Mr. Rudd explained, during a meeting with Prime Minister Douglas in Basseterre, last week, that his country is committed to an overall program of engagement with the region, in the vicinity of US$17 million, to assist programs which are being rolled out in such areas as climate change, economic resilience, training, employment, governance and scholarships in areas such as international relations and diplomacy.
In remarks to Mr. Rudd, Prime Minister Douglas described Australia as a committed partner to St. Kitts and Nevis and the Caribbean Community. Douglas told the Foreign Minister that his country always look forward to opportunities like these, where “we can exchange ideas with the view of strengthening our ties and exploring areas for further cooperation with each other.”
Douglas praised the Australian Foreign Minister for his country’s commitment to earthquake stricken Haiti despite Australia’s own widespread flooding last year.
“We are pleased Australia continues to cooperate with CARICOM in alleviating the plight of the Haitian people,” said Prime Minister Douglas who noted that climate change is an important issue for the Caribbean countries as well as other small island states.
In response, Mr. Rudd told Prime Minister Douglas that Australia takes its relationship with the Caribbean very seriously and pointed to the Memorandum of Understanding that
Australia under his leadership as Prime Minister signed with CARICOM in Trinidad andTobago in 2009, Prior to 2009 Australia’s engagement with CARICOM was on the thin side and subsequent to the signing of the Memorandum two years ago, the support has expanded significantly.
Rudd said Australia did not anticipate the recent earthquake disaster in Haiti which has been phenomenal and “we have been a reasonable contributor to the recovery efforts in the region of US$26 million with an additional US$26 million from the Australian public.”
“The important thing is that our contribution to Haiti is not just a promised but every dollar is being delivered within the first 12 months and this has been recognized by the UN and the Special Commission that has been established headed by (Former US President) Bill Clinton and the Haitian Government for the delivery of foreign assistance,” said Mr. Rudd.
Mr. Rudd’s first engagement with the Caribbean on the issue of climate change was during the period as the Prime Minister in Port of Spain, Trinidad when a lot of work was done on securing climate change finance for small island developing states in particularly the proposal for a US$30 billion fast start fund for such countries around the world which shaped the outcome at Copenhagen in 2009 and incorporated within the form of the United Nations machinery in Cancun, Mexico a few months ago.
Rudd was in St, Kitts for last week’s Meeting of CARICOM Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Rudd’s meeting with PM Douglas was held on Wednesday 4th May, 2011.