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COVID-19 Commonwealth leaders’ virtual meeting | 25 June 2020

VP calls on G20 to recognise and integrate vulnerability into operational frameworks to address COVID-19

 

“The Commonwealth should call the G20 and multilateral institutions to immediately recognise and integrate vulnerability into operational frameworks to address COVID-19,” Vice-President Vincent Meriton said yesterday.

He was speaking during the COVID-19 Commonwealth leaders’ virtual meeting which focused on sharing solutions in challenging times and was chaired by Seychelles President Danny Faure .

Leaders of Commonwealth states and governments, territories took part in the virtual meeting called by Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland who, according to VP Meriton, has clearly demonstrated that she has the capacity to steer the secretariat seamlessly.

VP Meriton stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the arguments which small islands developing states (Sids) have for several decades been making on how inappropriate is the GDP per capita criteria to determine eligibility to official development assistance.

The vice-president’s speech reads:

“Chair, H.E. Mr Danny Faure,

“The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, secretary-general of the Commonwealth

“Excellencies, heads of state and government

“Fellow colleagues

“No doubt global solidarity action is required to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse economic impact, especially on the more vulnerable countries.

“The global crisis has induced a significant decline in our tourism based economy with a substantial increase in unemployment, a drastic drop in the value of our currency and an estimated contraction of our economy by negative 10.8%. This is the case in 2020, but it is clear that it will take several years for our economy to recover and many more years before we reach the level of pre-COVID-19.

“Our country yesterday announced its tourism and travel economic recovery strategy following broad and inclusive national stakeholder consultations. Commercial passenger flights will resume from August 1. Countries will be classified as low, medium and high risk and health conditions applicable to passengers will vary according to these categories.

“All countries are deciding on how best to open up to international travel and tourism. It is critical that the world agrees on a harmonised set of standards that all must follow, similar to what happened after 9/11. The Commonwealth should call upon international travel organisations like ICAO, IATA and the UNWTO to agree with the WHO on universal health standards to be used by all international airports and international airlines.

“In the same vein, it is important that we agree on the conditions to be met before the next CHOGM in Kigali.

“Seychelles cannot access international development aid, including loans at preferential rates to fund our post-COVID-19 recovery and adaptation efforts. We are in dire need of fiscal space to support our recovery efforts.

“The COVID-19 pandemic therefore highlights the arguments which Sids have for several decades been making on how inappropriate is the GDP per capita criteria to determine eligibility to Official Development Assistance.

“The Commonwealth should call the G20 and multilateral institutions to immediately recognise and integrate vulnerability into operational frameworks to address COVID-19.

“As we respond to COVID’s demands for urgent and immediate action, we cannot forget that the climate crisis still remains and also demands an urgent response. The planet continues to warm up, oceans continue to acidify, sea levels continue to rise and extreme weather continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of peoples throughout the world.

“The lessons that Seychelles has learnt from the COVID-19 crisis has paved the way to a more resilient future. As a result, we are coming up with an action-package consisting of key priority areas built on a climate smart resilient Seychelles to enable transformation in all aspects.

“This is the time when infrastructure projects could shield Seychelles from climate change threats. By building seawalls, dykes, artificial reefs or other coastal protections against growing risks from flooding and sea-level rise, we could save a substantial amount of funds that could be added to the economy. For this to be achieved in the shortest possible timeframe, it is important that we share our best practices in technological progress.

“Given recent events, I commend the Commonwealth secretariat for including ‘The Commonwealth’s role in promoting tolerance and social cohesion’ on the agenda. Seychelles is a country populated by a melt of ethnicities.

Our Constitution proudly recognises that ‘as descendants of different races we have learnt to live together as one nation’ and to ‘serve as an example of a harmonious multi-racial society’. We are proud of our diverse heritage, but we remain conscious that the fight against racism and other forms of discrimination is not achieved by proclamations and words alone.

“Excellencies, I cannot end without congratulating the secretary general not just for calling this virtual meeting of leaders, but also for bringing our organisation to a higher level. The secretary general has clearly demonstrated that she has the capacity to steer the secretariat seamlessly.

“We look forward to having the opportunity to re-appoint her to a second term of office in the not too distant future.

“I thank you.”

 

Communique from the Office of the President

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