STATEMENT FOR THE GENERAL DEBATE OF THE 2021 HIGH-LEVEL POLITICAL FORUM

 

THE HON. CAMILLE ROBINSON-REGIS

STATEMENT FOR THE GENERAL DEBATE OF THE

2021 HIGH-LEVEL POLITICAL FORUM

UNDER THE THEME

 

“SUSTAINABLE AND RESILIENT RECOVERY FROM THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC THAT PROMOTES THE ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL DIMENSIONS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: BUILDING AN INCLUSIVE AND EFFECTIVE PATH FOR THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE 2030 AGENDA IN THE CONTEXT OF THE DECADE OF ACTION AND DELIVERY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT”

It has been nearly one year to the day since the last High-Level Political Forum, at which the international community discussed the unprecedented global emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting threat to the social and economic fabric of our nations. One year later, the need for global collective action to save both lives and livelihoods remains paramount as Governments strive to find the right balance of measures to both restore broad-based economic activity and minimise mortality levels in their populations.

This time, however, the world has within its arsenal an array of tested and authorised vaccines to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But here too the inequalities in the innovative and productive capacity of countries have been laid bare, resulting in startling disparities in vaccine availability and access between the Global North and South. It goes without saying that unless these disparities are addressed, the promise of sustainable and resilient recovery and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be realised for many developing nations. This includes Small Island Developing States (SIDS) who, due to our small size, limited resources, environmental fragility and geographic/economic isolation, are particularly vulnerable to external shocks. Therefore, the commitments made thus far by developed countries to provide doses to developing countries are welcomed and strongly urge others to scale up their financial support for the COVAX Facility, to bolster the global inoculation campaign, and ensure global coordination for the equitable and timely allocation of vaccines for all.

For Trinidad and Tobago, access to vaccines through the COVAX facility and other bilateral and multilateral arrangements is expected to facilitate the acceleration of the phased re-opening of the economy.. This phased reopening follows the same science-based approach that has guided our recovery planning process and enabled us to proactively navigate through the virus’ various phases. The establishment of a Roadmap to Recovery Committee in 2020 provided the necessary strategic focus on three immediate priorities, namely, addressing and mitigating hardship inflicted by COVID-19; restarting the economy; and laying the foundation for sustained economic recovery. In addition to stabilising the country’s social, economic and environmental wellbeing, the focus on these immediate priorities was also meant to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago’s progress towards achieving the stated objectives of its National Development Strategy, Vision 2030, and the SDGs were not irreparably derailed.

The holistic health and safety of everyone, whether citizen, resident or asylum seeker in Trinidad and Tobago is our primary responsibility as we navigate the turbulence of the current global climate. While our national goals of environmental, social, economic and human development remain in focus, we will also simultaneously ensure that the challenges of the pandemic are contained and managed while we persist in our accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Beyond the immediate priorities, intensified attention will be placed on cultivating domestic capabilities and becoming a knowledge fuelled innovative economy. Specifically, the creation of an enabling environment for the private sector and entrepreneurs to confidently invest and take risks will remain a key component of post-pandemic recovery efforts. Likewise, the adoption of innovative, technology-driven means of mitigating the challenges faced in areas such as climate change, non-communicable diseases, renewable energy, and energy efficiency will continue to be encouraged and advanced. These approaches are anchored in the country’s National Innovation Policy with its focus on designing strategies for driving innovation.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has accelerated its digital transformation strategy through the transfer of several public services to online environments. All Government agencies now have an online presence and several agencies have initiated or are pursuing the integration of online services, including e-payment capabilities, for clients. The country’s education system is now characterised by virtual learning from preschool to university and efforts are ongoing, with support from the UN and other development partners, to ensure that no student, especially those from rural and low-income communities, are adversely impacted through lack of access to devices or internet connectivity.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is also exploring new measures for a more responsive, multifaceted social support system, which includes the digitalisation of all social support grants and services, the continued rollout of our Social Mitigation Plan and the adoption of a more holistic approach to poverty alleviation by ensuring that families have adequate access to social services relevant to their needs.

Trinidad and Tobago remains cognizant that sustainable development is unattainable without fulfilling its commitments to protect the environment including, among others, our commitment to reducing emissions by 15% by 2030 from business as usual and to an unconditional reduction in public transportation emissions. To date, all public sector transport vehicles have been mandated to use the more environmentally friendly Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for fuel while the uptake among private vehicles is being closely monitored. Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction has informed the development of the disaster management cycle resulting in a National Response Framework, which provides a unified approach for disaster response and supports agencies to successfully manage natural hazards and catastrophes.

As Trinidad and Tobago looks forward to its emergence, and that of the entire world, from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is our hope that the spirit of global cooperation and coordinated action that characterised the past 18 months, though not perfect, is not lost over time. International cooperation at all levels, must be deepened and strengthened, and greater efforts to scaling up development financing and investment-flows to developing countries is crucial in achieving the SDGs and its related targets. Important frameworks such as the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework, have also given new impetus to South-South and triangular cooperation, as a complement to, and not substitute for, North-South cooperation. Trinidad and Tobago is determined to ensure that the requisite data and data management systems for monitoring, evaluating and reporting on the SDGs and the aforementioned development frameworks are introduced.

A true testament of commitment toward achieving the targets of the development frameworks and leveraging global partnerships for sustainable development is seen in the voluntary national reviews of the Member States, who despite the challenges experienced by the COVID-19 pandemic, have shared their experiences, lessons learned and successes. Trinidad and Tobago commends the Governments for their resilience and resolve to accelerate the delivery of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

To this end, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago reiterates its commitment to ensuring that no one is left behind. In keeping with this commitment, we will continue to promote the inclusive participation of all stakeholders in the implementation of and reporting on the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Now, more than ever, we will seek to accelerate and deepen our efforts to build a new post-pandemic society that is healthier, resilient, safe, more equitable and prosperous.