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Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs Hosts Risk Assessment Workshop

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#TheBahamas, April 26, 2022 – Non-Profit Organizations were invited to participate in a workshop to assist the government in meeting its goal of becoming fully compliant to Recommendation 8 of the Financial Action Task Force’s Risk Assessment Criteria in relation to Non-Profit Organizations. The country’s rating as it relates to Non-Profit Organizations is currently ‘Partially Compliant’ since the last assessment in 2021.  A two-day workshop was conducted by the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs at Baha Mar April 5-6, 2022 led by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Hon. Ryan Pinder.

Among the participants were church leaders, controllers and presidents of charitable organizations and other stakeholders. Also in attendance was the Minister of State in the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Hon. Jomo Campbell.  Moderators for the event included Dr. Cassandra Nottage, National Identified Risk Co-ordinator and Tiffany Moss, Senior Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer at the Office of the Attorney General.

Minister Pinder said that the NPO Risk Assessment Training and Workshop is a very important and necessary exercise, given the important role that the sector plays in the country’s economy.

“As most of you would know, The Bahamas is a founding member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) , the regional Financial Action Task Force (FATF) body. In 2015, The Bahamas underwent an assessment of its implementation of the FATF 40 Recommendations. Of these, Recommendation 8, which deals with non-profit organizations, was evaluated as “Partly Compliant” by examiners.  A partially compliant rating essentially means that The Bahamas has not fully implemented the requirements of Recommendation 8, and there are deficiencies within its legislative framework.”

The objective of Recommendation 8 is to ensure that NPOs are not misused by terrorist organizations:

1.To pose as legitimate entities.

2.To exploit legitimate entities as conduits for terrorist financing, including for the purpose of escaping asset freezing measures.

3.To conceal or obscure the clandestine diversion of funds intended for legitimate purposes, but diverted for terrorist purposes.

Mr. Pinder said that currently, there are approximately 1,047 NPOs registered in the country.  He explained that the Compliance Unit has completed the process of a preliminary assessment of the sector by conducting a desktop review to enable the risk profiling of each individual NPO.

The team, he said, has employed risk rating criteria, which when coupled with the detailed analysis of information obtained from questionnaires, and interviews, will allow an identification and comprehensive assessment of the types of NPOs that are likely to be at risk of terrorist financing abuse.

“The results of the risk assessment exercise will inform a risk based or, in other words ‘targeted’ supervision and monitoring of the NPO sector in The Bahamas,” he said.

“I am sure it will bring much comfort to many of you if the outcome of this risk assessment demonstrates that you are at little to no risk for terrorist financing abuse. This will, no doubt, place you in a low risk category with little supervision and monitoring. If the outcome, however, if there are risks to terrorist financing abuse, and corresponding vulnerabilities due to the nature of your activities and engagement with international elements, then by all means, enhanced monitoring and supervision would be warranted.”

He noted the vital role NPOs play in the local economy, but said they also play a role in the global economy. “Your efforts complement government activities in providing essential services as well as comfort and in many cases, spiritual guidance and hope to those in need, “he said. “NPOs have been a critical partner in providing much needed assistance with disaster relief efforts in The Bahamas and throughout the world. We have seen this first hand with our own experiences with Hurricane Dorian in 2019. Our NPOs were on the ground providing support to thousands of Bahamians; along with many of our churches, which were involved. These efforts are commendable.”

He said, however, that despite legitimate efforts, the events of September 11 coupled with the ongoing international campaign against terrorist financing have demonstrated that terrorists and terrorist organizations exploit the NPO sector to raise and move funds, provide logistical support, encourage terrorist recruitment or otherwise support terrorist organizations and operations. This misuse, he emphasized, undermines donor confidence and compromises the integrity of NPOs.

The Minister explained that in May 2021, The Bahamas applied to the CFATF for a re-rating of FATF Recommendations, which were rated as partially compliant and two recommendations were revised since the Bahamas’ Mutual Evaluation.  During The CFATF Plenary in December 2021, The Bahamas received nine upgrades, one downgrade and two ratings were maintained. Recommendation 15 was downgraded from Largely Compliant and Recommendation 8 maintained a rating of Partially Compliant.

“The completion of the risk assessment, with your input through questionnaires and interviews, will enable The Bahamas to further comply with Recommendation 8.  In May 2022, next month, The Bahamas will make an application for an upgrade from “partially compliant” to “largely compliant” or better yet “fully compliant.”

During her overview of The FATF Recommendation 8, Tiffany Moss pointed out that several criteria increased the risk of NPOs as it relates to terrorist finance abuse, including those with annual turnovers of $75,000 or higher and cross-border movement of cash (such as those with parent companies or affiliates in another jurisdiction), among other risk levels.

 

Letisha Henderson

(BIS)

Bahamas News

Hurricane Nicole – A symbol of climate injustice

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By Deandre Williamson

Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellow

 

#TheBahamas, November 29, 2022 – With the trauma of Hurricane Dorian still lingering, Abaco and Grand Bahama residents braced for Hurricane Nicole as they experienced another unfair blow of climate injustice.

As sea levels rose, triggering storm surges and flooding, the northwestern islands of The Bahamas were placed under hurricane watch.  For many, this signaled that the fight for climate justice must continue.

Some residents on those islands evacuated their homes and fled to shelters hours before Nicole made landfall in The Bahamas on Nov. 9 as a tropical storm and strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane with winds up to 75 miles per hour.

“The wind was manageable.  It wasn’t as bad as we thought.  In our area we got maybe a limb or so that blew down.  The power was out for a while, but thank God, we made it through it,” Abaco resident Mark Anthony Swain said.

Although the impact of Hurricane Nicole was minimal when compared to Hurricane Dorian in 2019, climate change is the underlying cause of the intensity and frequency of hurricanes in recent years.

When Nicole exited The Bahamas, the “all clear” was given, but the country isn’t clear from future hurricanes and the devastating effects of climate change.

However, it’s clear that The Bahamas and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) need climate justice because they are hit hardest by the impact of climate change, are the least responsible and together bear next to no responsibility for the climate crisis.

While the Government of The Bahamas is fighting for climate justice, residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama are calling for more to be done to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Swain, who also experienced Hurricane Dorian, said the countries that are major contributors of carbon emissions in the atmosphere should do more to assist smaller countries in fighting climate change, so when hurricanes and other natural disasters occur, the smaller countries will be able to maintain themselves.

“I think these other countries that are contributing to the climate challenge that we are facing should be held responsible and accountable in that regard,” Swain added.

China, the United States, Russia, India and Japan are the top five countries with the highest carbon emissions in the world.

Grand Bahama resident Randy Deleveaux, who was on the island during Hurricane Nicole, agrees that more should be done concerning the climate crisis because The Bahamas is in a hurricane zone based on its geographical location.

“We know that every year rain, sun or shine, it appears as if we are going to have a hurricane, whether it’s a major one or not a major one,” Deleveaux said.  “As a matter of fact, even though the ones we consider not major, we still have to take more necessary precautions because Dorian taught us we can’t take nothing for granted.”

Deleveaux suggested that the government should ensure that every household is equipped with storm shutters, floatation devices and life jackets.

“There are so many things that the government can do and persons can do in relation to hurricanes because we always have to prepare,” he added.

“Every time we have a hurricane coming, persons have to run and scrap for plywood to put on their windows.  We need to move from that and be able to properly prepare.

“Look at our coastal erosion and stuff like that because of the hurricanes.  I remember one time you could go on the beaches and see sand, now some of these beaches don’t have no sand like that because of hurricanes and we’re not even looking at the impact that is having on our coastal and marine life. We don’t replace the sand.  There is so much things we can do.”

 

Loss and Damage

But no matter how large or small a hurricane measures on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, there is always loss and damage associated with a storm.

According to Prime Minister of The Bahamas Philip Davis, during the Caribbean Regional Heads of Government Meeting in Preparation for COP27, more than 50 percent of The Bahamas’ outstanding debt can be linked to the impacts of the hurricanes between 2015 and 2019.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in its damage and loss assessments (DaLA) synthesis, noted that The Bahamas has lost more than $4.2 billion over the past seven years as a result of Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew, Irma and Dorian.

Abaco and Grand Bahama are still rebuilding from Hurricane Dorian and, although minimal, the damages from Hurricane Nicole are being assessed.

Prime Minister Davis was in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt attending COP27 when Hurricane Nicole passed through the northwestern Bahamas.  At COP27, he called on world leaders to get real about ensuring that loss and damage are compensated for.

“We do not have a significant carbon footprint in the world. Yes, we do have a significant carbon sink in the world.  But yet still, after this hurricane has passed, who’s going to have to pay for the recovery, reconstruction and for normalizing the lives of my people?” Davis said in a video interview.

Climate justice fights for solutions to the climate crisis that would result in reduced emissions and industrialized rich nations sharing the burden of the crisis by helping SIDS handle the severe effects of climate change.

Swain lost his home during Hurricane Dorian and there are others who also lost their homes and some are still living in trailers in Abaco.

Without insurance, Swain is rebuilding his home, but the progress is slow.

He explained that the Disaster Reconstruction Authority and other NGOs promised to help him, but they haven’t delivered on their promises as yet.

“We will, out of pocket, try to do some things to get us along,” Swain said.

Hurricane Dorian caused a housing shortage in Abaco and the demand for a home is great.

According to Swain, because of the demand and desperation to find a home, the rent in Abaco is skyrocketing.

“You can find the average apartment, two bedroom, going for no less than $1,500.  In some instances it’s over $2,000,” he said.

After negotiations and hearing the pleas of Small Island Developing States, COP27 closed with the announcement of a loss and damage fund to compensate countries impacted by climate change. This is a huge step in the fight for climate justice.

 

This story was published with the support of Climate Tracker’s Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship.

 

Deandre Williamson

Journalist

Member, The Bahamas Press Club 2014

 

Caption:  Flooding in Abaco caused by Hurricane Nicole. (Photo/Abaco resident)

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Bahamas News

Another American Tourist Dies in the Bahamas

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By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 29, 2022 – A sixth American tourist died on the island of Exuma in the Bahamas.

Police reports are that the 87-year-old woman, who is said to be from Virginia in the United States, was found unresponsive at the Grand Isle Resort and Residences on Friday, November 25.

The unidentified woman was in the country on vacation.

An investigation has been launched to determine the cause of her death.

In May, four American tourists died on the island of Exuma.  Three of them, Michael Phillips, his wife Robbie Phillips and Vincent Paul Chiarella, were found dead in their villas at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort in Exuma.  On May 27, a fourth tourist died during a diving expedition.

In August, a fifth American tourist died after testing positive for COVID.

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Experts Make Recommendations on Framework to Help Caribbean Access and Use Needed Climate Financing

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November 29, 2022 – If Caribbean countries are to survive the impacts of climate change, then finding ways to make the money match their needs will be of paramount importance.

“It won’t be a rainbow that gets you to the pot of gold, it will be a framework that enables us to unlock the type of financing that we need for the actions that we committed to under the Paris Agreement in terms of  mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage,” was how Ambassador Jeanine Felson, Senior Advisor on Climate Matters to the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), put it on Monday.

Ambassador Felson was among the regional experts speaking on Monday, November 14 at ‘Aligning Climate Finance Flows with Caribbean Countries’ Climate Resilience Needs’, a panel discussion coordinated by Caribbean institutions at COP27 to highlight the challenges of and propose solutions around climate change in the region.

The panel was coordinated by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the Organisation for Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission and was an official side event at the United Nations’ climate change conference, currently being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Speakers highlighted aspects that needed to be considered, incorporated or strengthened in the effort to build an overall framework that would allow Caribbean countries to be able to access more climate financing and use it effectively.

CDB Director of Projects, Daniel Best, spoke of the new framework which CDB is proposing for determining access to finance by small island developing states, many of which are bedevilled by the twin dilemmas of being very climate vulnerable but also being considered middle income and hence ineligible for concessional financing.

CDB’s framework includes three tools: the IRC of a country, which estimates the ability to recover from an exogenous shock, the Recovery Duration Adjuster, to anticipate the length of the recovery period after a shock, which is much longer for developing countries when compared with developed countries, and the Vulnerability and Resilience Assessment Tool.  These calculations will then provide a more judicious means of determining access to finance for small developing states,” stated Best.

However, he stressed that financing frameworks must be improved and strengthened across the world’s development financing system, adding:

While international financial institutions may have pledged trillions of dollars to finance building resilience against the effects of climate change, those pledges may end up meaning very little if we do not strengthen the ‘architecture of the international financial system’ to ensure that these financial resources efficiently flow to developing countries and assist in meeting their development needs and boosting growth prospects.”

Head of the Climate Policy Unit at the European Investment Bank, Edward Calthrop shared how their institution was working to do just that, noting that as the largest provider of climate finance globally, the European Investment Bank is seeking to “work with public authorities to be able to quickly develop high quality studies to make sure infrastructure is designed for the future.

An important element for accelerating finance is having the capacity to deal with the resilience of projects…. Not just in the Caribbean, but globally, we need to get better and quicker at developing high design standards for infrastructure,” stated Calthorp.

Ways to accommodate for the issues of size and scale were also discussed with speakers noting it was a perennial issue for the region made up as it is of small states. Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Planning and Development, Hon. Pennelope Beckles, suggested ways this could be addressed in building out a framework that allows countries to be able to properly implement climate resilience projects, saying:

I think it is fair to say that attracting climate finance flows to the Caribbean is a multi-faceted issue. For flows of finance to be effective, recipients must be capable of receiving and utilising such financing. Given the unique nature of the Caribbean, it may also be necessary to create economies of scale that attract feasible investments and climate financing in order to maximise impacts. This, of course, will require coordination and collaboration by all countries of the region to create a uniformed enabling environment across the region.”

 

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