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Speech at CARICOM Heads of Government meeting

Prime Minister Erna Solberg's speech at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government Meeting in St. Lucia, 4 June 2019.

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Prime Minister Chastanet,
Heads of Government,
Secretary-General,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to this CARICOM Heads of Government meeting.

It is aparticular honour to be here on your 40th anniversary!

I commend the leadership of St. Kitts and Nevis, and welcome St. Lucia – whom I look forward to working closely with as incoming chair of CARICOM.  

We are a long way from Norway, but I feel at home.

I grew up in Bergen - a city by the ocean, surrounded by beautiful mountains, and with a lively fish market in the centre of town. Just like here.

I am pleased to be here because I believe we share many interests and opportunities.  

Partnership is the best way to realise these.

This is why Norway was accredited to CARICOM in 2018.

I am honoured to visit CARICOM at the same time as UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.

Norway is committed to a strong UN, at the centre of international cooperation.

It is also an honour to serve as co-chair of the Secretary General`s SDG Advocacy Group.

The sustainable development goals are our common road map to the future.

These goals, and the principles of partnerships and leaving no one behind, will also be key in my address today.

***

No one needs to explain the significance of climate change to the Caribbean.

For you, it is an existential threat.

Norway and the Small Island Developing States are strong partners on climate change.

We have been core members of the “High Ambition Coalition” - consistently calling for more ambitious global climate action.

Today, this partnership is more important than ever.

As Mr Guterres has so clearly put it:

Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment.

We need to stand together in setting ambitious targets and we need to speak with a unified voice at the coming Climate Action Summit in September – and at COP 25 this autumn.

But action is needed now. Norway, with a population of 5 million, is a small country - but we are a sizeable development partner.

We are one of the largest donors to the UN system.

We put our money where our mouth is.

  • We have allocated 271 million dollars to the Green Climate Fund over four years, and are the third largest contributor per capita. Norway advocates for easier access to funding for smaller projects – which will benefit small island states.
  • We actively advocate that graduated countries should be eligible for Official Development Assistance when their economic base is ruined by a disaster.

CARICOM countries are among the countries with the lowest carbon emissions, but are experiencing some of the worst effects of climate change.  

Dominica was devastated by hurricanes in 2017.

Now, at the start of the hurricane season, I can hardly imagine what it is like to be wondering:

Will my house be safe? Will any one be hurt? Will my children’s school – or the hospital – still be standing after the hurricane has passed?

You should not have to bear this alone.  

Support for climate adaptation and building resilience is not charity – it is burden sharing.  

The cost of the damage to the region from the hurricanes Irma and Maria is high.  

Current assistance for climate adaptation is clearly not enough.  

I am therefore pleased to announce that Norway will increase our climate financing and make climate adaptation a key pillar in our development cooperation.

We have already announced our intention to double our contribution to the Green Climate Fund.

I have been impressed with the leadership of Caribbean countries.  

You are leading by example.  

Many of you have set ambitious targets.  

For example, our host country aims to generate 35 % of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.  

Ambitions like these must be supported. 

Reducing deforestation worldwide will also be a key element in our efforts to fight climate change.  

I appreciate our close partnership on forests: with Guyana through the Norwegian Climate and Forest Initiative; and with Surinam through UN REDD.

***

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Climate change is also a threat to our oceans.  

If we continue on the present path, our generation may be the last to see healthy coral reefs – with all the implications this will have for coastal fisheries and tourism.  

The way we manage the oceans will be of vital importance for our ability to reach many of the SDGs. 

Take the first two: no poverty and zero hunger. 

Over the next 30 years, the world’s population is expected to increase by two billion. 

Today, only 5% of the food consumed globally comes from the oceans.  

Marine resources will be crucial if we are to provide enough food for a growing world population. 

We live by, and of, the ocean. In the Caribbean and in Norway – most people live within 10 kilometres of the sea.  

The ocean is part of our identity. Or, as Derek Walcott put it:  

‘I consider the sound of the sea to be part of my body’. Many Norwegians will identify with this too.  

We depend on the oceans for our livelihoods, whether they are related to tourism, fisheries or other industries.  

More than two-thirds of Norway's export revenues come from ocean-based activities – fisheries, aquaculture, shipping and energy.

The world’s growing population will not only need food, but also medicines, energy, and minerals.  

From job creation to energy, health and nutrition – the potential of the ocean is tremendous. 

We will need the ingenuity that is so typical of the Caribbean.  

Just think of Barbados where they have taken a harmful seaweed - Sargassum – and used it to make methane gas, fertiliser and soap!  

The blue economy is expected to create 40 million jobs globally by 2030.  

The ocean economy is expected to double in the same period.  

And tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. 

But, the oceans are under threat from several sources:  

  • the effects of climate change
  • loss of habitats and biodiversity
  • overfishing 
  • marine litter and pollution.

Every minute an estimated 15 tonnes of litter enter our oceans.  

Fish eat plastic, and we eat fish.  

A new study suggests that on average we are ingesting 5 grams of plastic every week, the equivalent of a credit card.  

This is not sustainable for the oceans – nor is it sustainable for us.

I would like to commend the Caribbean states for the initiatives and measures you are taking in the fight against plastics and marine litter.  

And I am pleased that Norway is your partner in this endeavour:

  • We recently co-hosted a festival on marine littering and plastic called “Play it Out”, together with Antigua & Barbuda, and the UN. 
  • Norway is providing 7.2 million dollars in support of the “Plastic Waste Free Islands Across the Globe” initiative, where Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St. Lucia are among the partner countries.
  • Further, I am pleased to announce that Norway will provide funding to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States aimed at reducing marine litter and pollution.  

In addition, Norway has launched a 200 million dollar programme to assist developing states all over the world to combat marine litter and microplastics.  

At the same time, we need a global agreement to combat marine litter and microplastic, as has been called for by Antigua & Barbuda in the St. John`s declaration.

We seek the support and cooperation of CARICOM members to achieve this.

***

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,  

All this is the backdrop for my initiative to establish the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. 

The Panel is made up of serving heads of state and government from all continents.  

I am very pleased that the Jamican Prime Minister, Mr Holness, agreed to join the Panel.  

This means that the voice of the Caribbean is heard, and as a result the issue of sustainable tourism has been put on the Panel’s agenda. 

We are set to deliver a roadmap for action at the UN Ocean Conference in 2020.

And I hope to see many representatives from CARICOM-countries at the Our Ocean conference in Norway in October.

***

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have a long history of working together on the multilateral stage.

  • Norway supports the Alliance of Small Island States – led by Belize.
  • Together with Jamaica, we have organised workshops for CARICOM countries on biological diversity.
  • We have worked with Trinidad and Tobago on disarmament, with Bahamas in the Human Rights Council, and with St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the presidency of ECOSOC. 
  • It is no longer possible to ignore the fact that climate change has consequences for security. Norway supports your call for a UN Special Representative on Climate and Security and for climate-related security issues must to be addressed by the UN Security Council.
  • And the list goes on….

Today, multilateralism is under pressure.  

As small states, we have a common interest in a well-functioning global order where right prevails over might.

Where relations between states are governed by binding standards, rules, and conventions.  

I hope that we can work together to safeguard the UN and international cooperation.

We may be small, but small countries can also make a difference on matters of international peace and security.  

Norway has more than 25 years’ experience of peace and reconciliation efforts.  

We have been engaged in conflict resolution on several continents and have acted as a facilitator in several peace processes, most recently in Colombia and Venezuela.  

In Venezuela, the Government and the opposition have asked us to facilitate a negotiated solution.  

There have been two rounds of constructive talks in Oslo.

Although the process is still fragile, it is my impression that we have a window of opportunity.

International and regional backing for the negotiation process is crucial for its success.  

We therefore ask CARICOM and its members to support the peace process in any way you can, including through your contact with the parties. 

Our commitment to the UN and to international peace and security is one of the reasons why Norway has presented its candidature for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the period 2021-2022.  

As a non-EU member, we have a history of speaking with an independent voice.

We believe we have the credibility to build cross-regional partnerships, and bridge gaps between developed and developing countries.

We will be a reliable and constructive problem solver, and will consult with all member states - regardless of their size and location – to find common solutions.

We will push to make the Council more transparent and inclusive.

***

Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

Norway does not seek partnerships because of candidatures – we have candidatures because we seek partnerships.

Small countries that stand together carry weight and can make a difference on the global stage:

  • in addressing climate change and marine pollution; in seizing the opportunities of the blue economy and the transition to renewable energy; and
  • in creating peace and security.

These issues are at the core of each of our countries’ national interests.  

Norway seeks the partnership of CARICOM to achieve these goals.

This is why I am not here just to speak – but also to listen and learn.  

I look forward to meeting with many of you.  

And while I am here in beautiful St. Lucia, I also hope to taste some of the “green figs and saltfish” that I have heard so much about!  

I wish you all the best for your deliberations in this important forum. 

Thank you.

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