The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) revealed that economic activity in the Eastern Caribbean Economic Union is projected to contract between 5.0 per cent and 7.0 per cent (in real terms) in 2020 accompanied by a sharp rise in unemployment. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a growth rate of 3.3% was forecasted for the OECS region.
Minister for Equity and Social Justice for Saint Lucia and incoming Council Chair, Honourable Lenard Montoute, highlighted the significance of this year’s theme in light of the impacts of the pandemic.
“The theme ‘No one left behind: Empowering People and Building Resilient Communities’ is very fitting and pertinent to the current global crisis and the effect it is having on the people of this region – especially the poor and vulnerable.
The phrase “no one left behind” is the promise of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and its sustainable development goals. It is built on the belief that collaborative partnerships will help deliver transformative change toward a more inclusive equitable and resilient society.”
“Over the past few months we have seen drastic and sharp increases in unemployment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is expected to be reflected in increased poverty levels across the region – this reality is more glaring in the tourism sector, which is not only the mainstay of most regional economies but is also the largest employment sector.
“Our resources have rapidly depleted as we try to widen the spread of our social assistance programs to cater for the newly poor or vulnerable population but we remain committed to supporting this target group."
Minister Montoute also extended thanks to the donor agencies for their assistance given that many are struggling to remain afloat in these turbulent waters.
Director General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules, in underscoring the inherent difficulty of managing the region’s human and social development portfolio warned that the previous challenges have now been compounded by the concatenation of crises faced since the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have to take a different approach that involves everyone. It can no longer simply be the responsibility of governments and ministries to ameliorate the human and social needs of our societies. There now needs to be a stronger coalition of the development partners, of governments, of multilateral agencies, and civic organisations in order to enable the changes we want to happen.”
The meeting this year was geared towards fostering synergies among the political directorate; the work being carried out by the Commission and International Development partners in pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals; and the protocols of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, particularly Article 23.
The specific objectives were to:
- Sensitise Ministers on the social development work programme of the OECS Commission, which is in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Revised Treaty of Basseterre;
- Attain endorsement of the regional social protection strategy;
- Present key strategic positions for Social Development; and
- Advocate for human and financial resources to improve regional data management for better delivery of social protection.
- OECS Ministers and Permanent Secretaries of Human and Social Development;
- The Director General Of the OECS;
- The Human and Social Development Unit of the OECS Commission;
- The United Nations Resident Coordinator;
- Official representatives of the World Bank;
- Official representatives of the World Food Programme;
- Official representatives of United Nations Organs;
- Official representatives of the International Labour Organisation;
- Official representatives of the Caribbean Development Bank; and
- Official representatives of the United States Agency for International Development.