begin a new project in the countries of the OECS on Women’s Economic Empowerment geared towards advancing women’s participation in the growing virtual economy, which will support your government’s diligent efforts to promote women’s autonomy and gender equality. These are just some of the ways in which the OAS intends to work with your government to help build resilience to future shocks.

In closing, I again express my deep appreciation for the ongoing friendship between St. Kitts & Nevis and the member states of the OAS. At this critical time in history, international cooperation is more important than ever. The need to secure strategic cooperation that can ensure win-win solutions to our common challenges is fundamental to our recovery. Your presence here today signals your country’s commitment to multilateral cooperation and collaboration. We thank you for taking the time to be with us today and we look forward to joining hands with you in ensuring that as we recover from this pandemic, every citizen is afforded the opportunity to realize their full potential, understanding that governing, governance, and resilience is about our people.