António Guterres renews calls for increased access to concessionary finance for middle-income countries

United Nations, Secretary-General, António Guterres  surveys the devastation left by Hurricane Dorian during a two-day visit to the Bahamas last week (CREDIT: Patrick Hanna/BIS)

United Nations, Secretary-General, António Guterres has renewed calls for middle-income countries to be given access to grants and concessionary loans for reconstruction and for the capacity to increase the resilience of those countries to future disasters.

He was at the time speaking at a joint-press briefing held at the Office of the Prime minister in Nassau, New Providence, in The Bahamas last Friday ahead of his tour of devastated areas as part of his two-day visit. Two weeks ago, from September 1 – 3, Catastrophic, Hurricane Dorian unleashed unrelenting cyclonic winds of 185 mph and life threatening, sea surge in the northwestern parts of the Bahamas, with the islands of the Abacos and Grand Bahama suffering the brunt of the hurricane’s fury. The county’s disaster agency, NEMA-Bahamas that is leading the search/rescue and recovery efforts with partnering international and regional agencies say that at least 50 persons were killed with 1300 declared missing.

“In relation to islands of the Caribbean, one thing is clear– climate-change is already here…it is happening with devastating impacts. And so it is absolutely essential to have a very relevant investment in resilience and adaptation”

United Nations, Secretary-General, António Guterres

The UN Chief, expressed the solidarity of the international body and the international community with the government and people of The Bahamas, and sympathized with all those victims that either lost their lives or property as a result of the catastrophic Hurricane Dorian, “I bring our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones. And our sympathies to many of those that have lost their homes and communities,” he said in his opening remarks.

He praised the government and people of the Bahamas for their bravery during the unrelenting hurricane ” the courage and commitment of Bahamians during very difficult times is inspiring,” he said, “adding, “I want to express my very deep appreciation for the very quick and effective response that the government was able to mobilize and coordinate, and for the impressive support from so many entities in the international community expressing their solidarity with the people of the Bahamas, and in particular from other Caribbean islands, namely other islands that they themselves have been victims of similar situations in the past.”

New era of climate crisis

Guterres used the opportunity to paint the picture in regard to the changing weather patterns impacting, most of all, the least developed countries. He said, ” In our new era of climate crisis, hurricanes and storms are turbo-charged. They happen with greater intensity and frequency a direct result of warmer oceans,” he summarized, adding ” I recently visited Mozambique where I saw the horrendous devastation caused by Cyclone Idai. Science is telling us this is just the start. Without urgent action climate disruption is only going to get worse.” He referenced that July had been the hottest month ever and that the the period 2015 to 2019 is ‘on track’ to be the hottest five years since climate records began to be recorded and stated that every week somewhere in the world there is news of disruption and devastation caused by climate change.

Middle-income countries

“There is still an idea that many in the international community that middle-income countries should not have access to concessionary finance to grants or concessionary loans, ” UN Chief remarked, ” adding, ” The truth is that even if you are a middle-income country, if you have external shocks with an impact as dramatic as the ones I’ve seen in Dominica just two years ago or today in meaningful parts of the Bahamas, the fact that you are a middle-income country does doesn’t allow you to sort the problem alone, ” he said.

Guterres told his audience that it is “When you have external shocks of this dimension it is absolutely essential to create an international consensus that concessionary financing need to be put at the disposal of countries for the reconstruction and for the capacity through that reconstruction increasing their resilience of the society, of the communities of the countries to future disaster which inevitably will come.”

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