COFCOR meeting, Barbados

May 18th-19th , 2017

- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -



Dear Secretary General of CARICOM, Ambassador Erwin La Rocque,

Dear Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community,

Dear CARICOM Senior Officials,

Special guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first thank you all - and in particular the Secretary General of CARICOM and the Barbadian host - for the opportunity to participate in this important regional meeting and to address a few words to you. It is indeed a great honor and a pleasure to be here in beautiful Barbados with all of you today.


I would like to share some ideas and reflections with you about how to further strengthen and deepen our relations, especially on the multilateral level. I am fully aware of the specific needs and problems that your region is facing. They are very challenging, ranging from the devastating effects of climate change to the vulnerabilities of your economies. My message is one of support and encouragement, but also one of solidarity and effective cooperation to tackle the challenges that you are facing.


In today’s interdependent global community we need, more than ever before, strong and efficient partnerships to deal with the planetary challenges. Through those partnerships we can work on strategies of growth and development that assure prosperity and safety for our children and for the future generations. It is the only way forward to a sustainable future. Those who think the answer lies in isolationistic policies are wrong and will have to review their positions.


It is my deep conviction that more than ever we have to intensify regional and intra-regional integration and cooperation in order to work hand in hand as understanding partners to improve the situation of our populations and the future generations. Belgium has a strong reputation, both within the European Union and the United Nations, of a reliable partner and an active player that stimulates effective and result-driven partnerships.


Here are a few examples of our positions that specifically relate to the Caribbean Community :


Belgium and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are strongly committed to peace and development through their engagement and cooperation in multilateral fora such as the UN. Sustainable development, climate change and oceans – among others – are issues to which we attach particular attention and in which I feel we have a common interest. 


Although Caribbean nations have contributed little to the release of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change, they will pay a heavy price for global inaction in three key categories: hurricane damages, loss of tourism revenue, and infrastructure damage due to sea-level rise. The costs of inaction would amount to 22 per cent of gross domestic product for the Caribbean as a whole by 2100. Investing in a low-emission, climate-resilient future will bring benefits including less poverty, improved public health, reduced pollution, more live-able cities and fewer lives and assets lost through natural disasters. It will also mean cleaner, more efficient and less costly energy. Small island countries have access to solar and wind energy, geothermal energy – particularly on volcanic islands – and ocean renewable resources such as tides, waves, and currents. 90 per cent of small island states are in the tropics, where solar energy can generate less intermittent power.


Before and after the adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP21 Belgium’s commitment has been matched with consistent climate financing through core-funding of several instruments, such as the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Fund (FEM-6).


The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) was accredited as Green Climate Fund regional implementing actor. In October 2016 a group comprised of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia LC, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines secured funding for a Sustainable Energy Facility for the Eastern Caribbean potentially reducing CO2 emissions by almost 10 mil. tons. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded a four year project to reduce the negative environmental and human health impacts from untreated wastewater discharges. GEF is providing financial and technical support to 13 participating Wider Caribbean countries: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago. The total GEF grant allocation was USD 20,000,000.


During the negotiations on Agenda 2030, Belgium strongly advocated for a specific and stand-alone sustainable development goal on Oceans. We pride ourselves, as a member of the Bureau, of being an active player in the Committee on an International legally binding Instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, commonly referred to as ‘the BBNJ Prepcom’.


My country supports the Samoa Pathway initiative in partnership with UNESCO. Its International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange Centre (IODE) is hosted in the city of Ostend, in Belgium. Since 2005 over 1200 participants from 120 countries, including CARICOM, were offered extensive training at this Centre which recently increased its focus on ‘training the trainers’.


Belgium was pleased to see a very large number of delegates of all CARICOM Permanent Representations to the UN in New York actively participate in the successful three-day workshop on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction which was held in Belgium (Brussels and Ostend) from 7 till 9 March 2017. Permanent representatives and experts from SIDS countries based in Brussels were also invited. The focus of debates was on capacity-development and technology transfer related to three aspects: marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments and marine genetic resources. Besides discussing BBNJ, experts were also given an opportunity to exchange views on challenges SIDS are facing due to climate change.



The Conclusions from the workshop were compiled in a ‘take-away’ document drafted by SIDS representatives which then was presented by them at the 3rd BBNJ prepcom later that month in New York. (For further details and all background docs please refer to the dedicated website : http://sidsworkshop.be)


The workshop helped building momentum for the 2017 Ocean Conference that will take place from 5 until 9 June in New York and at which Belgian Foreign Minister Reynders will launch a marine litter action plan for the North Sea and will co-organize with SIDS a side-event on the protection of marine fauna and flora from pollution.


Ladies and Gentleman,

My country, Belgium, wants more than nice words and promises. We want effective action through intensified partnerships. In that sense we have always strongly supported and contributed to productive partnerships between the European Union and the Caribbean region:


In 2012, the EU and the Caribbean commonly approved a joint strategy with concrete goals, objectives and actions. From the outset in 2010, Belgium contributed to the setting-up of this strategy, out of the conviction that the EU should pay a specific attention to this region. Belgium welcomes the fact that in the margins of the next EU-CELAC Summit, a sub-regional meeting between EU and CARIFORUM takes place.


On July 30, 2014, the Council of the European Union approved the EU Strategy on citizens security in Central-America and the Caribbean. This strategy, which Belgium has strongly supported, puts citizens at the core of our relations.


Belgium is also a strong supporter of the EU-Caribbean Economic Partnership Agreement, commonly known as EPA, that was implemented since 2009. Belgium hopes for a prompt Haitian ratification of the EPA which would enable its full provisional application. We would also welcome further work leading to an agreement for the protection of European geographic indications (GI’s).


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope I was able to convince you of our strong commitment to effective and productive partnerships with your region.  Our national slogan is “Unity makes strength”, together we are stronger, together we can better face the future challenges. We are happy to be your partner, also and especially within the multilateral fora of EU and UN, and to build a strong alliance to face the global challenges. We can assure you of our continuing strong support in the post-Brexit EU. We also hope you can support our ambition to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations’ Security Council for the period 2019/2020, so that together as partners we can press ahead on policies for the benefit of your region.

I thank you for your attention and I would love to continue on these partnerships during the bilateral meetings I will have with some of you .


Pieter De Crem

Secretary of State for Foreign Trade


- - - the spoken word alone prevails - - -


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