‘World not recovering, only developed countries’- Dr. Ali berates isolation of small states
By Kurt Campbell
In scathing remarks on Tuesday, Guyana’s Head of State Dr. Irfaan Ali slammed the governments of developed countries on their lack of support for smaller and developing states in the global recovery from the almost two years running COVID-19 pandemic and other natural disasters linked to climate change.
Dr. Ali made his impassioned statement while participating in the 15th Session of the Ministerial Summit of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 15) in Barbados.
Joined on a panel that included the President of Kenya and outgoing UNCTAD President Uhuru Kenyatta and General Secretary of UNCTAD Rebeca Grynspan, Dr. Ali was frank in his assessment of the global recovery.
With discussions centered on the theme: “Building a more prosperous development path – matching the scale of the moment”, Dr. Ali was asked by the moderator whether he believed there needs to be a change in the development path and how willing and able the world was to make that change.
In his response, he said he does not believe the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with climate change setbacks, necessitated any change in the development path, but rather the weaknesses in the current system needed to be fixed.
Speaking directly to world leaders, Dr. Ali used that point as a springboard for his statements on the disparity in global recovery.
“Is the world recovering? No, the world can’t when developed countries are more than 80% vaccinated, while the developing countries are less and below 3%.
“The world is not recovering, only the developed countries (are),” he said.
The Guyanese Head of State said many of the developed countries were pushing for the isolation of small states as part of their recovery efforts.
That isolation is demonstrated in the differentiation of vaccines and the restrictions imposed on people because of their vaccine choices.
Dr. Ali told the gathering, receiving loud applause in the process, that the pandemic’s singular most important lesson is that the world is interconnected, but berated the insulated and isolated policies being imposed by the developed countries.
“It is not that the developing countries did not try to get the vaccines. Vaccines were not available…we were not asking for handouts, or preferential treatment we were asking for fair treatment and we were not granted fair treatment. We were left on the back burner and we continue to be left there.
“…And to ensure we were not left back we went to all sources and now we hear that if you tapped into a certain source you would not be able to do certain things,” he reasoned.
He rejected claims by developed countries that they were well on their way to recovery, noting that such a claim would be false when the developing countries are still facing low vaccination rates.
But he also believes that the issues are far beyond vaccination and it has become an economic and social problem pointing to the significant loss of revenue by tourism-dependent Caribbean countries, some of which are also rebuilding from natural disasters experienced during the pandemic.
“Unless we are willing to address the issue of fairness and how these countries are treated this will be a prolonged problem for us.
“The world is not recovering and if the developed countries believe they are recovering it will be a recovery that isolates the rest of the world,” Dr. Ali added.
The President also believes that the institutions tasked with multilateralism seemed to be failing.
“Are the institutions that will allow it [multilateralism] to work, are they delivering?
Are they geared towards what we want to achieve or is there manipulation in the system?” he asked.
Dr. Ali also observed that there is a lot of talk about a new commitment, but said old commitments must be honoured first.
The Caribbean and other small developing states, he said, is an equal partner on the table and stand willing to it place.
“Together we have to send this message very strong that we are an equal partner and we are prepared to do what is right.
“To speak about a new path in the context of what is happening would be giving a free pass to those who have not allowed the existing system to work,” he concluded.