Remarks by Ms. Michelle Gyles-McDonnough Resident Representative of UNDP Barbados and the OECS

Jun 8, 2012

Media Launch of Logo for the GEF funded project “Piloting Climate Change Adaptation to Protect Human Health”.

Hon. Donville Inniss, Minister of Health

Other Ministers of Government,

Dr. Merle Lewis, PAHO/WHO Representative, Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries

Representatives of the Media

Specially invited guests,

Good Morning,

The great development challenge of the 21st Century is to safeguard the right of generations today and in the future to live healthy and fulfilling lives. The prospects of good health and fulfilling lives, however, is  threatened by climate variability and climate change, which we are now forced to face as a result, in large part, of global abuse of fossil fuel and unsustainable production and consumption practices. Conventional assessments of the impacts of these events and practices are often silent on the winners and losers of such development policies, but, in the end, are unable to hide the inequity that is boiling over into social unrest or the Damage and Losses that are retarding development efforts particularly in Small Island Developing States.

In responding to the Damage and Loss phenomena, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has now introduced the theme of losses and damages from the adverse impacts of climate change into its negotiating text.  This is due in no small measure to the work Caribbean small island developing states, which have been strongly supported by key regional institutions like the CARICOM climate change centre in Belize and the CARICOM secretariat and the UNDP office here in Barbados.  Human Development is central to the work of UNDP, and for this reason, we have sought to ascertain the human cost of inaction and the present low level of ambition on climate targets to development and ultimately, human lives. 

The human face of Climate Change cannot be captured and packaged in statistics. And they certainly are not purely economic.  Many of the current impacts are impossible to separate from wider pressures. For this reason, there is heavy reliance on the media and graphic presentations to make the case. But these presentations are skewed. The intense media coverage that accompanies climate disasters in rich countries ensures widespread public awareness of the impacts, but the overwhelming majority of people impacted by climate change live in the developing world. It is therefore imperative that we in the developing world use any and every available opportunity to sensitize our citizenry to the growing and varied impacts of Climate Change, which most certainly are not limited to the natural environment.

The process of developing this logo and today’s exercise of unveiling this logo are opportunities to put a human face on climate change. I therefore hope that the hours spent by the participants in designing their logos have been translated into learning experiences that will result in behavioral change; behavioral change that would see Barbados go beyond piloting climate adaptation to protect human health to the point of advancing life styles that are fashioned by lessons learnt from the several adaptation initiatives implemented in Barbados and the Caribbean as a whole.

Over the last year, this project has sought to carve out a space for itself in the development landscape of Barbados. In order to do this more effectively, it must demonstrate impact, change lives and command the attention of a public overwhelmed with media stimuli and other project implementation activities. It must make the kind of change that gets the attention of policy makers and developers. Great though this logo might be, it cannot make that kind of change by itself. Climate change has the potential to create humanitarian disaster, ecological collapse and economic dislocation all of which affect human health. We must therefore focus our attention on ensuring that the citizens of Barbados and indeed the world are cognizant of these imperatives.

Again, I commend the participants for getting involved in such serious matters and congratulate the winner for a job well done. Please know that UNDP remains committed to working with the Government of Barbados on matters of a development nature.  We recognize that international cooperation by itself cannot guarantee effective adaptation but it can help create the kind of environment that empowers people to build resilient nations. I therefore take this opportunity to challenge the project management team and all project partners to ensure effective implementation of this project for the good of all.

Thank You.

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