Op-Ed

Canada and the Caribbean, natural partners more than ever

After decades of steady global growth and prosperity, the recent months have confronted us with the challenge of a generation. Today, nations around the world are reckoning with a pandemic the contours of which we are just beginning to grasp.

But while the effects of COVID-19 have tested our collective sense of security and stability, they have also underscored the need for international solidarity.

In times like these, it is easy to turn inwards – to believe that continued lockdown and self-interested policies are inevitable consequences of a global crisis. But what has become clear is that, in fact, the opposite is true.

Overcoming this virus will mean strengthening the ties that bind us – recommitting ourselves to the rules-based international order that has seen us through crises before, and which will allow us to prevail again.

That is why later this month, Canada is running for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Through our principled approach and ideas, we know that Canada can make a difference and advance the work of an institution that finds renewed relevance in today’s uncertain world.

Core to our platform is the concept of inclusive economic security, grounded in the knowledge that there cannot be sustainable peace and security until we achieve a prosperity whose benefits are felt by all.

As our world rebuilds in the months and years to come, we will doubtless see financial constraints tightened, food security imperilled, and supply chains disrupted. Failing to attend to these issues will only delay recovery and risk losing a generation to economic desperation.

That is precisely why Prime Ministers Trudeau and Holness together with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres recently convened a high-level international meeting of more than 50 world leaders to address the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 and advanced concrete solutions to counter its effects on the most vulnerable, including small island developing states.

Canada and Caribbean nations have long been natural partners.

Our geographic proximity, along with our connections to the Commonwealth and Francophonie provide us important opportunities for partnership. And our shared commitments to democracy, the rule of law, and human rights underscore and enrich our friendship.

Our people-to-people ties bind us together.

Almost one million people of Caribbean descent call Canada home and more than two million Canadians travel to the Caribbean annually.

It is our people that are the heart of this relationship – be they the diaspora, students, workers or visitors.

Canada knows well the vulnerability of Caribbean states. And this is why we have always been resolute in our support, whether in the aftermath of the 2017 and 2019 hurricanes or today in context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In crisis, Canada has always stood by its Caribbean partners.

For example, Canada is supporting the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to work with regional organizations to assess needs, procure supplies and get them delivered as soon as possible.

We are collaborating with partner organizations in the region to fill immediate gaps while providing training on best practices through our work with PAHO, the United Nations Development Programme, and UN Women.

Canada is also supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency to purchase and deliver diagnostic equipment and test kits to Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

But as we work together to address the challenges posed by COVID-19, we cannot lose sight of the fact that climate change remains a real, and urgent threat.

Canada believes that global solutions to climate change are necessary while at the same time recognizing that local perspectives are crucial.

These voices are too seldom reflected in international and multilateral discussions, and Canada will seek to bring them to the fore, knowing that lasting solutions to issues of climate must bring into the conversation those who are most affected.

We remain committed to bolstering the climate and economic resilience of Caribbean countries.

More than half a century ago, in the wake of the second World War, the world was faced with a rebuilding project of unprecedented proportion. So much hung in the balance, and the future remained nebulous and uncertain.

Faced with this monumental task, the international community chose to turn outwards, building institutions like the United Nations and the Bretton Woods system.

Their architecture continues to underpin today’s international order.

The framers of these systems, among them many Canadians, knew that we go farther when we go together.

They chose openness over isolationism, cooperation over rivalry, and dialogue over confrontation.

Today, we must make that choice again. And as the world rebuilds anew, the Caribbean region will have no closer ally than Canada.

• François-Philippe Champagne is Canada’s minister of foreign affairs. Karina Gould is Canada’s minister of international development.

 

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