By MALCOLM STRACHAN
THE great and the good are coming to The Bahamas this week - with a CARICOM meeting due to be held from February 15—17.
Among the guests will be a high-powered delegation from the US, including John Kerry, the former presidential candidate who now serves as the US special presidential envoy for climate, while Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, will be here in The Bahamas too for the event.
There is both a celebratory note to the occasion – both CARICOM and The Bahamas turn 50 this year so there is a sense of marking the moment – and an urgency.
The two biggest items on the agenda are at opposite extremes – one very much a global issue, the other of a far more local impact. The first is climate change, the second is Haiti.
There has not been much of a public build-up yet from our own leaders for the meeting. The Bahamas High Commissioner to CARICOM, Leslia Miller- Brice MP, last week spoke in very general terms about the event, saying they would “underscore the urgency of regional cooperation on key issues of national and regional importance, such as energy security, climate change and food security, particularly in light of inflation and cost of living crisis at home and regionally”.
She said the country aimed to leave the meeting “more united, more connected and more focused on sound solutions that strengthen our region, uplift our communities and empower our people”.
All nice words, but no mention of specific goals there. That’s not unusual for diplomatic talk, of course.
Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis has made much of his efforts to make progress on the issue of climate change – particularly the issue of compensation for nations affected by the likes of hurricanes and rising water levels.
For him, you would imagine, climate change will be at the top of the agenda.
After the last United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt in November, one of the most notable changes was the establishment of a loss and damage fund to help vulnerable nations.
After that event, Mr Davis hailed the “great news”, saying: “We were able to succeed in getting that on the agenda.”
This CARICOM meeting represents an opportunity – alongside many other nations from our region who are affected – to reinforce our claims for both help, and for continued action to drive down emissions in larger nations.
As much as that might be the item on the agenda that people might find the most attractive to make progress on, the growing problems faced by Haiti may well eclipse that discussion.
At a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Friday, Haiti’s Foreign Minister, Jean Victor Geneus, pleaded for assistance, highlighting the state of the nation.
He said: “Prime Minister Ariel Henry had earlier stated our nation is at a turning point in history and we must show the rest of the world who we are, we Haitians, that we are determined to turn the situation around and see us engaged in the right direction.”
He added: “Armed gangs continue to maraud the streets of our capital and indeed of our country and quite frankly are blocking any hope of regular order or normal functioning in the country. Heinous criminal acts have been committed against the Haitian national police.
“Increasingly there is a deepening crisis in the country that cries out for humanitarian aid particularly in aid of the poorest and the most affected of our population.
The recent report of UNICEF for instance is pointing out that even schools at whatever level are the targets of these gangs. A child ten years old was killed in his classroom and I cannot begin to identify or describe the horror that these kids are subjected to.”
He repeated Haiti’s call for intervention, saying: “We have reached out … to ask that a specialised multinational force be allowed to stand with us and to buttress our own law and order.
“This is a request that is greatly supported by organised sectors of this country. The signers of the agreement on December 21, 2022, stated and I refer to that earlier statement that it has been unanimously recognised that security is the core of the problem here and elections must be held.”
He warned ominously: “Haiti is becoming a danger for the Caribbean and the region.”
In response, the OAS is creating a working group to report by February 22 on issues such as gun trafficking and that request for a multinational force to help police restore order.
What seems lacking, however, is a willingness to lead the way on that force. Various countries have suggested they would participate, but none has pressed for the action.
Politically, that’s hardly surprising – putting troops in harm’s way for an uncertain length of time and an ill-defined goal is difficult enough, but Haiti also currently lacks any form of democratically elected government after the terms of the last remaining senators expired.
The situation is dangerous – at one stage in January, 15 police officers were killed in 15 days. Protests by police saw security at the airport breached on a day when Bahamasair staff were unable to leave the confines of the airport and when Bahamian diplomatic staff were stopped and relieved of their vehicle and weapons by the police – prompting their withdrawal from the country.
But as Sir Ronald Sanders, the ambassador to the OAS from Antigua and Barbuda and columnist for The Tribune, said at Friday’s meeting: “They must not feel alone and abandoned. To the extent that each of our countries has the resources and the capacity to help, so must we act and act urgently.”
The Bahamian permanent representative to the OAS, Donovan Neymour, responded by saying: “Haiti is on fire and needs more than just buckets of water that the international community has provided to date.”
He cautioned: “What is not an option is for the OAS to do nothing … we reiterate the need for ensuring our efforts also to target the trafficking in guns, persons, contraband that continues to fuel the misery in Haiti and within the wider region.”
So as the CARICOM nations gather this week, there may be high purposes on a global level – but there will be an ongoing discussion of: “What do we do about Haiti?”
Failing to help Haiti will only see a further breakdown of society there – and some might shrug and say well that isn’t our problem, but it is. We need to help Haiti for the sake of people there, but also because those problems won’t stop at the Haitian border.
This week’s CARICOM meeting is very timely for other issues – but it is urgent for Haiti.
birdiestrachan 1 month, 1 week ago
Help Haiti how? No Bahamian blood should be shed for Haiti Haitians and their decendants should volunteer ,
birdiestrachan 1 month, 1 week ago
NAPOLEON army COULD NOT win the war in Haiti ,
Flyingfish 1 month, 1 week ago
I mean Napoleon didn't have aircraft so it was a bit more difficult back then. You can certainly massacre Haiti if you want to using 19th century tactics and ethos. Pacifying a potentially hostile and lawless jurisdiction with 21st century tactics and ethos is our issue.
ExposedU2C 1 month, 1 week ago
Horsehead Kerry and Fidel Castro, Jr. LMAO
K4C 1 month, 1 week ago
Not exactly the best people to be helping out in Haiti
Trudeau a man who can't recall how many times he dressed up in blackface and is guilty of many ethics violations here in Canada
Kerry who is way way beyond his best before date, and out of touch with reality
Flyingfish 1 month, 1 week ago
Better than doing it ourselves. Although Blackface trudope must go, shame Canadians elected him again.
Sign in to comment
Or login with: