DOMENICAN REPUBLIC – Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, has made a personal appeal for all countries to be invited to the Ninth Summit of the Americas that got underway, saying attendance could also be facilitated virtually.
Skerrit, who is celebrating his 50th birthday, said that he wanted to use the occasion for reflection, celebration and planning the future.
“I am, as a result, emboldened to use this occasion for three broad political purposes. First, to make a personal appeal for the invitation, attendance, and full participation in this Summit, of the leaders of every country in our region, without exception, whether in person or virtually,” he said, in reference to the decision of the United States as host not to invite Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela to the event that ends on June 10.
He said as a regional leader, he was urging “that we truly assess the role and value of this Summit in addressing the serious challenges faced by the countries and peoples of the Americas” and that also “we acknowledge that my first two “asks” are essential for this gathering to be a serious, transformational, decision-making one, which prioritises the common purpose of the development of our region, and the promotion of the dignity of our citizens”.
Skerrit told the Summit that is being boycotted by several countries, most notably, Mexico “that these are my reasons for attending.
“The Summit of the Americas substantially informs the mandate of the Organisation of American States (OAS). The OAS’ Charter promotes engagement and acknowledges the right of member-countries to choose their mode of organisation, as well as their “political, economic, and social system” ….without intervention or interference.”
Skerrit said that this language embeds in the Charter and the organisation, respect for sovereignty and strategic cooperation among the countries of the region.
He said the work and outcome of this Summit are as jeopardised and impoverished by exclusions, as they are by boycotts.
“The boundaries of politics and geography are artificial because they are highly pervious to disease, to poverty, to the movement of people and goods. True multilateralism shelters and includes everyone, gives a voice to all, and shows respect to all. In that regard, given Cuba’s record and history of extraordinary humanitarianism, I invite this community of the OAS to join me in calling for an end to the blockade against the Government and People of Cuba, and the termination of Cuba’s unjust listing as a State which sponsors terrorism.”
Skerrit said that the Americas share a neighbourhood and that the front yard of one country is the backyard of another.
“It is farcical to expect that a problem which starts in my backyard and ends up in your front yard, or vice versa, can possibly be resolved without common dialogue, buy-in, political will, cooperation, agreed action and joint implementation. As regional leaders, we must promote inclusion, justice, common purpose, peace, and prosperity in our front and back yards. We must do this through genuine, regional dialogue and cooperative action.”
He told the delegates that the outcomes of the dialogue can only be meaningful and implementable “when decisions are made together; with all sitting at the same table and being heard; with all agreeing on the way forward; with all being included.
“Engagement and dialogue are at the core of the democratic process. We cannot laud the merits of democracy and then refuse to listen to the voices of those with whom we do not agree.”
Skerrit said that no country in this community of sovereign states of the Americas is perfect, adding “our experiments and experiences in governance, democracy, justice, and equity, continue to evolve in order to satisfy the legitimate needs and aspirations of our populations, and to demonstrate the paramountcy of our peoples. Even with our imperfections however, the intent and spirit of the Charter and of multilateralism, demand that we talk together, share ideas, compare examples of best practice, and identify a way forward. Let us listen to each other, so that we may reach understanding; and by understanding find tolerance; and by becoming tolerant, we will cooperate, and by cooperating we may together arrive at the required solutions to our shared and common challenges and attain our shared and common goals and aspirations.”
Skerrit said that this Summit of the Americas is being convened at a difficult time regionally and globally. He said the World Bank classifies the Americas as the world’s second most disaster-prone region.
“Climate change and environmental degradation are now major drivers of poverty, migration and refugeeism. Our countries battle against a global pandemic which threatens to overwhelm our health care systems and has resulted in social and economic reversals, as well as damaged our tourism products and revenues,” he said.
Skerrit said the Russia-Ukraine conflict has further disrupted global supply chains, exacerbated food shortages and increased the inflation caused initially by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The issues which we will discuss, exist in a bubbling regional cauldron of social, economic, and environmental challenges – constrained fiscal space; restricted development capital and spending; rising inflation; increasing unemployment; shrinking official Development Assistance and Foreign Direct Investment; high levels of crime and gun violence; the widening digital divide and inequalities; growing insecurity and the increasing incidence and multiple costs of chronic non- communicable diseases,” Skerrit stated.
He said against this background, regional leaders are challenged to quell national fears, offer confidence in the face of uncertainty, create policy solutions, and build trust.
“We can do so, only if we work collaboratively at the international and regional levels, and with national populations to envision, discuss and construct, just and equitable post-COVID societies, which are anchored on a green recovery, for our planet and people. The seriousness and danger of the times compel us to put aside the discord and fracture which threaten and compromise the building of the “equitable future” toward which this Summit is intended to work,” he added.