The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP
Caribbean Action 2030 Regional Conference on the Sustainable Development Goals
Caribbean Development: the 2030 Agenda in Perspective
June 28, 2017
The Honourable Carl Greenidge, Vice President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana
The Honourable Delmaude Ryan, Deputy Premier of Montserrat
Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade
Ministers of Government from the Region;
Miss Jessica Faieta, UN Assistant Secretary-General
UN Resident Coordinators and UNDP Resident
Representatives from the Region
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Professor Archibald McDonald, Pro Vice Chancellor and
Principal of the University of the West Indies
Specially Invited Guests
Senior Officials of participating countries
Senior Officials of the Government of Jamaica
Members of the Media
Other Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very pleased to be here at the opening of this very important regional conference on the 2030 Agenda and its seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This conference is timely and affords the opportunity for the Caribbean to take important decisions on the localisation and implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The SDGs are aligned with key development concerns and priorities of the region. These include economic growth, equity, security and safety, good health, world class education and training, good governance, innovation-driven societies, environmental sustainability and climate change response. Indeed, the Goals are considered a game changer for global development and for advancing the sustainable prosperity of our islands and coastal states.
Let us, for a moment, take a panoramic view of the Caribbean. What do we see? White and black sand beaches, fertile vegetation, tall and majestic mountains and other wonderful and diverse landforms such as, the Blue and John Crow Mountains here in Jamaica, the Pitons in St. Lucia, the Pitch Lake in Trinidad, Harrison Caves in Barbados, and I could go on. We will also see hardworking and industrious people, filled with not just warmth, but creativity and talent. This however, is only a piece of the picture. If we take a more microscopic view of the region, we will see some real challenges: low levels of economic growth, high levels of debt and rising poverty, unemployment, unattached youth, the increasing incidence of lifestyle diseases, and crime and violence.
Additionally, our countries have other intrinsic economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities due to small size. These include limited natural resource base, significant competition for land use, dependence of major economic sectors on the natural environment, fragile ecosystems, and a high concentration of people and infrastructure in coastal zones. Globally, fast technological progress and deepening globalization have created opportunities for some people, but profound challenges for others, including for young people who struggle to find work. Many countries are being affected by severe natural disasters, and with climate change we can expect worsening weather events. A significant number of countries are experiencing violent conflicts causing loss of life, major development setbacks, and the displacement of people on a huge scale; which also impact us directly and indirectly.
Is this the world we want to see in 2030? I will certainly tell you that this is not the legacy I want to leave behind. Allow me to share my vision of Jamaica and indeed the entire region. By 2030, there should be a Caribbean in which all have access to world class education and training, healthcare and equal opportunities in safe and just societies that are underpinned by trust, love, respect and tolerance. I also envision a Caribbean with healthy natural environments, lush vegetation and forests, clean air and water, technology driven innovation, economic growth in various sectors and prosperity for all.
As you would have observed, economic growth forms only a part of the picture. We are conscious that for development to be sustainable there must be focus on the social as well as the environmental dimensions. The SDGs are an important framework for reminding us of the interconnections that enable development to be sustainable.
In framing the Caribbean we want, I would like to make specific reference to Goal 8 – Decent work and economic growth and Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong institutions. Why does this matter? These goals are all encompassing as they recognise that the achievement of the SDGs will depend on promoting sustained and inclusive economic growth and full and productive employment and decent work for all in peaceful and just societies.
My fellow Caribbean citizens, I am sure that you agree with my vision of the Caribbean in 2030. We know that achieving a sustainable future for all requires extensive work and commitment:
- Strong national policies that integrate the three (3) pillars of development: economic, social and environmental. In other words, agricultural policy, for example, must include economic, social and environmental objectives, and must be formulated in such a way that negative impacts on the environment are either minimised or eliminated;
- Transformational leadership to ensure a coordinated, strategic approach;
- Capacity building and adequate financing across all sectors;
- Monitoring and evaluation capability, that is the ability to know what we are doing, and whether we are doing it right, in order to take corrective action where necessary, and to share best practices for continuous improvement and;
- Effective partnerships, inclusive of public private partnerships, civil society, academia, as well as our development partners.
In Jamaica, through the Partnership Council; among other initiatives; we are ensuring that the Opposition, private sector, unions, civil society and academia are engaged in the dialogue. I am aware that as part of this Regional Conference there will be a Youth Forum. I want to make a special appeal to the young people here. You have a critical role to play in the realisation of the SDGs and securing the future. As agents of change; bring your technology; ideas, knowledge and leadership to the table.
The SDGs, given their universal applicability, afford each country a platform from which to make their developmental aspirations a reality. When I was still here at UWI in 1994; the UN Conference on Sustainable Development took place in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders, at that time, committed to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Today, I am a part of that future generation.
While there are evident advancements in technology, reduction in extreme poverty, higher standards of living, better policies and more people-centered approaches to development; it is clear that there is much more that needs to be done. Whilst we all “logged on” to the concept of sustainable development, infusion of the notion of integrating economic, social and environmental issues into all aspects of development was not embedded. The sustainable development model, therefore, provides us with a more holistic approach to development to advance our societies and create the Caribbean we want. The SDGs were born out of a participatory approach to development for its effective implementation by all sectors of our society.
I will, at this juncture, make specific reference to Jamaica’s commitment to advancing the 2030 Agenda. Through our National Development Plan – Vision 2030 Jamaica, which was promulgated in 2009, we have already embarked on the implementation of the SDGs. Vision 2030 is visionary, insightful, strategic and practical, and was designed to make “Jamaica the place of choice, to live, work, raise families and do business”.
The implementation framework for Vision 2030, the medium term-socio-economic policy framework (or MTF), outlines the priority strategies and actions that are to be implemented every three years. In 2015, during the development of the Third MTF, the global goals were aligned with the national goals and outcomes contained in Vision 2030. A UN Mission in October 2016, to assess Jamaica’s readiness to implement the SDGs, concluded that Jamaica would do its part in implementing the Goals if it implemented Vision 2030.
A new tag line, under Vision 2030 Jamaica, was created to better solidify the linkages between our Vision and the SDGs: “Vision 2030 Jamaica… advancing the implementation of the SDGs… leaving no one behind”.
I shared the experience of Jamaica, so that as a region we can learn from each other as we take this collective journey. We must continue to work together to advance our development, adopt and adapt as necessary good practices and develop partnerships for shared prosperity.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of stakeholder engagement as we seek to make more inclusive decisions and build stronger relationships with each other. The SDGs create a framework for strengthening consultation, participation and partnership at all levels of society. In the words of the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.
As we take the next steps, I want to share with you my commitment. First and foremost, as Prime Minister of Jamaica, I am taking a keen interest in the implementation of the SDGs and their alignment with Vision 2030. Earlier this week, the Government received a progress report on the implementation process for the SDGs from the Planning Institute of Jamaica. We are paying close attention to implementation of the accelerators as recommended in the SDGs Road Map for Jamaica. Some of these include:
- Strengthening the outreach efforts of social protection programmes, expanding care services for children and the elderly, pursuing multi-disciplinary non-communicable disease (NCD) prevention efforts;
- Strengthening the judiciary and police systems;
- Supporting MSMEs;
- Strengthening the land use management system;
- Building on disaster and climate risk management efforts;
- Enhancing public awareness of the importance of the natural environment to socio-economic development.
I have mentioned these accelerators for another reason. The progress on the implementation of these provides yet another opportunity for us to share with our Caribbean counterparts the lessons learnt. We can also learn from you in those areas in which you are currently implementing strategies for attaining the SDGs.
I applaud all who have participated in this process and the United Nations for taking the lead role to advance the prospect of achieving a sustainable future. I also wish to express my gratitude to the University of the West Indies for being our partner in the organising of this event. For those who have travelled to Jamaica, please enjoy your stay and make sure you sample some of the sights, sounds and tastes of the City of Kingston; one of forty-seven (47) creative cities designated by UNESCO.
I wish for you a successful conference and look forward to the decisions that will emanate from Caribbean Action 2030. It was Mahatma Gandhi who said that “One must care about the world one will not see”.