Day 3 of the Global Commodities Forum – the final day – consisted of a High-Level Roundtable in which some of the themes of the previous two days were revisited, but with fresh input from leaders in various fields.
The participants were: Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica; Commonwealth Secretary General, Dame Patricia Scotland; President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Hyginus “Gene” Leon; UNCTAD Deputy Secretary General, Isabelle Durant; Head of Division , Latin American and the Caribbean, European Investment Bank (EIB), Kristin Lang; and Secretary General of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti.
Prime Minister Skerrit acknowledged that climate change and external shocks continue to retard the development of small island developing states. In reference to his own country,
Mr. Skerrit said that out of crisis and catastrophe Dominica had created the Crisis Resilience Agency for Dominica (CREAD) to initiate and lead strategic responses across sectors.
He said that Dominica was blessed with an abundance of clean ground water resources, and could supply water scarce countries like Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda with millions of gallons of water on an hourly basis.
Dr. Leon cautioned that, “We have to recognize that development is a holistic concept”, adding that, “that concept underpins everything we do when we talk in terms of vulnerabilities.”
He said the existential threat that we face now because of climate change is precisely because we have ignored one part of that eco system.
In her presentation, Ms. Durant stated that dependence on commodities is a persistent phenomenon which affects developing countries most acutely. She pointed out that the most recent UNCTAD report indicated that in 2019, there were 110 countries which depended on commodities.
Ms. Durant said that UNCTAD was a partner to countries and to the international community in the search for solutions to challenges. She stressed the need to diversify economies.
Dame Patricia noted that of the 110 commodity-dependent countries, 33 were part of the Commonwealth family. For a further 19 Commonwealth countries, 20-60 per cent of their exports are accounted for by commodities.
Acknowledging that COVID-19 has disrupted and set back development gains, she said that the Commonwealth Secretariat is deeply committed to assisting member countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Mr. Chikoti said that, “The pandemic has exacerbated the vulnerability of commodity-dependent countries.” He expressed the view that technology and innovation play a central role in transforming economies, and can also assist in mitigating climate change and fostering sustainable development. He suggested that regional cooperation in trade facilitation can assist developing countries. Mr. Chikoti is also of the view that diversity remains crucial in building resilience.
Ms. Lang said that it is recognized that more needs to be done to explained that the EIB is working to support energy transition, and leading on climate action and environmental sustainability.
She advised that development financers need to look at how projects are implemented, for example, whether people are being displaced. Ms. Lang stated that there was a need to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to climate change in order to protect the vulnerable. “We need finance, we need innovation, we need to work together,” she said.
Professor Clive Landis, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, moderated the roundtable along with journalist Maggie Mutesi in Geneva.