The Sustainable Development Goals in Trinidad and Tobago
The Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the goals the UN is working on in MCO Trinidad and Tobago:
15 September 2023
RC Blog: Trinidad and Tobago and UN Take 'Halftime Huddle' on SDG Progress
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are in peril. At the mid-point in the journey to the 2030 deadline, only 12% of SDG targets are on track. On September 18, the UN Secretary-General will convene the SDG Summit in New York to sound a clarion call for financial stimulus and concerted action. Leading up to this event, Trinidad and Tobago hosted an SDG Roundtable consultation on Monday, September 11 in Port of Spain. The mission: to pinpoint SDG priorities that need accelerated momentum to be on track by 2030. UN Resident Coordinator, Joanna Kazana, details the ‘halftime huddle’ conversation and what it means for Trinidad and Tobago’s next steps. “For a country or economy of any size, achieving the SDG agenda is ambitious. For Small Island Developing States, the task can be a staggering proposition. A total of 17 SDGs, 169 targets and 247 indicators must be met by 2030. For Trinidad and Tobago, there is an added layer of complexity: its high per capita income makes the country ineligible for Official Development Assistance (ODA) finance, despite the many structural vulnerabilities facing Caribbean nations- exacerbated by climate change, global shocks and the illegal trade of weapons and drugs. When it comes to SDG financing and the potential for new investments, Trinidad and Tobago has to rely largely on its own budgetary resources. The UN, bilateral donors and international financial institutions provide grants for important work, but these projects are limited in scale and duration. That means the monumental strides required to achieve sustainable development demand greater domestic resource mobilisation, defunding inefficiencies, innovative thinking and unconventional partnerships. The SDGs are both the shared vision and the practical reference framework to guide this journey. Yet with just six years left, achieving the SDGs may seem daunting. But it is not impossible, and Trinidad and Tobago is proof of the inexorable spirit required to cross the finish line. Reviewing the ‘State of Play’ The pride, patriotism and perseverance that are hallmarks of the 1.3 million people who call these islands home seep seamlessly into the discussions at the Hilton on this Monday morning. More than 100 voices from the public and private sectors, civil society, international financial institutions, community-based organisations and the global development community are seated around a table that fills the hotel’s ballroom. They’re dissecting the country’s state of play on the SDGs. The Ministry of Planning and Development has convened this SDG Roundtable dialogue, with the support of the UN system I have the privilege to lead. This support falls under our inter-agency Joint SDG Fund project to modernise the country's data and statistics. The session begins with a snapshot of the country’s SDG progress using data from UN Stats. The data show that Trinidad and Tobago has made significant progress on some of the SDGs, while others require review and acceleration. A deeper dive reveals that progress on a number of SDG targets has slowed or stagnated. While important work is happening in these areas, a jumpstart is needed to rejuvenate momentum. As they chew on the data, participants in the room begin tackling what feel like existential questions about the country’s future. What does ‘getting it right’ by 2030 look like? What strategic commitments should we make to accelerate SDG progress? What are the top three or five SDGs where progress could act as a stimulus, like a rising tide lifting all 17 Goals? What is the story that Trinbagonians want to tell their children -and the world- about the heroic efforts and choices being made now to build a better future for Trinidad and Tobago? The chorus of answers from the audience is unanimous on a few key themes. Better Data and National Statistics Regardless of which perch they sit on, all stakeholders agree the country needs more robust tools to make data-driven decisions. As Minister of Planning and Development, Pennelope Beckles, succinctly states it in her remarks, ‘What does not get measured, does not get done.’ Without more timely data being produced and collated, it is difficult to track the SDGs. That means it’s also challenging to know where to target stimulus funding. This is why the UN Country Team project under the Joint SDG Fund is working with the country's Central Statistical Office to beef up human and technological capacity and producing recommendations for a framework the country can use to establish a Centre of Excellence for Big Data. Public officers at the Roundtable point out the natural addendum to needing more data: developing stronger monitoring and evaluation capacity. The human resources, skill set and strategic direction required to collect, streamline and analyse data may be uneven across the public sector. Digitisation of government services would bring immediate benefits in this area. The private sector also has a role it can play in sharing relevant data to improve the country’s data ecosystem and monitoring capacity. Poverty Reduction The issue of poverty comes up time and again during the three-hour discussion. A private sector leader links poverty to poor education outcomes and increased risk of delinquency. A health professional mentions the interplay between poverty and inequality. A public officer speaks about the need to measure poverty through a multi-dimensional lens. Deprivation, health outcomes and housing are all factors to measure alongside household income. Without tackling poverty, progress on other SDGs – including Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (SDG 16) and Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10) - will be challenging. This issue emerges as a key priority for everyone in the room. Quality Education When education begins dominating the Roundtable discussion, you really see the synthesis between the 17 Goals. You also appreciate how multi-faceted a singular SDG can be. One participant points out the limited capacity of the education system to accommodate Persons with Disabilities. Another cites challenges facing university graduates, who struggle to find jobs that match their area of study. She says the resultant brain drain diminishes the local talent pool. A private sector representative advocates for the education system to produce job creators instead of job seekers. Yet another contributor calls for a restructured curriculum to prepare students for the labour market disruptions that have already begun as Artificial Intelligence takes root. Why do girls perform better at school? How does childhood well-being and youth vary between boys and girls? Questions that cut to the heart of the way we teach and learn. With education outcomes linked to Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8), Gender Equality (SDG 5) and Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10), there is unison among participants that targeting this area can yield ripple effects across the SDG agenda. Peace and Security From the business leader to the civil society advocate – violence recurs throughout the discussion as an imperative focus. Whether they’re talking about the young men who slide into delinquency or the costs of insecurity on a company’s bottom line, every sector in the room identifies a different impact of crime on society. Billions of dollars are already spent annually on crime response and prevention by the Ministry of National Security and other state-run social protection programmes. Progress in achieving other SDGs linked to inequality, access to education and poverty could produce significant benefits in reducing violence. That would save the country money it could invest into developing its human capital. In my remarks, I argue that human security is a ‘public good’. Like water in your taps, electricity, communication and transport infrastructure, security can be delivered and nurtured by everyone – the State and the people alike – to make this country a paradise for people and for business. A New End-Game Strategy By the end of the three hours, the Ministry of Planning has diverse, rich inputs to shape the country’s contribution to the SDG Summit. Trinidad and Tobago, like all UN Member States, has been asked to declare three clear, targeted actions it will take to rescue the SDGs. This declaration will feature centre stage, as Trinidad and Tobago now holds the presidency of the UN General Assembly. But the benefits of the national Roundtable will last long after the SDG Summit in New York ends. It brought together a network of willing development partners who found common ground. It offered direction for the Government’s halftime strategy review on a revitalised plan of action for the SDGs over the next six years. And it reinforced the commitment to achieving equitable progress and prosperity - with a resounding win in the second half.”
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28 August 2023
Joint National Steering Committee Reviews UN Progress for 2023
On August 23, 2023, the UN Resident Coordinator in Trinidad and Tobago, Joanna Kazana, together with Minister of Planning and Development, Pennelope Beckles, co-chaired the meeting of the Joint National Steering Committee which guides the work the UN System in Trinidad and Tobago. The Committee, comprised of senior UN officials and Trinidad and Tobago government leaders, including multiple Permanent Secretaries, reviewed the UN’s accomplishments for the year so far, including work to enhance economic opportunities for women and rural communities, develop new industries within the food production sector, accelerate the country’s transition to renewable energies and the digitalization of Government operations, contradict violence especially against women and girls, make the skills supplied by the education system more attuned with those demanded by employers, and modernize the data and statistics ecosystem. Government officials provided valuable input that will make the UN’s work even more effective and synergistic with priorities of the state. The UN Country Implementation Plan (CIP) which underpins implementation of the Multi-Country Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (MSDCF) between the UN and governments of the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean, is the main joint document encapsulating the ongoing UN System activities in Trinidad and Tobago. Through the CIP, the UN links its activities with national and regional development priorities, respectively set forth in the country’s Vision 2030 National Development Strategy and sectoral plans. In 2022, the UN delivered a record US $10 million in development support to Trinidad and Tobago. Through strong partnerships with the Government and civil society, the UN is on track to see its 2023 expenditures exceed last year's result.
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29 August 2023
Caribbean Leaps Towards Financial Inclusion
In a monumental step towards addressing the challenge of financial inclusion across the Eastern Caribbean, the EU-UNCDF-OACPS Digital Financial Inclusion Programme joined forces with the Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Center (TTIFC) with invaluable support from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to launch the Caribbean FinTech Sprint for Financial Inclusion. This initiative aims to dismantle the barriers constraining digital financial inclusion across the Caribbean. The Caribbean FinTech Sprint was not just another event; it was a call to action. It invited both local and global FinTechs to present market-ready solutions that can address pressing challenges identified by various implementing partners within the Caribbean. These challenges ranged from improving the accessibility and usage of digital payment solutions for Credit Union's underserved users and piloting and scaling online marketplaces for smallholder farmers, to developing a secure and innovative KYC solutions to streamline the remote onboarding of customers of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank’s Digital Currency, D-Cash. The journey for applicants was rigorous. After an initial screening, shortlisted applicants were invited to a technical workshop in the Caribbean. This workshop was not just a meet-and-greet. It was an intensive session where applicants met with implementing partners and key players to refine their proposals. They also benefited from capacity-building sessions, ensuring that their solutions were not just innovative but also feasible and impactful. From an overwhelming response of over 50 applications, 13 stood out. These 13 promising applications, with a significant representation from the Caribbean region, advanced to the in-person Bootcamp phase. The Bootcamp, held from July 19th to 21st at One FinTech Avenue within the TTIFC offices, was a landmark event. It marked the inaugural event hosted in One FinTech Avenue since its inception and symbolized a significant stride towards a more inclusive digital finance ecosystem across the Caribbean. The finalists, representing solutions for each problem statement, included renowned names like MLajan Financial Technology Services Ltd (Dominica), Zeepay Ghana Limited (Ghana), mMoney Inc. (Barbados), MOEDA SEMENTE BRASIL MEIOS DE PAGAMENTOS LTDA (Brazil), PayMedia (Pvt) Limited (Sri Lanka), and Rhino Partners Pte Ltd (Singapore), Paymaster Limited (Trinidad & Tobago & Jamaica), PayWise Limited (Trinidad & Tobago), Zed Labs Limited (Trinidad & Tobago), Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (Trinidad & Tobago), Unqueue Distributors Limited (Trinidad & Tobago), Nio Digital Limited (Trinidad & Tobago), and Diagon Consulting Limited (Trinidad & Tobago). The Bootcamp was not just about competition; it was about collaboration. It emphasized the importance of financial inclusion in reducing crime, bolstering economic resilience, and fostering regional collaboration. The event was graced by speeches from key dignitaries, including European Union Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, H.E. Peter Cavendish, Director General of OECS H.E. Dr. Didacus Jules, Trinidad and Tobago Ministers the Hon. Foster Cummings and the Hon. Brian Manning, Mr. Richard Young Chairman of TTIFC, UNCDF Deputy Director Shaima Hussein, and UNDP Resident Representative Ugo Blanco, Deputy Resident Representative Sharifa Ali Abdullah and UNCDF Caribbean Regional Representative Helen Gradstein. Their insights and support were instrumental in propelling this initiative. The Caribbean FinTech Sprint Bootcamp was not an end but a beginning. It marked the successful completion of Cohort 1 of the Caribbean FinTech Sprint, setting the stage for future innovations in the Eastern Caribbean's FinTech landscape. The event was a testament to the dedication of partners like the Trinidad and Tobago IFC, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, RHAND Credit Union Co-operative Society Limited, CLICO Credit Union, and NAMDEVCO. As the curtain came down on this event, awards were presented to winning FinTechs in recognition of their contribution to the journey towards financial inclusion. The Caribbean Sprint awardees included, MLajan Financial Technology Services Ltd (Dominica), Paymaster Limited (Trinidad & Tobago & Jamaica), Rhino Partners Pte Ltd (Singapore), and Unqueue Distributors Limited (Trinidad & Tobago). Additional engagements are being explored with Zeepay Ghana Limited (Ghana), mMoney Inc. (Barbados), and Zed Labs Limited (Trinidad & Tobago) to develop proofs of concept and pilot solutions. Others will also be engaged for follow up on technical assistance and acceleration programming. For those who wish to delve deeper into the event's highlights, a feature is available on the news: Check out our feature on the news.
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11 July 2023
RC: "Disaster Preparedness Crucial for Sustainable Development"
UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Joanna Kazana, delivered a keynote address at the Caribbean Regional Workshop on Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation. The workshop was jointly hosted by CDEMA, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction. Participants from 18 CARICOM Member States are attending the two day workshop from July 11 to 12 in Port of Spain. The following are RC Kazana's remarks: "Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is my great pleasure to welcome you today and address this meeting on behalf of the United Nations system and all UN agencies working in Port of Spain. I would like to thank the Government of TT for your support and leadership on the issue of Sustainable Development, climate change adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk reduction. The Caribbean is a microcosm of vulnerability and most countries have seen it all. Volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, oil spills, and a crippling pandemic of Covid-19. There is no need to persuade anyone anymore that there is a price we are all paying if lives are lost, properties damaged, economies suffer severe setbacks. At policy and decision making level, there is no more doubt that Disaster Preparedness, Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation are crucial for sustainable development. Over the last decade, a number of countries in the Caribbean region have worked on their National Climate Change Adaptation Plans. Here in TT, a First Draft has been prepared by the Ministry of Planning and Development and we look forward to supporting a broad national consultation to build cross-sectoral understanding and strong synergies between the NAP, the National Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction and the country’s National Development Strategy “Vision 2030”. Why is planning important and why streamlining of the national climate change adaptation strategy and national disaster risk reduction plans are needed? Again, the answer is simple – a good national plan is an important tool that can be used to manage its cross-sectoral implementation, to allocate resources where they are needed and to attract external investments in sustainable infrastructure, services, new technologies of the future. In addition to such country level efforts, in 2022 the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced a 3.1 billion dollar Early Warnings For All Initiative to ensure that every person is protected by an early warning system within the next five years, until 2027. The UN Office for DRR – one of the organisers of the workshop today, is at the forefront of this global project and the Caribbean is one of the first regions to implement the initiative. Ladies and Gentlemen, The challenges we are facing today can be addressed only through stronger international cooperation. Developed countries must finally make good on their financial commitments to developing countries – including by doubling adaptation finance, operationalizing the loss and damage fund, and replenishing the Green Climate Fund. As part of global preparation for the Summit of the Future in 2024, the UN SG put forward a detailed blueprint for a re-designed global financial architecture. Obviously change will not happen overnight and there are many challenges draining coffers of our international donors. But Caribbean leaders have been pointing the way forward – including through the Bridgetown Initiative and through the Finance for Development initiative. So partnerships are key, but so is data, transparency and information management systems. As you spend the next two days exchanging information and experiences to better support national disaster risk reduction plans, I encourage you to keep these considerations in mind. The UN system stands ready to continue supporting Governments, civil society and private sector actors in translating these priorities and plans into partnerships and viable investment opportunities. You can feel confident in our unwavering support to ensure that together, we Leave No One Behind.
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04 July 2023
UN Secretary-General: The World Must 'Rally Round CARICOM'
REMARKS TO 45th REGULAR MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY Trinidad & Tobago, 3 July 2023 Distinguished Heads of States and Governments, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, All protocol observed. It is my privilege to join you for CARICOM’s 50th anniversary. Anticipating tomorrow, happy birthday CARICOM! Prime Minister Rowley: thank you for your warm welcome. Excellencies, I am coming here from Haiti. The security situation is appalling, humanitarian needs are soaring, and there is not yet the political solution in sight. But I came with hope and optimism. It is impossible to look at the crisis without seeing the long shadow of centuries of colonial exploitation, extortion, dictatorship and other screaming injustices. We must help ease the suffering of the Haitian people. I want to remind that our humanitarian appeal is only funded at 23 per cent. It is a tragedy within a tragedy. I want to recognize the critical efforts of CARICOM leaders to extend your good offices, the meeting in Jamaica and the three high-level personalities involved. I will continue to push for a robust international security force – authorized by the Security Council – to be able to help to help the Haitian national police to defeat and dismantle the gangs, and I reiterate my call to all partners to increase support for the national police in the form of financing, training, and equipment. Let’s be clear: There can be no lasting security without strengthened democratic institutions – and there can be no strong democratic institutions without a drastic improvement in the security situation. Excellencies, The challenges we see in Haiti require greater engagement and greater solidarity. That is precisely the founding spirit of CARICOM. You have advanced cooperation on every front – from economic and social development … to fighting illegal drugs and arms trafficking… to combatting non-communicable diseases … to advancing gender equality. And, of course, you have championed climate action and focused attention on the plight of Small Island Developing States. The United Nations relies on Caribbean expertise and leadership. I don’t have to look very far for that wisdom. It starts in the office next to mine, with my Chef de Cabinet, former Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations, Courtenay Rattray. And I look forward to working closely with Trinidad and Tobago’s own – Ambassador Dennis Francis – as the next President of the General Assembly. Excellencies, This anniversary is a time for critical reflection on the enormous challenges confronting the Caribbean. COVID-19 destroyed lives and livelihoods, independently of a more extraordinary response. Tourism and export receipts temporarily collapsed. Prices for fuel and food skyrocketed. Debt burdens grew heavier, liquidity dried up, and access to global capital markets worsened dramatically. All the while, the climate emergency continues to escalate – threatening the very existence of small island and low-lying coastal states. We need action on two fronts: First, action to fix finance. Today’s crisis has revealed an international financial system that is outdated, dysfunctional, and unfair. As part of our preparation for the Summit of the Future, I put forward a detailed blueprint for a redesigned global financial architecture, including the Bretton Woods system. But change will not happen overnight. And Caribbean leaders have been pointing the way forward – including Prime Minister Mia Mottley through the Bridgetown Initiative and Prime Minister Andrew Holness through the Finance for Development initiative. I have proposed a set of actions world leaders can take now. They include: An SDG Stimulus for investments in sustainable development, climate action, and more. An enhanced and effective debt relief mechanism. New financial tools, such as swaps that convert debts into investments in climate adaptation. An increase in the capital base of Multilateral Development Banks and a change in their business model with a new approach to risk to be able to leverage more private finance at a reasonable cost in support of developing countries. The re-channelling of Special Drawing Rights. And a shift in subsidies – away from fossil fuels and unsustainable agriculture and food systems into sustainable development. And redressing a core injustice facing middle-income countries: the continued lack of access to concessional financing because of allocation metrics that ignore vulnerabilities to shocks such as financial crises or climate-related disasters. I fully support your call for a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index. Excellencies, That leads me to the second area for action – the climate crisis. Limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius is still possible. But it will require carbon emissions to be cut by 45 per cent by 2030. That is why I have proposed a Climate Solidarity Pact – in which all big emitters make extra efforts to cut emissions; and wealthier countries support emerging economies to do so. And that is why I have put forward an Acceleration Agenda to boost these efforts. I urge Governments to hit fast forward on their net-zero deadlines so that developed countries commit to reaching net-zero as close as possible to 2040 and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050, and Caribbean countries have been showing the way. Developed countries must also finally make good on their financial commitments to developing countries – including by meeting the $100 billion goal, doubling adaptation finance, replenishing the Green Climate Fund, and operationalizing the loss and damage fund this year. I thank Caribbean leaders for your powerful calls for climate justice, advancing global action on loss and damage, investing in renewables, and safeguarding biodiversity, including through the efforts of Indigenous communities. Excellencies, In his iconic song Rally Round the West Indies, the great calypsonian David Rudder said: “soon we must take a side or be lost in the rubble, in a divided world that don’t need islands no more.” My message is clear: our world needs the islands. We need to rally round CARICOM. You have my full support. And I thank you.
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19 October 2022
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