Friday, November 19, 2021

Jamaica's state of emergency (Nov. 19, 2021)

Jamaica's government declared a state of emergency in seven police districts on the island on Sunday, in response to increases in violent crimes, ranging from 16 to 57 per cent. Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the murder rates in these districts far surpasses the national average of 15 per 100,000 inhabitants, reaching as high as 190 per 100,000. (Jamaica Information Service

Jamaica's homicide rate is among the highest in the world -- in a country with a population of nearly 3 million, more than 1,240 Jamaicans were murdered in the first ten months of the year despite no-movement days and nightly curfews brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, notes the Jamaica Gleaner.

Critics of the government's iron-fist move say the policy has limited reach. "The prime minister is pinning the hopes of the nation on a strategy that has already been tried," argues a Gleaner editorial. "The results then were not spectacular, but even more troubling is the fact that the constitutionality of such measures is still to be determined by a court of law. What happens if the court confirms that SOEs are unconstitutional?"

Human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice voiced concern "that knee-jerk reactions to tackle crime and violence often result in the infringement of the human rights of the most vulnerable" and questioned the sustained use of states of emergency "creating a possible de facto military state." (Jamaica Gleaner)

United Independents' Congress of Jamaica called for social policies aimed at loosening gang grip in affected neighborhoods. (Jamaica Observer) And the People's National Party suggested that a balanced approach involving the strengthening of the Peace Management Initiative islandwide could be used instead of states of emergency to eliminate violent crimes.

In response to rising crime rates, the country passed the National Consensus on Crime in mid-2020, a crime reduction plan that is being overseen by a multi-sectoral, non-partisan committee, reported InSight Crime in March. The plan calls for the prioritization of effective social and community programs, reforming Jamaica’s Constabulary Force and the incorporation of the military into targeted crime fighting efforts in areas racked by high numbers of killings and other violent crimes.

The ongoing landmark trial of dozens of members of the Klansman gang in Jamaica -- who of face charges of criminal organization, murder, arson, extortion and illegal possession of firearms -- is shedding light on how criminal groups function on the island, reports InSight Crime. The outcome is also likely to be seen as a bellwether for government efforts to curb escalating violence through Plan Secure Jamaica.


SIDS, fossil fuels and COP26

Island nations under threat from climate change were incensed by the final wording of the Glasgow Climate Pact last weekend, in which India and China watered down a pledge to “phase out” fossil fuels, replacing the phrase with "phase down." "The very language they are using shows us that they are trying to game the system. For us in the Caribbean, in the Pacific Ocean, this is imperiling our very existence," Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told the Washington Post.

Instead some small island developing nations are taking the case to court. Antigua and Barbuda signed a new agreement with Tuvalu, recently joined by Palau, aimed at finding legal levers to compel large emitters to pay a price for the destruction in island states, reports the Washington Post

The countries announced a commission that would investigate legal ways to hold large emitters responsible for the loss and damage experienced in their home countries and other SIDS. The issue is existencial for island nations, writes Zico Cozier at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. (Global Voices)


Reconstruction in Providencia, San Andres and Catalina

A year after Hurricane Iota devastated the Caribbean islands of Providencia, San Andres and Catalina, the archipelago's reconstruction is far behind the 100 days promised by Colombian President Iván Duque.

While the Colombian government has rebuilt nearly 900 homes on Providencia, residents still rely on a field-campaign tent hospital, and about 800 more homes are still unfinished, reports El País.

But organizations of civil society say lack of information by official entities in charge of reconstruction on the islands doesn't permit a real balance on the advances over the past year, reports El Espectador.

Climate Justice and Energy
  • Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley "is on a mission to make the international financial system deliver for those on the frontline of the climate crisis," reports Climate Change News.  "Armed with concrete proposals, Mottley elevated wonky discussions about the global finance system to the highest political level," at COP26.

  • Malene Alleyne explores the framework to leverage economic, social, cultural and environmental (ESCE) rights as a tool against climate change, in a guest blog for the “Caribbean Voices for Climate Justice” series. (Canari)

  • For the vast majority of countries, and especially in the case of developing countries, without strong and progressive interventions from the public services sector much of the agenda set by the Nationally Determined Contributions to reduce emissions will not be possible, warns Sandra Massiah in another guest blog for the series. (Canari)

  • The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and The Nature Conservancy are calling for governments to urgently invest in climate change adaptation measures to tackle the growing climate crisis in the Caribbean.

  • Puerto Rico's efforts to privatize its electricity system have become part of an "almost biblical saga," according to the Washington Post.

  • Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc denounced the government's negligence in failing to meet the deadline for the audit of over US$9 billion in expenses claimed by ExxonMobil. (Stabroek News)
Public Security
  • It has been 30 days since 17 foreign missionaries were kidnapped at gunpoint in the Haitian rural community of Ganthier, the group includes five children, the youngest of which is 8 months old. According to the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights in Port-au-Prince, at least 803 people have been abducted between January and October of this year, reports the Miami Herald.

  • The Haitian G9 gang coalition eased a blockade on fuel deliveries that has caused crippling shortages in the country for nearly a month, reports Reuters. But the relief is temporary, reports the Associated Press. Gang federation leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier held a news conference Friday to announce a seven-day reprieve for hospitals, schools and gas stations to send trucks to the Port-au-Prince port refueling station. He warned the blockade would resume if Prime Minister Ariel Henry did not resign.
Debt and Economics
  • A New York judge is set to rule soon on largest local government bankruptcy in US history -- the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. "The judge will decide whether to approve a debt restructuring deal that will have major consequences for Puerto Rico’s people and economy over the next several decades. It is a deal reached by holders of Puerto Rican debt and the Financial Oversight and Management Board, a congressionally created fiscal control board with the power to negotiate on behalf of Puerto Rico’s government," explains Cathy Kunkel in Jacobin.
  • Puerto Rico is a Covid-19 relative success story. Part of the reason was an early lockdown, followed by widespread vaccination, reports the Economist.
  • China’s Confucius Institutes in Latin America and the Caribbean form a cornerstone of its global public diplomacy efforts – with an increasingly clear emphasis on laying the groundwork for deeper business relations -- Aula Blog.
Indigenous Rights
  • The Caribbean Maroons and Merikins are joining global efforts to protect and reclaim Indigenous lands and societies.They are faced with rising stakes, including threats to their land, to their bodies, and criticism from detractors who claim that their Indigeneity is nullified by their Blackness — that they cannot claim a kinship to a land to which their ancestors were brought, reports Teen Vogue.
  • Grenada restored the country's Underwater Park, created by the British-Guyanese sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, located off the west coast of the marine protected area of ​​Molinière Beauséjour. (Repeating Islands)
We welcome comments and critiques on the Just Caribbean Updates. You can see the Updates on our website, as well as receive it directly through the mailing list. Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Climate Change Adaptation for SIDS at COP26 (Nov. 10, 2021)

The economic impact of climate change for vulnerable countries -- particularly Small Island Developing States like those in the Caribbean -- along with the need to finance adaptation measures, is a major issue at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow. "Islands have contributed little to global emissions yet stand to suffer disproportionately from climate change. Now, they are demanding more funding to protect themselves," reports The Nation.

A study released by charity Christian Aid this week highlighted the devastating economic impact climate change could inflict on the most vulnerable nations in the absence of sharp cuts to climate-heating emissions and measures to adapt to warming already baked in. (Reuters)

The Paris Agreement laid out the need for financing for both mitigation and adaptation measures. So far, about 75 percent of climate finance goes toward mitigation, reports Climate Wire, but climate-vulnerable countries are pushing to close that gap now.

Weather-driven losses to vulnerable islands in the Caribbean, combined with pandemic hits to tourism income, have caused debt levels and borrowing costs to soar.  That is leaving them struggling to invest in the climate protection their citizens need,the head of the U.N.-backed Green Climate Fund Yannick Glemarec told Reuters.

Lia Nicholson, lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States and a delegate of Antigua and Barbuda, said that the lack of economic aid has “forced islands into unsustainable debt, arresting development and holding us hostage to random acts of charity.”

Demands are especially strong for new types of "loss and damage" finance to help countries build back better after destructive disasters and relocate at-risk communities away from crumbling, flood-prone coastlines. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley proposed a 1% tax on fossil fuel sales in high-emitting nations that would go into a special fund for countries that lose more than 5% of their GDP to extreme weather.

Loss and damage “is already a lived reality for the poorest communities in the world”, and even worse climate change impacts are ahead. Instead of waiting to resolve disagreements over liability, countries can agree to start providing loss and damage finance on the basis of solidarity, accounting for local needs, and the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," argues a new Stockholm Environment Institute briefing paper

The Caribbean Development Bank called on developed countries to re-allocate 2% of their latest Special Drawing Rights to facilitate investment in climate adaptation measures in small island developing states.

The CDB also proposed a resilience-adjusted Gross National Income measure for Small Island Developing States to access concessional finance.

More COP26
  • Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley's representation of and advocacy for the Caribbean region at COP26 captured international attention -- Global Voices

Belize's debt-for-nature swap

Belize finalized the world's biggest debt-for-marine conservation deal last week: a commitment to protect the northern Hemisphere’s biggest barrier reef in exchange for aid to buy back its $533 million "superbond" at a discount. (See Sept. 21's Just Caribbean Updates) The announcement comes as COP26 delegates grapple with how to provide financial incentives to poorer countries to help combat climate change. (See above.)

It's a pioneering deal, in which Belize promises to to spend $4 million a year and fund a $23 million marine conservation trust to protect the world’s second-largest coral reef, damaged in the past by oil drilling and overdevelopment. The deal was financed by non-profit organization The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and European bank Credit Suisse.

Belize’s swap is large enough though that is can pave the way for many sovereign restructurings, which have often seen countries pushed to exploit environmentally-damaging resources such as oil, to also include eco-friendly elements, reports Reuters.

Belize’s investment will drive US$180 million back into the conservation of its marine ecosystems over the next two decades. The country has also committed to protecting 30 percent of its ocean territory, which it will achieve using a participatory, stakeholder-driven marine spatial planning process. (Nature Conservancy)

While debt-for-nature swaps waned in popularity since the 1990s, they are re-emerging as a solution to economic crises caused by the pandemic in the region, reports Diálogo Chino.

Climate Justice and Energy
  • Guyana is at existential risk from climate change, Georgetown could be submerged by rising sea levels. But the country has also bet its future on producing oil, the very fossil fuels that accelerate climate change, reports NPR.

  • The Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda and the Pacific nation of Tuvalu have registered a new commission with the United Nations, creating the possibility of claiming damages from major polluting countries through judicial means, such as the UN's International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. (CBS)

  • The Cayman Islands will undertake a climate change risk assessment with a UK-based environment agency that will identify the risks, threats and opportunities posed by climate change for biodiversity, society and the wider economy to shape future policy. (Cayman News Service)

  • A conflict between a private pool under construction on a beach, and a sea turtle that wanted to lay its eggs on that site, has become a symbol of the battle for Puerto Rico's waterfronts. (New York TimesHuffington Post)
  • Anti-deportation activists in the UK blocked a road in front of a detention center, in an attempt to prevent people slated for deportation to Jamaica. Many of the people came to the UK as children, and efforts to send them back to Jamaica, where they haven't been in decades have been controversial.(Guardian and Guardian)
  • The Dominican Republic is requiring hundreds of thousands of Haitians to register their whereabouts inside the country, a move the government said aims to shield the country from its neighbor's gang violence and unrest. But migrant advocates say the crackdown is exacerbating Dominican “xenophobia and racism” by playing into fears that Haitians are a nexus of crime, reports Bloomberg.

  • Haitian migrants are increasingly arriving in Puerto Rico, sounding alarms among top island officials, reports the Miami Herald.
  • A case before the U.S. Supreme Court looks at the legality of policies that exclude residents of Puerto Rico from a Social Security program. (New York Times) The justices seem reluctant to rule in favor of the Puerto Rico resident challenging the program, reports the Associated Press, instead implying it is up to Congress to rectify the problem of differential treatment.
  • Barbados will digitize its Department of Archives at Black Rock, the world's second-largest cache of documents on the transatlantic slave trade, announced Prime Minister Mia Mottley. (Barbados Today)
Public Security
  • The ability and willingness of Haiti’s gangs to choke off fuel and water, seemingly at will, is enhancing their influence as they push the country to the brink, reports InSight Crime.
  • Equality for All Foundation Jamaica has blamed Jamaica’s social and justice systems for distressed members of the LGBTQ+ community falling prey to gangs in recent years. (Jamaica Gleaner)
  • Caribbean culinary traditions originated with intuitive or “feel” cooking and the most popular Caribbean dishes have been a product of adaptation -- Daphne Ewing-Chow in Forbes.
  • 10 Nov. -- The Role of Human Rights; How Can Human Rights be Mobilised through the Courts to Tackle Climate Injustice? -- University of Essex

We welcome comments and critiques on the Just Caribbean Updates. You can see the Updates on our website, as well as receive it directly through the mailing list. Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Caribbean at COP26 (Nov. 3, 2021)

Tackling climate change is a global life-or-death proposition, but the stakes are particularly high for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), whose short-term survival is at risk. The tenor of many Caribbean leaders' COP26 speeches reflects this dramatic reality. 

"Our people are watching, and our people are taking note. And are we really going to leave Scotland without the resolve and the ambition that is sorely needed to save lives and to save our planet?" exhorted Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley. (Guardian)

Climate change is an “existential threat” to the Caribbean, reports Global Voices. Activists in the region have rallied around the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 C message through a campaign website called "1.5 to stay alive," created by Panos Caribbean. The reality, however, is that the Caribbean needs to prepare for some amount of already inevitable change, which means the region’s second major priority at COP26 is securing climate finance for adaptation.

Several leaders, among them Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne pressed forcefully for a discussion of loss and damage. They are, in effect, demanding reparations of a sort for countries that bear little responsibility for the emissions warming the earth — but are already suffering the effects, reports the New York Times.

Many developing countries—including the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), to which the many Caribbean countries belong—feel the issue of Loss and Damage should have a much higher profile at COP26. "We are already experiencing Loss and Damage in the Caribbean, forcing people to leave their homes due to floods, landslides and so on," Le-Anne Roper, the senior technical officer for adaptation in the climate change division of Jamaica’s government, told Global Voices.

In September the AOSIS issued a Leaders’ Declaration which largely focuses on climate change and sets out some of the issues they wish to see raised at COP26. By demanding that SIDS, which are disproportionately affected by climate change, receive a higher share of climate finance, the Leaders’ Declaration frames climate change as a rights issue, according to Henrice Altink at the University of York blog.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Mottley reiterated a call for countries to set aside $500 billion a year, not in cash, but in “special drawing rights from the IMF – [International Monetary Fund]” for 20 years that could create a trust to help those countries between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. 

In response to a question from Amanpour, Mottley warned that forced migration would be a natural consequence of failing to act on climate change. She said those who had a problem with it, would then have to deal with the consequences. (Nation News)

To meet the Paris agreement, the world would have to eliminate 53.5 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year for the next 30 years. Avinash Persaud also points to IMF Special Drawing Rights as a key tool to meet that difficult goal. (Vox EU)

More COP26
  • Acclaimed British-Trinidadian visual artist Zak Ové and the Costa award-winning Caribbean-born novelist Monique Roffey released a scorching poster evoking the return of paradise after the collapse of “Babylon”, represented as the oil industry and the powers that stoke it. Created by XR Writers Rebel, the image forms part of their street presence during COP26. (Repeating Islands)

  • Young climate activists from the Caribbean say they have gotten little to no support to attend COP26 despite representing the demographic that stands to face the worst effects of the climate crisis, reports Climate Tracker.

  • A new study by the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), Climate Analytics and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) highlights key barriers and opportunities for civil society organisations (CSOs) in accessing climate finance and improving their engagement for climate action in the Caribbean region.

  • The Presidents of Guyana and Suriname appealed to leaders at COP26 for payments to keep their forests intact and consequently, help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change such as flooding. “Forest-rich countries must be provided with the incentives necessary to keep their forests intact and to reduce deforestation and forest degradation,” Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali stated during his address. (Climate Tracker)
More Climate Justice and Energy
  • The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and the Prime Minister of Tuvalu signed an agreement allowing for litigation before international courts. This move will allow for a legal path to address the severe damage to Small Island States caused by climate change, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.

  • Increased plastic pollution is destroying Caribbean mangroves and producing microplastics, which more easily move throughout coastal and ocean systems and spread contamination at several levels,” Mona Webber, professor of marine biology and director of the Centre for Marine Sciences at the University of West Indies told the Jamaica Gleaner.
Public Security
  • Bahamas National Security Minister Wayne Munroe said the outcome of Royal Bahamas Police Force Disciplinary Tribunal proceedings should not be kept secret from Bahamians unless a compelling rationale exists. (Tribune 242)
  • Countries in the hemisphere are failing to provide international protection and safety for Haitians on the move, exposing them to a range of human rights violations, including detentions and illegal pushbacks by authorities; extortion; anti-Black racial discrimination; abuses by armed groups, including gender-based violence; and lack of access to adequate housing, healthcare, and employment, said Amnesty International and Haitian Bridge Alliance in a new briefing. (El País)

  • "With migration increasing throughout the Americas, border policy is no longer a sufficient means to control immigration," writes Andrew Selee in a New York Times guest essay. "The United States must enlist other countries in the hemisphere to become partners in measures to prevent recurrent political and humanitarian crises that force people to flee their homelands."
  • "Caribbean feminists and feminisms come from a rich, radical, and deeply transgressive tradition," explains the Equality Fund's Amina Doherty. But "for far too long, Caribbean feminist movements have been sorely underfunded. This has had significant implications on the ways that Caribbean feminist movements have been able to organize and sustain their work."
  • As world leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26, read the special adda series, a collection of short stories, poems and texts by Commonwealth writers – including from Jamaica, Guyana and Bermuda – responding to the climate emergency.

Critter Corner
  • Animals in Cuba's National Zoo took advantage of the peace and quiet brought on by the coronavirus pandemic for romantic encounters that resulted in a bumper crop of exotic and endangered baby animals. (Reuters)

We welcome comments and critiques on the Just Caribbean Updates. You can see the Updates on our website, as well as receive it directly through the mailing list. Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

IACHR hearing on Extractive Industries, Rights and Climate Change in the Caribbean (Oct. 26, 2021)

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is holding a landmark hearing on extractive industries, rights, and climate change in the Caribbean today at 2 pm EST. The hearing was requested by Malene Alleyne, Jamaican human rights lawyer and Founder of Freedom Imaginaries, and Esther Figueroa, Jamaican environmental filmmaker. Nearly ninety organizations and individuals across the Caribbean have co-signed the request.

The hearing will focus on the impact of the mining and fossil fuels industries on the economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of women, Indigenous, Afro-descendent, and rural communities in the Caribbean.

The delegation to the IACHR will be one of the most diverse to appear from the Caribbean, with representatives from five states. In addition to Alleyne and Figueroa from Jamaica, the delegation also includes Immaculata Casimero and Janette Bulkan from Guyana, Samuel Nesner from Haiti, Gary Aboud and Lisa Premchand from Trinidad and Tobago, and Kirk Murray from The Bahamas.

(Petchary's Blog, Stabroek, Repeating Islands

COP26 and Climate Justice
  • Earlier this month the United Nations Human Rights Council recognised for the first time that having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right. The Council also increased its focus on the human rights impacts of climate change by establishing a Special Rapporteur dedicated specifically to that issue.

  • Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Climate Action, Selwin Hart from Barbados spearheads a global drive to raise climate ambition now. In this interview, he talks about the critical need for developed countries to finance climate adaptation to save lives and protect livelihoods in countries facing the worst consequences from climate. 

  • COP26 in Glasgow is a truly decisive moment for small islands and countries with low-lying coastlands, writes Sir Ronald Sanders. "This is the last decade the world has to avoid the worst impacts of global warming: unimaginable natural disasters, sea-level rise, decimation of human habitats and drowning of small countries with ancient civilizations as in parts of the Pacific. Small states must speak up, and they should not be cajoled into accepting words as deeds or promises as fulfilment."

  • The COP26 outcomes can have profound impacts on our earth as we know it, and many view it as “the last best chance for political leaders to avert a climate catastrophe, which would be unavoidable if global warming exceeds 1.5°C”. In fact 1.5° does not represent a safe climate for the world or for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). It means “there must be zero tolerance on the net zero emissions, if we want to realise the future we want”, Professor Michael Taylor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) told Caricom ministers this month in preparation for the global conference. (CMC)

  • One of the most hotly debated topics at the COP26 climate conference will be climate finance - essentially, how we distribute the costs of climate change, reports Sky News. New research from the Center for Global Development (CGD) estimates that members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) should commit almost double this amount - $190bn a year - until 2100.

  • The target for climate finance is not simply a question of numbers, for the Caribbean. "It is, perhaps more importantly, a qualitative question, because if finance does not bring tangible benefits to the poorest and the most vulnerable and if it does not empower those who are in the position to facilitate a fair transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and sustainable economy, we can forget about climate justice," argues Panos Caribbean.

  • An IIED briefing based on research, interviews and dialogues with community representatives and government officials from least developed countries and Small Island Developing States considers practical solutions to the unique challenge of loss and damage that they face.

  • Indigenous leadership is also necessary if climate justice is to be achieved, as is support for advancing transformative and innovative solutions that account for all life, writes Prof Deborah McGregor in Carbon Brief.

  • Youth organizations from around the world are urging governments to prioritize Loss and Damage (L&D) in the upcoming COP26 negotiations and to redirect global public finance to those countries in the Global South and frontline communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts. (Loss and Damage Youth Coalition)
Energy and Just Transitions
  • Puerto Rico's ongoing energy crisis is hindering economic development and daily life, provoking citizen protests this month. In June, a private consortium known as LUMA Energy took over the transmission and distribution of electricity. And yet the situation has only worsened, reports the New York Times. (See Oct. 7's Just Caribbean Updates)

  • The two entities in charge of providing electricity to Otero and 3.2 million Puerto Ricans have been pointing fingers at each other over who is responsible for the worsening power crisis. But a new analysis from the Center for a New Economy, a Puerto Rico-based nonpartisan think tank, showed they both share a fair portion of the blame. (NBC News)

  • Puerto Rican campaigners say household solar panels and energy storage should be rolled out more widely to tackle the island’s energy crisis and the global climate emergency – both of which are exacerbating racialized health inequalities. After the devastation of Hurricane Maria, a social movement came up with a plan called Queremos Sol – an evidence-based roadmap to make Puerto Rico’s energy system self-sufficient with onsite small solar grids distributed throughout the island. The concept is simple: a localized system that doesn’t require moving electricity from centralized power plants along overhead wires to local substations would be better equipped to withstand and recover from super storms and other natural disasters, reports the Guardian.

  • An unmitigated oil spill at ExxonMobil’s Yellowtail project in Guyana could have far-reaching effects in the area, but there would also be devastating implications for the marine life and ecosystems of neighbors, such as Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, warns Kaieteur News.

  • Prime Minister Mark Phillips sees no contradiction in Guyana being both a fossil-fuel leader and a climate-change mitigator, in an interview with WLRN News.

  • This video by CANARI with contributions from Montserrat fisherfolk and other coastal and marine resource users documents the key impacts of climate change and ideas for solutions to build the resilience of fisherfolk and the small-scale fisheries sector in Montserrat. 
Food Security
  • The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) says that the climate crisis poses a severe threat to food security in the Caribbean, as vulnerable communities — a vast majority of whom rely on agriculture, fishing and livestock, who contribute the least to the climate crisis — bear the brunt of the impacts with limited means to cushion the blow.  (CMC)

  • Food insecurity throughout the Caribbean has risen sharply since the onset of the pandemic. According to the Caribbean COVID-19 Food Security and Livelihoods Impact Surveys in February 2021, 2.7 million people out of a regional population of 7.1 million were food insecure, compared to 1.7 million in April 2020. And in the backdrop of COVID-19 have been the growing impacts of climate change, writes Daphne Ewing-Chow in a Forbes column in which she highlights the invaluable role of social protection to Caribbean food security.

  • Tamisha Lee, President of the Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers and other female farmers from Latin American and Caribbean countries who work day to day to build a better life for themselves and their communities were the leading participants at the commemoration of the International Day of Rural Women organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

  • Under the theme ‘Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19’, the United Nations acknowledged that rural women are “bearing some of the heaviest burdens” of COVID-19, including restrictions on movement, the closure of shops and markets, disruption to their supply chains, and a particularly wide gender digital divide. Jamaica’s rural female farmers, spoke with the Gleaner on how COVID-19 greatly altered their livelihoods, forcing them to do ‘balancing acts’ to survive.
Democratic Governance
  • Barbados' lawmakers elected former jurist Sandra Mason to become the country's head-of-state, a symbolic position held until now by Queen Elizabeth II. Mason will be sworn in on Nov. 30, making Barbados a republic on the 55th anniversary of its independence from Britain. Mason has been Barbados' governor general since 2018 when she was appointed by the queen. (New York Times, Axios)

  • “The time has come for us to express the full confidence in ourselves as a people, and to believe that it is possible for one born of this nation to sign off finally and completely," said Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

  • Barbados is not the first Caribbean country to forsake the Queen. Guyana did so in 1970, four years after gaining independence from Britain, and was followed by Trinidad and Tobago in 1976 and, two years later, Dominica. Its decision to become a republic has amplified a long-running debate in Jamaica over whether it should also turn away from the monarchy, reports the Guardian.

  • Yasin Abu Bakr, the leader of the Jamaat Al Muslimeen, who staged an unsuccessful coup against the Trinidadian government in1990, died last week. On July 27, 1990, Abu Bakr and over 100 armed Muslim rebels set off a car bomb that gutted the police station in front of Trinidad and Tobago's Parliament. They then stormed into the legislature and sprayed it with bullets before taking the prime minister and his Cabinet hostage. The rebellion left 24 people dead, and others injured. (CMC, Miami Herald)
Public Security
  • Haiti is in the midst of an acute fuel crisis linked tu surging insecurity: fuel deliveries have been interrupted for over two weeks by gang blockades and abductions of fuel truck drivers. Drivers responded with a strike last week, protesting insecurity, and angry motorcyclists locked down the capital with fiery barricades. The fuels are widely used to run generators needed to compensate for the country’s unreliable electrical system. (Associated Press,  Miami Herald)

  • The ongoing fuel crisis in Haiti, linked to surging insecurity that has affected petrol deliveries, is likely to lead to a loss of lives if fuel doesn’t arrive at hospitals and health clinics by tomorrow, warned the United Nations. Hospitals over the weekend began refusing admissions and shortening the stay of patients over the lack of fuel, reports the Miami Herald

  • Some 165 gang factions operate in Port-au-Prince, the epicenter of Haiti’s crime wave. This year, gangs conducted at least 628 abductions — more than a threefold increase from last year’s total. Today, collusion between armed groups and political elites and the Haitian police's shortfalls have allowed Haiti’s gangs to supplant the state, writes Paul Angelo in a New York Times guest essay.

  • Gangs have become so powerful in Haiti that even simple government acts are now being held hostage by the country’s criminal groups, reports the Miami Herald. Indeed, the gangs have made state authorities irrelevant in many cases, and the groups levy taxes and determine what citizens can and can't do in their territories.

Regional Relations
  • Ex U.S. Envoy Daniel Foote's explosive testimony to Congress accused the U.S. of playing a major role in Haiti's political instability. "For people like me — whose life and work are built on the history of my home country, Haiti — these admissions were shattering and redemptive," writes Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck. "It felt as though one U.S. envoy had restored some measure of honor to decades of shameless American intervention in my country. He spoke words that finally reconcile with Haitian reality."
  • U.N. human rights experts condemned Washington’s expulsions of Haitian migrants and refugees, saying they formed part of a policy of “racialised exclusion” of Black Haitians at U.S. ports of entry. (Reuters)
  • An Antigua and Barbuda court dismissed a challenge to the government's vaccine mandate policy on a technicality, reports Nation News.
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights invites researchers, students, civil society, and interested persons to submit academic papers, within the framework of its impact observatory, to contribute to the process of reflection, systematization, visibility and evaluation of the impact of the institution in the defense and protection of human rights in the hemisphere.

  • The Commonwealth Foundation open call for grants on projects that lead to meaningful and constructive engagement between civil society and government around policy and decision-making on one or more of three priority themes: a) Health, b) Freedom of expression, and c) Environment and climate change.

  • The Barbados-based Healthy and Environmentally Friendly Youth (HEY) Campaign and UNICEF are hosting Re-Imagine Eco- Cultural Festival Competition which will focus on three challenges of Sustainable Fashion, Photography and Videography -- Children's Environmental Rights Initiative -- .

  • Invitation for contribution to the research and report that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is preparing in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 47/24 entitled “Human Rights and Climate Change”.
  • 24 Oct.  -- The 1884 Hosay/Muharram Massacre of Indians in Trinidad. Zoom: , Zoom ID: 82378528914. Facebook live: @indocaribbeanculturalcentre. -- The Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre in association with Iere Theatre Productions Limited and the Ameena Gafoor Institute for the Study of Indentureship and its Legacies

  • 5 and 6 Nov. Virtual conference on the Jamaican writer and broadcaster, Andrew Salkey (1928-1995). The conference will celebrate his legacy by exploring his various writing projects and contributions to the Caribbean literary community through his involvement with the Caribbean Artists Movement and black publishing in Britain. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Caribbean Covid-19 cases rising -- PAHO (Oct. 15, 2021)

 Although the numbers of Covid cases in much of Latin America and the Caribbean are declining, several islands in the Caribbean are seeing increases. Many Caribbean countries are grappling with unequal distribution of doses and vaccine hesitancy, World Health Organization officials warned yesterday. (New York Times)

Dr Carissa Etienne, PAHO director, said that in the past week more than 1.1 million cases and more than 24,000 deaths from covid19 were registered in the Americas. The Caribbean is where the greatest incidences are especially in Barbados, she said, adding it is in that country where the highest number of cases and deaths has been registered with the Dominican Republic and Haiti following closely. (Newsday)

While many Caribbean island countries had community protection in 2020 due to public health measures and travel restrictions, the situation changed this year, with the majority of countries reporting increases in cases and deaths in 2021. This is exacerbated by low vaccination rates in some nations. Etienne highlighted that while the overall vaccination rate in Latin America and the Caribbean currently stands at 39%, “in far too many places, coverage is much lower.”  In six countries, including Jamaica, Haiti, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, vaccination rates do not exceed 20 percent of the population per country. (PAHO

An “important challenge that the Caribbean is facing — English-speaking countries and French- speaking countries and territories — is vaccine hesitancy,” said Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, the Covid-19 incident manager at the Pan American Health Organization. 

"“To be effective, vaccine campaigns must also be designed around the unique needs of the population,” said Etienne. She cited examples from Belize, which has promoted COVID vaccines in public spaces, such as bus terminals and markets.

The ongoing pandemic impact has relevant implications for tourism -- the U.S. CDC recommends against visiting many Caribbean countries currently -- which many islands need economically, but which poses epidemiological challenges, notes the Washington Post.

Debt, Finance and Economics
  • The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are holding their annual meetings this week -- Covid-19 vaccine financing and debt relief for middle income countries are two topics development advocates are watching out for, reports Devex.

  • Jamaica should join the call for debt reform, argues the Jamaica Gleaner editorial board, noting that Jamaica, like other Caribbean countries, "is locked out of most debt initiatives, such as the recent G-20’s payment moratorium for the world’s poorest nations. Most of the region’s countries are also ineligible for some categories of loans soft from multilateral financial institutions, although the Caribbean is the world’s most indebted region."
  • Close to 170 Haitian children arrived in Port-au-Prince this week after being deported from Cuba and the U.S., according to UNICEF.
Public Security
  • An ongoing surge in kidnappings has compounded Haiti's multiple political, social and economic crisis, reports the Washington Post. Recorded kidnappings so far this year have spiked sixfold over the same period last year -- affecting everybody from doctors, clergy and even police officers. Port-au-Prince is posting more kidnappings in absolute terms than vastly larger Bogotá, Mexico City and São Paulo combined, according to the consulting firm Control Risks.
  • Haiti's political crisis -- which is fueling part of the migration surge impacting the U.S. government -- is in large part due to international interference. Gangs currently control more than half of the territory of Haiti, according to Haiti's National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH). If the U.S. and other countries cut off the ruling party, the Haitian Tèt Kale Party, or PHTK, the gangs would lose considerable power, writes organization director Pierre Espérance in Newsweek.
Regional Relations
  • A massive new discovery of oil deposits in offshore Guyana announced by ExxonMobil last week adds urgency to a border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela, reports the Miami Herald. (Venezuela's claim to Guyana's oil-rich Essequibo region is, in fact, one of the few points the country's government and opposition both agree on, see Sept. 9's Just Caribbean Updates)
Climate Justice and Energy
  • The United Nations’ Human Rights Council adopted a resolution recognizing the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The U.S. is among a handful of countries that oppose the motion, reports Inside Climate News.

  • The Big Ideas Into Action Podcast focuses on the climate action perspectives of vulnerable countries going into COP26, looking at issues including finance, ambition, rules, loss and damage, adaptation and more.
  • Local knowledge can demonstrate climate change impacts -- as is the case with declining fish harvests off Guyana. (Stabroek News)

  • Journalist Bianca Graulau is documenting Puerto Rico's disappearing beaches on TikTok and YouTube, and in the process helps her audience make sense of the impact of colonization, history and climate change on Puerto Rico, reports the Huffington Post.

  • Out of a total of 33 endangered species recorded in Trinidad and Tobago, over half of them live in the ocean, and many of them are at risk of extinction due to overfishing. (Loop News)

  • Trinidad and Tobago's government announced plans to remove customs duties and VAT on the importation of battery-powered electric vehicles, reversing a previous policy. (Loop News) But some experts criticize the initiative, and note that such cars will still be more costly than their traditional counterparts, and difficult to obtain.
Human Rights
  • Disparities in multidimensional poverty among ethnic groups in Guyana are consistently high but a UNDP report found that across the four hinterland regions there is a greater representation in the Indigenous community, reports Stabroek News.

  • Guyana's Rastafarian community fears that the momentum to legalize marijuana has been lost, reports Vice News.
Democratic Governance
  • Cuba's government denied opponents permission to protest in demand for civil liberties on Nov. 15. In a letter, officials told organizers that the march forms part of efforts to overthrow the government, reports Reuters. Protests in Cuba generally have been forbidden on grounds the United States was behind them, but the country’s three-year-old constitution opened a new space for “legitimate” protest.
  • "As the dialogue about Puerto Rico’s status comes and goes in mainstream U.S. media, Puerto Ricans face further invisibility in discussions that impact our immediate reality. ... The collective confusion about our present comes from a failure to reckon with our past," writes Alexandra-Marie Figuera Miranda in Teen Vogue.
  • Eric Williams, Trinidad and Tobago's first prime minister, upended the historiographical consensus on slavery and abolition in his book Capitalism and Slavery, where he asserted the primacy of the enslaved themselves in breaking the chains that bound them, putting their experiences at the center of his research." Controversially, he also placed slavery at the heart of the rise of capitalism and the British Empire, which carried profound implications for its successor, the United States," writes Gerald Horne in The Nation.

  • The encounter between Europe and what came to be called the Americas, marked on Oct. 12, is an event to be lamented, not celebrated said Sir Ronald Sanders in an address to the Organization of American States. "The native peoples of these lands were not in need of discovery; they already had a civilisation, a rich culture, and knowledge that suited the sustainability of their environment. All that was either destroyed or desecrated by the arrival of Columbus and his crew who stumbled upon these lands in the mistaken belief that they had navigated a new route to the Indies."

  • Christopher Columbus statues have been targeted by anti-colonial activists on the anniversary of the explorer's "discovery" of the Americas. In the Bahamas a man who referred to himself as “Michael the Archangel” was arrested after he allegedly used a sledgehammer to damage the right leg of the Columbus statue, reports EyeWitness News and more here. (See Wednesday's Latin America Daily Briefing for more on Columbus statues.)

  • Andrew Watson, a Black descendent of Guyana enslaved people and slave owners, had a profound influence on the development of soccer, though his contributions from a century ago are largely forgotten, reports the BBC.
  • In Jacqueline Couti’s Sex, Sea, and Self: Sexuality and Nationalism in French Caribbean Discourse, 1924-1948 the author analyzes work by authors from Martinique and Guadeloupe to examine the place of French Caribbean literature in current postcolonial thought and visions of the Black Atlantic -- Repeating Islands.
Events and Opportunities
  • 19 Oct 5:00 pm (EC)-- Caribono Presents -- Reclaiming Indigenous Life: An Attempt to Repurpose the Law -- the contours of the law as an avenue for securing indigenous peoples' survival and prosperity in postcolonial societies through the experience of the Maya people of Southern Belize.

  • 28-30 October -- 39th Annual West Indian Literature Conference, “Contemporary Currents in Caribbean Literature” -- University of the West Indies-Cave Hill, October 28-30, 2021

  • COP26 Coalition Support: Form to know the needs and activities that the organizations will carry out around the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on November 6.

We welcome comments and critiques on the Just Caribbean Updates. You can see the Updates on our website, as well as receive it directly through the mailing list. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Puerto Rico's power crisis (Oct. 7, 2021)

Power outages across Puerto Rico have surged in recent weeks, with some lasting several days, leaving residents feeling as if they are, once again, living in the aftermath of a major storm. Officials have blamed everything from seaweed to mechanical failures as the government calls the situation a “crass failure” that urgently needs to be fixed, reports the Associated Press. Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority, which is responsible for the generation of electricity, and Luma, a private company that handles transmission and distribution of power, have blamed mechanical failures at various plants.

The energy company Luma took over the U.S. territory's power transmission and distribution system on June 1. Since then, customers have complained of an increase in outages, reports Axios. In fact, Luma has taken longer to repair outages than its predecessor, in the three months since it took over, according to a report by the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo.

Hundreds of Puerto Ricans gathered outside the governor's mansion in San Juan last week, angered by outages, which come as residents will see another increase in their electricity bill, even though they already pay twice as much as mainland U.S. customers for unreliable service, reports NBC.

But the issue is long-term: Hurricane Maria in 2017 destroyed electric infrastructure on the island. In response, Congress authorized some $23 billion in disaster aid, including at least $10 billion to restore or replace Puerto Rico’s electricity grid. But, so far, none of this money has been earmarked for renewable power, a waste of Puerto Rico's once-in-a-lifetime chance to build a clean energy grid, argue Patrick Parenteau and Rachel Stevens in the Conversation.

"It would be very disappointing for a disaster relief agency to lock us into decades more of the same dirty energy responsible for the climate crisis that intensifies the hurricanes thrashing Puerto Rico," argued environmental lawyer Ruth Santiago in the Miami Herald. She points to a proposal called Queremos Sol, put together by a coalition of community groups, labor, economists, engineers and environmental organizations, and backed by a study, that found that the energy needs of 75% of the island’s energy and 100% of homes can be powered by rooftop solar paired with battery storage by 2035.

Experts note that solar energy would be more resilient. Concerns over hurricane seasons to come — and whether LUMA can handle the aftermath of a storm — are also front and center in many Puerto Ricans' minds, reports the Miami Herald.

Climate Justice and Energy
  • The careful implementation of a Caribbean carbon pricing regime could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions but should be associated with a redistribution of any revenues, according to the Jamaican Economy Panel. (Petchary's Blog)

  • Between 2009 and 2018, the continuous rise in sea temperature cost the world 14 percent of its coral reefs – that’s more than the size of Australia’s reefs combined – according to the UN-backed  Sixth Status of Corals of the World: 2020 Report. It revealed that almost invariably, sharp declines in coral cover, correspond with rapid increases in sea surface temperatures, indicating their vulnerability to temperature spikes, and found that this phenomenon is likely to increase as the planet continues to warm.

  • The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has launched its first podcast, the eight-episode series – Islands on Alert, highlighting the realities facing Small Island Developing States as the climate change crisis erodes lives and livelihoods.

  • The Sprouts and the Mystery of the Flood is a Guyanese children's book on climate change by The Breadfruit Collective.
Democratic Governance

  • Four United Nations agencies called for countries to "refrain" from deporting Haitian migrants without "proper assessment of their individual protection needs," last week. In the statement, the agencies cited the "various catastrophes affecting Haiti" as factors that countries should consider before immediately expelling Haitians. (The Hill)

  • Members of the United Nations Security Council pressed for elections in Haiti at a meeting this week, the council's first since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July, and a devastating August earthquake. Security Council members placed emphasis on a political accord being pursued by acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry, but paid little attention the concerns of a coalition of Haitian civil society organizations pressing for a delay in the polls in order to address some of the root causes of Haiti’s dysfunction, reports the Miami Herald.

  • “The U.S. is not clear,” Emmanuela Douyon, a Haitian grassroots activist, said after addressing the Security Council as a member of Haitian civil society and listening to the statements. “We have the impression that there is a rush to take shortcuts and extend support to the people that the majority don’t trust to lay foundations for a return to democracy. The key word is ‘rupture.’ We want to break with the old practices that led us to crisis, but we are not witnessing any effort toward it.” (Miami Herald)

  • Haiti is currently undergoing “one of the most fraught periods of its recent history”, the head of the UN office in the country told the Security Council.

  • Haitian foreign minister Claude Joseph asked the Security Council for help tackling gang violence and crime, saying the existing UN political mission needs to pivot toward strengthening security and law enforcement institutions in the crisis-wracked country, reports the Associated Press. The UN's Haiti mission's mandate, which is up for renewal this month, currently includes promoting police professionalism and supporting a national strategy to reduce violence.
Indigenous rights
  • Indigenous peoples hold the master key to a transformative post-COVID-19 recovery based on their knowledge, their collective conscience and their worldview, Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said at a high-level event organized by the Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Economics, Finance and Debt
  • Addressing the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley scolded the international community for imposing a number of problems ranging from climate change to debt repayment on small island developing states (SIDS), as she reiterated her call for a more just and equitable global society in the future. (Caribbean Media Corporation)

  • Mottley also planned to use the occasion to lobby for Covid-19 vaccine production in Barbados, which could then be used to supply the region with vaccines. (Barbados Today)

  • The European Union removed AnguillaDominica and Seychelles from its tax haven blacklist. The three countries were moved to a “grey list” after they agreed to a review of their tax transparency systems. (Loop News)

  • The Pandora Papers trove shows how the Caribbean’s wealthy elite have for decades masked their fortunes and protected their assets through offshore shell companies that point to Swiss bank accounts, reports the Miami Herald
 Public Security
  • Jamaica's Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has renewed its call for a full roll-out of body-worn cameras among the security forces even as it acknowledged the increased use of their own devices by some cops to record incidents and provide investigators with evidence, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.
  • Slaves and Highlanders, Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean, is the result of more than 20 years of research by Dr David Alston into the connections between the vast acquisition of wealth in the north and the human suffering of slaves shipped west from Africa. (The Scotsman)

  • Strictly Facts is a podcast and educational platform that aims to educate and celebrate Caribbean history through our art and music.
  • Jamaican chef Norma Shirley immigrated to the U.S. and tried to make it as a restaurateur. Then she became an icon by cooking for her own people. -- New Yorker

  • The exhibition, The Other Side of the Pentaprism, looks at the ways that Bahamians and the greater Caribbean culture sees itself. (Hyperallergic)

  • Jada-Marie Lum from Trinidad & Tobago won the Caribbean Climate Change Art Competition commissioned by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). (Breaking Belize News)
  • Climate Smart Accelerator: For the Caribbean to better prepare itself by becoming more climate resilient, we need all climate innovators, philanthropists and investors to see climate change not as an adversity, but as an opportunity to build forward, create new jobs, save lives and make our countries more sustainable.  If you have a climate-adaptation or mitigation project that needs assistance to move it forward, share it with CSA, and let them see if they can assist. Email them at or visit their website:
We welcome comments and critiques on the Just Caribbean Updates. You can see the Updates on our website, as well as receive it directly through the mailing list. Thank you for reading.

Jamaica's state of emergency (Nov. 19, 2021)

Jamaica's government declared a state of emergency in seven police districts on the island on Sunday, in response to increases in violen...