Address by Minister Bibeau to the Building Resilience to Disasters and Climate Change in the Caribbean conference


November 26, 2018 – Washington, D.C., United States

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.

Madam Christine Lagarde, Madam Kristalina Georgieva, and Mr. Luis Moreno, thank you for having invited me to join you today. Caribbean heads of state and leaders of Caribbean institutions, it is a pleasure to be with you today and to see so many familiar faces.

As you know, Canada has a special relationship with the people of the Caribbean region. It is based on our extensive people-to-people ties, our robust commercial relationship, our ongoing development cooperation and our shared constituency at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In the wake of the 2017 hurricanes, Canada made a commitment to Caribbean nations. We recognized the unique vulnerabilities you face because of the effects of climate change.

We committed to help you build resilience through the $100-million pledge we made at the CARICOM-UN Pledging Conference last year. 

And we committed to listening to you and ensuring that your voice was heard on the world stage.

In our G7 presidency year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Caribbean heads of state on several occasions.

Canada invited the outgoing and incoming CARICOM chairs—Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica and President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti—to our G7 Outreach Session in Charlevoix [Quebec].

I also ensured that the interests of the Caribbean were raised at the G7 development and finance ministers’ meeting that we hosted.

My colleague, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, met with Caribbean foreign ministers at the UN General Assembly.

And I have met many of you, and your foreign ministers, at the COFCOR [Council for Foreign and Community Relations] meeting last May in the Bahamas.

Here is what we heard from you, our Caribbean friends:

First, we heard your calls for greater joint efforts to build resilience and

enhance mechanisms that make for effective disaster response. That helped guide our efforts in multilateral engagement.

We took note of your concern about the unique vulnerabilities of Caribbean countries that are no longer eligible for ODA [official development assistance].

At the OECD-DAC [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - Development Assistance Committee] meeting, we were pleased to support an agreement for new rules that allow countries that have graduated to qualify for ODA eligibility if their incomes fall below a certain threshold, because of a devastating hurricane, for example.

Second, we heard that you have serious debt and public financial management issues to tackle.

This is precisely why last week, at the APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] Summit, Prime Minister Trudeau announced $20 million in new funding to help strengthen public sector capacity in small island developing states, especially in public financial management and financial sector supervision, and in fostering inclusive growth.

Third, we heard that Caribbean countries have difficulty accessing climate financing and that small Caribbean nations often do not have enough human resources to navigate the complex web of funding requirements. 

Today, I am proud to announce that Canada will provide $15 million over five years to the UNDP’s [United Nations Development Programme’s] EnGenDER project. The project will send technical experts to help Caribbean governments apply for the climate financing they so urgently need. The climate action plans implemented through this project will focus on the sectors where women are the most affected.

This is what we heard, how we responded and how we plan to stay engaged.

I would also like to say a few words about what we believe.

Canada believes there can be no true resilience without gender equality.

All of the assistance Canada provides must put women and girls at the centre. That also means we strive for gender-based budgeting.

And our macroeconomic policies must respond to gender differences. We want to acknowledge women as agents of change—whether in politics, economics or the role they play as leaders in their communities and households.

We also believe that small island states need special considerations when it comes to managing finances and debt—particularly after a natural disaster.

As Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of Grenada remarked last year at the banks’ annual meeting, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” 

That is why Canada has worked hard within our G7 presidency, and in the

Paris Club and other multilateral forums, to advance resilient instruments for the Caribbean.

As we will discuss this afternoon, these innovative financial instruments can provide automatic debt service relief in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

This will allow small island states to focus on immediate humanitarian needs, without also having to think about debt negotiations during a crisis. I would like to recognize Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Governor Timothy Antoine’s leadership in advancing this important work.

We also believe there can be no resilience without adequate insurance.

That is why Canada’s G7 Summit announcements included $100 million to help expand climate risk insurance coverage in climate-vulnerable countries, including Caribbean and Pacific island states.

Our previous contribution to the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility successfully made it possible to provide $50 million in immediate payouts to hurricane-affected countries in 2017.

Today, I am proud to say that we have now allocated 70% of our $100-million pledge to the Caribbean.

We have announced projects specific to countries such as Dominica, where we are helping to rebuild damaged school infrastructure and to pay the next two years of the country’s Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility premium. We are also helping to set up Dominica’s Climate Resilience Execution Agency.

We have provided funds to help the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency strengthen the capacity of your emergency management agencies. 

In addition, we have announced a new $20-million Canada-Caribbean Resilience Facility at the World Bank. This will provide expertise to help nine Caribbean governments develop their disaster risk management policies and plans. It will also send rapid response teams to help Caribbean countries access emergency funding after a disaster. 

And finally, a word on oceans. Canada is proud to be a Commonwealth Blue Charter Champion.

At Charlevoix, G7 leaders agreed to a Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities, which promotes sustainable oceans and fisheries.

And as we speak, Canada is co-hosting the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference with Kenya.

Canada knows that the sustainable use of marine resources is key to building resilience in small island states. The blue economy provides a model for economic diversification in the Caribbean.

This is an area where the private sector has an important role in developing renewable energy, sustainable tourism and fishing and building climate-resilient infrastructure.

As governments, we need to create the enabling environment for them to succeed.

I look forward to productive discussions today.

What we have here is the opportunity to develop coherent responses to disaster and climate resilience in the Caribbean.

Let’s not miss this opportunity. Thank you.


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