Guyana President slams developed countries for their attitudes towards SIDS

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Guyana Tuesday criticised developed countries for their lack of support for small island developing states (SIDS) as they recover from the impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

President Dr Irfaan Ali, participating in a panel discussion on the second day of the four-day 15th Session of the Ministerial Summit of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 15) here, said SIDS were also “forgotten as they seek to come to grips with natural disasters linked to climate change.”

Speaking on the theme “Building a more prosperous development path – matching the scale of the moment”, the Guyana Head of State said he does not believe the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with climate change setbacks, necessitated any change in the development path, but rather the weaknesses in the current system needed to be fixed.

 “Is the world recovering? No, the world can’t when developed countries are more than 80 per cent vaccinated, while the developing countries are less and below three per cent,” he told the panel that also included  the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, and UNCTAD’s Secretary General, Rebeca Grynspan.

Ali told the panel that he does not believe that the world is not recovering, noting that “only the developed countries (are).”

He said many of the developed countries were pushing for the isolation of small states as part of their recovery efforts and that this is demonstrated in the differentiation of vaccines and the restrictions imposed on people because of their vaccine choices.

Ali said that the pandemic’s singular most important lesson is that the world is interconnected, but berated the insulated and isolated policies being imposed by the developed countries.

“It is not that the developing countries did not try to get the vaccines. Vaccines were not available…we were not asking for hand outs, or preferential treatment we were asking for fair treatment and we were not granted fair treatment. We were left on the back burner and we continue to be left there,” he charged.

Ali said to “ensure we were not left back we went to all sources and now we hear that if you tapped into a certain source you would not be able to do certain things”.

He dismissed suggestions by the developed countries that they had made significant progress in their recovery, noting that such a claim would be false when the developing countries are still facing low vaccination rates.

“Unless we are willing to address the issue of fairness and how these countries are treated this will be a prolonged problem for us,” Ali said, adding that he also believes that the issues are far beyond vaccination and it has become an economic and social problem.

He made reference to the significant loss of revenue by tourism-dependent Caribbean countries, some of which are also rebuilding from natural disasters experienced during the pandemic.

“The world is not recovering and if the developed countries believe they are recovering it will be a recovery that isolates the rest of the world,” Ali said, adding that he also believes that the institutions tasked with multilateralism seemed to be failing.

“Are the institutions that will allow it [multilateralism] to work, are they delivering? Are they geared towards what we want to achieve or is there manipulation in the system?” he asked, observing that there is a lot of talk about a new commitment, even while old commitments were still not being honoured.

“Together we have to send this message very strong that we are an equal partner and we are prepared to do what is right. To speak about a new path in the context of what is happening would be giving a free pass to those who have not allowed the existing system to work,” the Guyana President told the discussion.

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