Thank you all for coming here today.
I am pleased to personally offer my warmest congratulations on CARICOM’s fortieth anniversary. I would like to thank the current chair of CARICOM, Madame Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
During those four decades, CARICOM has consistently supported the United Nations.
At times, CARICOM has been ahead of the curve in demanding that the international community rise to the challenges of our day. Your countries have been at the forefront on climate change, the needs of small States, equitable access to markets and other pressing issues.
This year, we are fortunate to have a distinguished son of the Caribbean, Ambassador John Ashe, who is now acting as President of the 68th session of the General Assembly. We have already been working very, very hard, very closely. I am confident he will continue your proud tradition of standing up for the issues that matter to your region and our world.
Ambassador Ashe is just one of many distinguished Caribbean officials contributing to the work of the United Nations.
In Haiti, where CARICOM has traditionally shown its solidarity, I benefit from the leadership of Ms. Sandra Honoré as my Special Representative and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission.
Around the world, I benefit from Caribbean leadership on climate change and the challenges of Small Island Developing States. I applaud CARICOM for organizing the first-ever meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention of non-communicable diseases. And I sincerely thank you for leading global efforts to build a permanent memorial honouring the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, which I was honoured to open with Prime Minister [Portia Simpson] Miller of Jamaica yesterday..
I am grateful for all that CARICOM has done so far – but I have even greater expectations for your contributions in the future.
This is especially important as we shape a post-2015 development agenda.
I count on you to contribute to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals. Its next session will address the needs of countries in special situations. This will be an opportunity to highlight the priorities of small island developing States.
As you know, I have called on all leaders yesterday to participate in next year’s climate summit to add momentum to finalizing an ambitious, legal agreement on climate change in 2015. Even though the date has not been fixed, I will make sure that it will be very convenient to all Heads of State and Government, because I am going to have just one day reserved before or during the General Debate when you will be here anyway. So I hope you will pencil in your calendar already for next year’s political schedule.
At the same time, I would encourage you to engage in the whole range issues on the global agenda. I hope you will focus even on problems that may not directly affect Caribbean countries.
We should all be concerned about the terrible crisis in Syria. Last month’s chemical weapons attack rightly sparked global outrage. We were all appalled and shocked. At the same time, we must remember that the terrible death toll from that incident represents only a fraction of the more than 100,000 people who have been killed in Syria. I am resolved to do everything possible to facilitate a peaceful solution to the conflict. This afternoon I had a meeting with all P5 Foreign Ministers. We discussed only Syrian issues. I urged them to act immediately without losing any time, any momentum.
Although your countries may be small, your influence can be big. CARICOM members have strong democratic traditions. They have a history of multilateralism. The Caribbean region can share valuable lessons with the world.
I look forward to hearing your views so we can strengthen our partnership and reach our common goals.
Thank you very much.