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Prime Minister Davis Gives Briefing on The Bahamas’ Interactions at CHOGM in Rwanda

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By: Eric Rose

Bahamas Information Services

 

#TheBahamas, June 28, 2022 – During the press briefing upon his return from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis noted that, as he closely followed the news from The Bahamas the week prior, he was able to candidly exchange views with other leaders at CHOGM about what was happening in The Bahamas, compared to what was happening in their countries.

“I was able to learn some of the ways in which they are tackling the same challenges, and some of the ways in which they are creating new opportunities for their people,” Prime Minister Davis said, during the briefing in the VIP Lounge of the Lynden Pindling International Airport, on June 27, 2022.

Among those present at the press briefing included Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper; Minister of Health and Wellness, the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville; Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister David Davis; Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, the Hon. Myles K. LaRoda; Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle; and Mrs. Ann Marie Davis, of the Office of the Spouse of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, like many other small island states, The Bahamas was being hit by global challenges, which are not of its own making.  He said that the activities of larger nations were creating and exacerbating pressures on The Bahamas’ economy and national development.

“Whether it’s the pollution from the industrialised world that ultimately result in storms like Hurricane Dorian, or the behaviour of authoritarian leaders that cause global instability, CHOGM provided an opportunity to challenge some of those leaders directly,” Prime Minister Davis said.

“In my contribution to the Business Forum, in which I was one of only a small number of leaders who was invited to make a presentation, I emphatically made the point that ‘none of us will succeed if we try to do things on our own’,” he added.

“It is a similar point I made to the Bahamian people at the start of our administration: that our country will only succeed if we all work together, in partnership,” Prime Minister Davis continued.  “The meetings and discussions we had at CHOGM emphatically reinforced the point: by working together we can achieve so much more than by trying to go it alone.”

Prime Minister Davis said that he was happy to report that his Government’s international efforts were “bearing fruit”.

He said: “Our voice is being heard.  Other countries want to strengthen their relationships with us.  Other world leaders and business people want to invest in us.  And international organisations want to help us.”

“We are at an ‘inflection point’, a moment when we can see our fortunes changing.  We are now in the kinds of discussions where we can not only make our needs known, but have our requests honoured.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that the global idea of The Bahamas was shifting, and people wanted to do business with the nation.

“This kind of influence and these kinds of outcomes have become possible because of our decision to make our foreign policy work better and harder for us,” he said.

“For example, the pressure that we have been applying in terms of receiving funding and support to protect ourselves against the impact of climate change, that pressure is yielding results,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “Before too long, we will be able to say more about the specific offers of funding and support that we have received.

“In terms of the big picture, there’s still a way to go before the polluting countries fulfil their stated obligations; but slowly and surely, The Bahamas is starting to benefit.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, at CHOGM 2022, his Government settled formal diplomatic relations with its host, Rwanda, and also with Tuvalu and Gabon.

“We are grateful to the President of Rwanda, who conferred special courtesies upon us,” he said.  “On the first day we were there, we were honoured when he invited me to escort him into the opening session, and referred to me, referred to The Bahamas, as his special guest.”

“The next day we were all deeply moved to visit a memorial in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, paying tribute to the millions who died in the genocide there in 1994, just 28 years ago,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “On that single site alone were buried some 250,000 people, more than half our population.  I cannot describe the feeling of walking on such hallowed ground.

“To witness some of the horrors of that time, and to now see the modern state which they have since built, prompted tears of sympathy and admiration.”

“We can take what we’ve learned and apply it to our own national development,” Prime Minister Davis continued.  “And they are keen to learn from us about how to build their tourism industry.

“As so many countries do, they recognise The Bahamas as world leaders in the sector.”

Prime Minster Davis noted that his delegation also held a number of meetings with other countries and organisations.

“The discussions covered multiple issues, as diverse as the emerging threats of new healthcare challenges, such as microbial infections, and how to secure energy supplies,” he said.

“We also participated strongly in events developing strategies to improve and promote the rights and welfare of young people and of women.

Prime Minister Davis said that he was proud to see the Office of The Spouse “so prominently engaged in the Women’s Forum”.

“Issues especially affecting women in The Bahamas were well-represented, from ways to better and fairer employment, to dealing with issues of gender-based violence,” he said.

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that in his delegation with the President of Botswana, they agreed to mutually support each other by Botswana helping The Bahamas to develop its livestock industry, and The Bahamas offering them support, again in developing tourism.

“As with so many of the African leaders we met, we recognised in each others’ faces, people who not only look like us, but people who remind us of specific individuals at home,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “And as the President of Botswana said, they want to reconnect and strengthen ties with our brothers and sisters who were so cruelly taken from us hundreds of years ago.

“He has accepted our invitation to attend some of the celebrations surrounding the 50th Anniversary of Independence, and in return, invited us not just to engage in the technical issues of mutual interest, but also to get to know a little of their culture.”

“If we continue on this path, and succeed in The Bahamas becoming a kind of bridge between the Caribbean and Africa, opportunities for Bahamians and The Bahamas will continue to grow manifold,” he added.

Prime Minister Davis said that, in time, he hopes that many more Bahamians could be facilitated to visit, and even work for a while, in some of the countries “with whom we share so many ancient ties”.

“We were pleased to host a dinner for a small number of Bahamians who are already living in Rwanda or neighbouring countries,” he said. “Travel certainly broadens the mind, and our country will be richer from the kind of exposure these experiences will bring to each of us.”

Prime Minister Davis said that, in wider discussions about strategies about managing the economy, dealing with crime, improving housing and access to financial services, better protecting and managing the resources in our oceans and seas, time and again, the voice of the Bahamian people was strongly heard, and people expressed their enthusiasm in working with the nation.

“We have already issued a statement on the outcome from CHOGM,” he added.  “We were especially pleased with the re-election of Patricia Scotland as Secretary-General.

Prime Minister Davis noted that The Bahamas played “an extremely active role” in encouraging others to join the nation in its support. He pointed out that, behind the scenes, over many months, there were efforts by some states to go against convention, and deny automatic re-election of the first female Secretary-General, whom he termed “a strong Caribbean woman”.

“We not only thought it unfair, but have benefitted from several of her initiatives, such as ‘The Commonwealth Blue Charter’,” Prime Minister said.  “Their recent Ocean Action report, ‘An Ocean of Opportunity’, contains much which can benefit The Bahamas.

“I encourage you all to read it.”

“I also encourage you to read the formal documents which the Leaders produced, including the Final Communique, the Leaders’ Statement, the Commonwealth Living Lands Charter, the declaration on Sustainable Urbanisation, and so on,” he added.

“At the moment these documents may seem far away from the struggles which so many of us are facing every day.

“But these agreements, they will help to guide and shape our future.”

Prime Minister Davis said that if Bahamians wanted to safeguard and protect their tomorrows, then those were the kinds of actions the nation needed to “start taking today”.

“We return home inspired, confident that we have worked hard, productively and well on behalf of The Bahamian people,” he said.

“And of course, it’s always good to be home.

 

PHOTO CAPTION: Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis speaks, on June 27, 2022, in the VIP Lounge of the Lynden Pindling International Airport, at a press briefing upon his return from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), in Rwanda.   (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

 

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GBPA Statement from Ian Rolle, President

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Re:  GBPA’s Response to fire in the International Bazaar

 

#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority is aware of the recent fire at the International Bazaar.

The GBPA has engaged, and continues to engage, with operators of the International Bazaar, which include representatives of the Bazaar Association and several property owners, so that we can continue demolition exercises on the dilapidated structures and buildings.

The GBPA is acutely aware of the need to demolish derelict structures within the International Bazaar for the safety of all businesses and visitors. We have performed demolitions in the past at our own cost, most recently in February 2022 when we, in partnership with owners, demolished fire-damaged buildings in the Oriental Section. We have also written to numerous property owners of dilapidated structures over the years to sensitize them to the need to repair or demolish their buildings.

In addition, we have engaged the Government of the Bahamas in advance discussions to approve our requested amendments of the Building and Sanitary bylaws, which would enable GBPA to execute more demolitions in a timely manner and recoup the associated costs.

With the requested bylaw amendments in place, GBPA can continue to make consistent efforts to address the remainder of derelict buildings in the International Bazaar and other dilapidated structures within the city.

The GBPA itself has never owned any part of the International Bazaar but has historically subsidized the Bazaar for many years when owners were no longer maintaining its communal areas.

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Beneath the Waves’ summer camp inspires young Bahamians to become stewards of the environment

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#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – While the waters near Great Exuma are renowned for their unmatched beauty, last weekend, more than 40 students spent a day with Beneath the Waves learning the deeper value of the marine ecosystems that surround their islands and act as a bedrock for the Bahamian economy and way of life.

As participants in the non-profit’s summer camp, the young students learned about mangrove and coral reef habitats and the many species that live among them.

They heard about some of Beneath the Waves’ research, including studies of sharks, seagrass and blue carbon, and research methods like underwater video surveys.

Coral Vita Conservancy, which has been working relentlessly to restore coral reefs off Grand Bahama, sent team member Joe Oliver , Director of Restoration Operations, to assist with the camp and provide in-depth information on corals in The Bahamas.

Team ECCO, a North Carolina-based ocean education organization, also provided in-depth lessons on invertebrates and fish.

Long after the taste of ice cream at the end-of-day party has faded, campers will remember learning how to tag a lifelike shark. And they’ll wear their camp t-shirts with pride, remembering this is the day they learned to value the water all around them and what lies beneath the waves.

Eleven-year-old twin sisters Kassidy and Kaylee Burrows described the camp as a highlight of their summer vacation.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Kassidy. “And we learned all about sponges, the water, mangroves, coral reefs — how they protect animals and how they protect the shore — and also about animals themselves, aquatic animals, for example, sea anemones, corals, sponges and sharks.”

Kassidy was especially enthused to share her experience with helping to plant new mangroves.

“We found out how mangrove seeds can actually disperse into the water,” she said.

“And I thought they were going to be small seeds, but, in my opinion, they looked like asparagus kind of.

“We also got to go in the water and plant new mangroves.”

Beneath the Waves’ scientists have been studying The Bahamas’ waters for more than a decade, having helped with the creation and management of conservation policies, including the legislation that made the country’s waters a shark sanctuary in 2011.

The non-governmental organization knows that in continuing efforts to protect The Bahamas’ greatest asset, its natural environment, community buy-in is vital.

And in that context, the value of helping young Bahamians gain these kinds of hands-on experiences and lessons, ones they’ll undoubtedly carry with them through life, can’t be overstated.

Kaylee Burrows is already brainstorming the ways she can apply what she learned in her future career.

While the mangroves piqued her sister’s interest, Kaylee said she was fascinated by coral reefs and the important role they play on a global scale, though she noted they don’t seem to be sufficiently appreciated.

“I learned that The Bahamas has some of the biggest coral reefs in the world,” she said. “We actually put pieces of coral on a pipe to help build a platform for the coral. The reason I chose coral reefs over all of the topics is because we the people of the Bahamas, don’t even recognize how important our islands are. These coral reefs are very beneficial to the whole world.”

Kaylee said she hopes to one day become a veterinarian and an author.

“As a vet, I can help not just land animals, but marine animals too,” she said. “As an author, I can write books on marine biology. I think this experience helped with my future career, and I’m forever grateful.”

Beneath the Waves Managing Director Jamie Fitzgerald said plans are underway to make the camp an annual event.

“We look forward to being able to work more closely with local schools in the islands we frequent, such as Exuma and Nassau, to develop educational materials around sharks and marine science, and to foster opportunities for internships and future careers for any aspiring Bahamian marine biologists,” Fitzgerald said.

 

Photo Captions: 

Header: Hands-on experience – Exuma students planting mangroves with the help of research scientists from Beneath the Waves  — just one of the many memorable moments from the non-profit’s summer camp that was held on July 23. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

1st insert: Learning about coral — With the help of experts from Coral Vita, a Grand Bahama-based organization working to restore reefs near the island, students built plaforms for coral. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

2nd insert: More to come  – Camp leaders and participants posed with the inflatable shark, as the first of what is hoped to be many Beneath the Waves summer camps came to an end. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

 

Release: Beneath the Waves

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Caribbean Rising: Regional Heads of Government Meet in The Bahamas Aug 16-17 to discuss Caribbean position on Climate Change Mitigation

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#TheBahamas, August 5, 2022 – The Bahamas will host the first Regional Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean in preparation for COP27 in Nassau, The Bahamas on August 16-17, 2022.

The inaugural event is being introduced by the Government of The Bahamas with the aim of devising a regional position on climate change mitigation ahead of COP 27 which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt November 6-20, 2022.

Invited participants include the Head of State from the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla,

Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.

The Government of The Bahamas intends to establish the meeting as an annual event and will seek to have it instituted as a regular meeting on calendar of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC).

“The Bahamas is introducing this conference as we seek to get results in the climate change fight,” Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas said ahead of the talks.

“The Bahamas, along with the region, has lobbied year after year, meeting after meeting, as we sought for the world to acknowledge our vulnerable position.”

“This meeting will position the Caribbean region to take control of our fate and present a unified position to the world at COP27,” Prime Minister Davis added.

The meeting is also intended to establish a Caribbean response exclusive of the conventional Latin

America-Caribbean pairing in order to better reflect common geographical and geo-political issues of Caribbean states.

“What we’ve been lacking regionally is a strategy that would aid us in our negotiation process when we go to the conferences of the parties referred to as COPs,” says Rochelle Newbold, Special Advisor on Climate Change and Environmental Matters and Climate Tsar in the Office of the Prime Minister in The Bahamas.

“This year will be COP number 27 and, as a region, we have never put forward a strategy document or an intent of how we want to deal with the issues that we face within the region collectively,” Newbold added.

The conference agenda will also focus on renewable energy, energy security, climate adaptation, climate financing, loss and damage due to tropical weather systems and establishing a framework for the sale of carbon credits.

Delegates attending COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in December 2021 signed off on a global climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and counter global warming by limiting the temperature rise on Earth to a 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.

The global warming phenomenon has been linked to more frequent and aggressive hurricanes in the Caribbean, which have subjected the region to billions of dollars in damage and bound countries to burdensome loan commitments.

According to the Assessment of the Effects and Impacts of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas report issued by the Inter-American Development Bank in March 2022,       damage and losses from Hurricane Dorian amounted to US$3.4 billion, a quarter of the country’s GDP.

A heat wave rolling across the United States and Europe is also being attributed to rising temperatures.

The UK recorded temperatures of over 40°C (104°F) for the first time in July 2022, according to local forecasters.

“We know that if we reach that 1.5°C and we exceed it, everything changes for everybody. While land-locked countries and large continents like South America will experience a change, island-states will experience that change three and four-fold.”

“With this meeting we will have all of those who face the same threat level sitting down together, discussing options, considering what is being suggested and how realistic this will be. For us, this is a fundamental thing that we should have been doing a long time ago,” Newbold said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a Chair’s Summary will be made available detailing the scope of the discussions as well as key messages and ideas that emerge. Additionally, the region plans to launch an initiative at COP27 to advance advocacy efforts on behalf of Caribbean States.

 

Photo Caption: During the weekly Press Briefing, at his Office, on August 4, 2022, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis announced that The Bahamas will host the Regional Caribbean Heads of Government Meeting, 16-17 August, 2022 at Baha Mar Resort.  (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

 

For Press Inquiries:

Clint Watson, Press Secretary

Office of The Prime Minister

Commonwealth of The Bahamas clintwatson@bahamas.gov.bs

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