Caribbean leaders on the world’s stage

Caribbean leaders, foreign ministers, diplomats and other officials began gathering at the United Nations this week for a summit on Climate Change and the general debate of the 69th Session of the U.N. General Assembly.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that he was gathering a “new and unique mix of partners” at U.N. Headquarters in New York – from Government, business, finance and civil society – for a summit aimed at raising ambition, mobilizing resources and generating action towards a universal climate deal.

The U.N. chief’s Climate Summit on Tuesday drew more than 120 heads of state and government to announce their vision and commitment for reaching a universal and meaningful climate agreement in 2015, as well as make announcements on actions that will reduce emissions, enhance resistance to climate change and mobilize financing for climate action.

Declaring climate change the defining issue of our time, the Secretary-General said: “We need all hands on deck.”

“We need a clear vision, anchored in domestic and multinational actions, for keeping global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius,” he said. “The world needs to see what opportunities there are to cut greenhouse gas emissions and provide sustainable energy sources. By seeing what is possible, others can find inspiration and follow suit.

“I am counting on leaders everywhere, from all sectors of society, to lead by example and bring bold actions and ideas and strong political vision and political will to New York,” Ban added.

The Summit was held 14 months before countries meet in Paris to reach a global climate agreement.

The U.N. said the New York Summit had been planned as a very different kind of meeting, with emphasis on promoting both a long-term vision and immediate actions for achieving a low-carbon and resilient world.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chairperson Rajendra Pachauri, former United States Vice-President Al Gore and actors Li Bingbing, a United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassador, and newly-appointed U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio also addressed the Opening Ceremony.

Before the summit, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne pleaded with leaders not to make it “another talk shop but to let the summit make a difference,” according to an Antigua and Barbuda government statement issued in New York.

Browne will be among at least nine Caribbean heads of government who will address the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly, which opened on Wednesday.

Browne, who will address the Assembly on Thursday, will be followed the next day by the leaders of Guyana, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, according to the U.N.’s provisional list of speakers.

On Saturday, the prime ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica will join the General Assembly debate. Their counterparts from St. Kitts and Nevis and Grenada will do so next Monday.

The foreign ministers of Suriname, Belize, Barbados, the Bahamas and St. Lucia will wrap up the General Assembly Debate on Tuesday, Sept. 30, according to the U.N.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is expected to address, among other issues, Climate Change, Small Island Development, United Nations Reform, Haiti, Reparation, the Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals, Peace, along with Taiwan’s right to be a member of several international organizations, according to the VINCENTIAN newspaper.

Many Caribbean leaders will also attend meetings on the margins of the General Assembly Debate and engage their respective communities in town hall meetings while in New York.

Gonsalves, for example will address a town hall meeting in Brooklyn on Saturday evening after contributing to the debate, while Browne is also expected to do the same in the Bronx, according to government statements in New York.