Prime Minister Harris’ Remarks to Declare Diplomatic Week 2019 Officially Open

Your Excellency Sir S.W. Tapley Seaton, our Distinguished Governor-General;
Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and Aviation, Premier Mark Brantley;
Other Members of the Federal Cabinet; Permanent Secretaries; Excellencies of the
Diplomatic and Consular Corps; special guests and well-wishers; ladies and
gentlemen, media representatives.
A Special Good Morning to all!
It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to the Team Unity Government’s
Fourth Celebration of Diplomatic Week, a celebration which is indeed very dear to
my heart, having had the privilege to spearhead the inaugural Diplomatic Week in
the year 2007 when I served as Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is comforting to
know that my pioneering initiative of 2007 has lived on and continues to be
relevant and salient today.
I am delighted that we are able to welcome such a large group of non-resident
representatives from across the globe, including Africa, Asia, Europe, and North
and South America, to our shores for this special occasion. I know that you will
find to be of immense benefit the activities so ably organized by the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, and I ask that you convey the warmest fraternal greetings from the
Government and people of our beloved Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis to your
respective Heads of State and Government. We highly appreciate the very friendly
relationships with all our diplomatic partners and your efforts to strengthen these
bonds of friendship. We look forward to creating new and expanding opportunities
for cooperation. I wish you a rewarding tour of duty as you continue to serve your
countries with distinction.
It also warms my heart to welcome home our Heads of Missions and Honorary
Consuls who continue to give yeoman’s service to our country in their respective
jurisdictions. Thank you for your unwavering efforts in helping us to not only
expand the diplomatic footprint of St. Kitts and Nevis, but also ensuring that our
Nationals in the Diaspora have someone to turn to in times of difficulty. Thank
you for living up to our country’s motto, “Country Above Self,” as you continue
to serve thousands of miles away from your families, and in climates that differ
considerably to the tropical climate we enjoy year-round in this twin-island
paradise.
Let me invite each and every one of you to stand and be recognized at this time.
Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to give a round of applause to these outstanding
men and women of our soil! (You may be seated.)
I want to publicly pledge my Government’s support as you continue to enhance our
relations in the global theatre so that they may yield even more positive and
tangible results nationally. Eight years (2001 to 2008) as Minister of Foreign
Affairs have entrenched my view that there is no foreign policy without domestic
policy. Put another way: our foreign policy agenda must help us to advance the
quality of life of our people and externalize the values which our society and our
region hold dear. In the ever-changing world, we need a reminder of what really is
important to us first and foremost and how our partners can be of assistance to us
in satisfying our people’s expectations.
Diplomatic Week 2019 is being celebrated under the theme “Securing a Resilient
Future through Strategic Diplomacy and Effective Dialogue.”
Indeed, it was over 35 years ago when we attained Independence on September
19th, 1983 that our nation and its leaders set out on a new frontier to chart this
country’s destiny and secure a resilient future for all our people. We were elated
that many of you were able to join us in the grand celebration of our nationhood
last September. Let me at this time also express immense gratitude for the
congratulatory messages received from your Heads of State and Government on
that auspicious occasion.
Thirty-five years ago, as the world’s newest independent sovereign nation and the
smallest independent country in the Western Hemisphere, the Federation of St.
Kitts and Nevis was quickly steeped in strategic diplomacy, joining the
Commonwealth of Nations on September 19th, 1983 and becoming its 48th
member. St. Kitts and Nevis also joined the United Nations on September 23rd,
1983 as its 158th member, and the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) on October 27th, 1983 as its 161st member. Our country
also forthwith formed important alliances, establishing diplomatic relations and
effective dialogue with the United Kingdom and several of our Caribbean
neighbours on September 19th, 1983, as well as with both the United States of
America and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) on September 20th, 1983, with
the Republic of China (Taiwan) on September 23rd, 1983, with Canada on October
11th, 1983, and with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on October 31st, 1983,
among several nation states.
Passport – Outward Manifestation of Our Citizenship
To date, St. Kitts and Nevis boasts visa-free access to 158 countries. Our passport
ranks 24th in the world, 1st in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
(OECS), and 2nd in the Caribbean behind Barbados. Since 2015, our Government
has realized a new High Commission in Ottawa, Canada; formal diplomatic
relations with over 30 countries, visa waiver agreements with nearly 20 countries,
and also a visa renewal interview waiver for qualified St. Kitts and Nevis passport
holders who want to visit the United States.
These significant diplomatic achievements coupled with impressive medical and
socioeconomic advances – such as St. Kitts and Nevis being
Nevis is heard and listened to on so many of the most pressing issues of our time,
not least on the immense and alarming challenge of climate change…”
Such was the case during last September’s launch of the Defeat-NCD Partnership
at the United Nations when I took the opportunity to draw the attention of the
international community to the inextricable link between climate change and the
global rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and
hypertension, both of which cause most of the NCD deaths around the world,
individually and in combination.
The stark statistics featured on the Defeat-NCD Partnership’s website drive home
the urgent need to defeat non-communicable diseases, particularly in developing
countries. Consider that some 48 percent of NCD-related premature deaths occur
in low and lower-middle income countries. Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, NCDs
account for 83 percent of all deaths in our Federation.
At the same time, kidney disease is an increasing health burden and a high priority
NCD. The Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis are therefore grateful for
the continued support of the Republic of China (Taiwan), which has provided
support for our Haemodialysis Unit at the Joseph N. France General Hospital. The
Taiwanese-funded Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) programme was launched in
2017 at our Federation’s 17 health centres and is now in its second phase. Let’s
give a round of applause to the Taiwanese government, which has made it possible
for more kidney patients to receive life-saving dialysis right here in St. Kitts and
Nevis.
I look forward to chair a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Defeat-NCD
Partnership during the 72nd Session of the World Health Organization’s World
Health Assembly taking place in Geneva, Switzerland this coming May. I will do
this in my capacity as the lead Head for Health and Human Development in the
Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM’s) Quasi Cabinet. This will present an
invaluable opportunity not just to preside, but also for me to delineate the
challenges and the global efforts required to mitigate them.
We have chosen “Securing a Resilient Future through Strategic Diplomacy and
Effective Dialogue” as the theme for Diplomatic Week 2019 because my
administration is cognizant that we have been able to achieve some successes on
account of our global partnerships with organizations and Governments such as
yours. So I take the opportunity to thank those who have assisted us in our
endeavour to develop our economy, improve the standard of living of our country
and pave the way for a better tomorrow for all of our people. We continue to
entreat international support to improve and sustain our socioeconomic
advancements.
As you may be aware, many of our national initiatives to secure resilience continue
to be attacked and undermined through unilateral restrictive policies such as derisking and blacklisting, which provide an impediment to further development by
threatening our country’s financial inclusion and our people’s financial access to
the global financial system. Such policies create urgent developmental challenges,
particularly for us in the Caribbean as research published by the World Bank in
November 2015 found that the Caribbean “seems to be the region most severely
affected” by the practice of terminating correspondent banking relationships.
Notably, 69 percent of the local/regional banks that were surveyed reported a
moderate or significant decline in correspondent banking relationships.
This has sweeping implications, including on remittances and the incidence of
poverty. Dilip Ratha, the Manager of the Migration and Remittances Unit at the
World Bank, found that, in 2013, migrants from developing countries sent $413
billion back to their homelands. That’s more than three times the amount ($135
billion) of aid that developing countries received that year. Consider, too, that St.
Kitts and Nevis and some other Small Island Developing States have been
graduated or upgraded based on GDP per capita, making us no longer eligible for
official development assistance and concessional financing. This disregards that
our GDP is vulnerable, particularly to climate change-related exogenous shocks
such as hurricanes. We contribute very little to climate change yet we bear the
brunt of it. With the deck stacked against us, we continue to appeal for your
Government’s support and call for greater consultation and understanding
regarding our national development and poverty alleviation efforts to uplift our
people, especially as we continue to comply with international standards.
Today, at this Opening Ceremony, I echo the words that António Guterres, the
United Nations’ Secretary-General, spoke during his opening remarks at his first
press conference of 2019. He said, “As we look to the challenges we face – from
climate change to migration to terrorism to the downsides of globalization – there
is no doubt in my mind that global challenges require global solutions. No country
can do it alone. We need today multilateralism more than ever.”
The case for multilateralism – that is, several different countries or organizations
working together to achieve common goals – has been at its most convincing and
prominent in recent times. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has made
the call for a “new multilateralism,” one that is dedicated to improving lives
around the globe. French President Emmanuel Macron has called multilateralism
“the rule of law.” And German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared at the World
Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland held in January
that, “Multilateral institutions are indispensable if we want to live well in the world
of tomorrow.” She added, “Commitment to multilateralism is essential and a
precondition for shaping tomorrow,” while further noting, “Anything else will lead
us into destruction.”
As the leader of a Small Island Developing State faced with urgent developmental
challenges, I concur.
A little over a month ago, St. Kitts and Nevis hosted and I chaired the 30th InterSessional Conference of Heads of State and Government of our beloved
CARICOM region. This Conference provided another opportunity for my
Government to dialogue with our regional and international partners, to assess the
best way to tackle the challenges that confront our region. I am pleased that there
will be a segment later this morning that will consider regional and sub-regional
perspectives to securing resilience, as we chart our development course.
One major element of securing resilience is ensuring stability and peace.
Therefore, the current political crisis in Venezuela has been the focus of multiple
regional and international interactions. Indeed, in my capacity as Chair of
CARICOM, I have attended several meetings on this issue via videoconference
and in person in Guyana, at the United Nations, and in Uruguay and Ecuador. My
Government believes that talking is always a good starting point. This is the very
reason why my Government supports the Montevideo Mechanism, which
encourages dialogue and mutual understanding amongst all actors, in an effort to
restore peace and order in Venezuela. As Chairman of CARICOM, I pledge to
continue making every effort to assist with bringing urgent, but peaceful resolution
to this volatile situation. We have the collective responsibility of ensuring that our
Caribbean remains a zone of peace. Escalation of the political and social impasse
in Venezuela threatens peace and security in the region.
It is my earnest prayer that, as the theme is discussed throughout the week, we
would all return to our respective Missions with a renewed hope, vision and
mission to become even more positive promoters of dialogue and agents of peace
in our world.
I therefore take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our
diplomatic friends and partners, as well as the various international organizations.
We appreciate your continued assistance as we work towards accomplishing the
Sustainable Development Goals and creating a better life for all who call this land
we love home. We look forward to even more collaboration and cooperation as we
keep striving to fulfill the mandate that has been given to us by the great people of
this nation.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
As I conclude, I wish to commend the Honourable Mark Brantley, Minister of
Foreign Affairs and Aviation, for his exceptional stewardship of the Ministry, as
well as his hardworking team, which is led by Permanent Secretary Ms. Kaye
Bass. They have all done an outstanding job in coordinating this week’s activities.
I extend best wishes to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Aviation for a
successful Diplomatic Week 2019, and wish all participants a productive and
enjoyable Week, as I declare Diplomatic Week 2019 officially open.
May 2019 be a year filled with peace, prosperity, progress and happiness for each
and every country represented here today!
I thank you.