Image: UN Photo/OCHA/Mark Garten
A UN-appointed human rights expert on Friday urged the international community to increase assistance to The Bahamas and other small island States that face elevated threats from natural disasters resulting from climate change.
“The Bahamas needs long-term financial planning to address its climate vulnerability and economic dependence on tourism,” said Attiya Waris, the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt, international financial obligations and human rights, in a statement at the end of a 10-day visit to the country.
Financial aid challenges
Ms. Waris noted that The Bahamas' status as a high-income country hinders its ability to secure loans from international financial institutions and access development aid.
“The reality is that they should be supported by the international community, including international financial institutions and development banks,” she said.
Mr. Waris called upon both The Bahamas and the global community to adopt an alternative comparative indicator instead of relying solely on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita.
This recommendation stems from recognizing that the nation faces distinctive challenges, such as a high cost of living and an ongoing vulnerability to catastrophic climate-related disasters, which demand a greater allocation of resources than many other states.
Tourism and disaster costs
She highlighted The Bahamas' strong reliance on tourism as a cornerstone of its economy.
Over the last decade, the nation has endured five major hurricanes, with Hurricane Dorian in 2019 being the most recent. This devastating event resulted in a staggering $3.4 billion in damages, equating to almost a quarter of the country's GDP.
“The impact of Hurricane Dorian, COVID-19 and the decline in tourism was devastating for both the population and the country’s economy,” the expert said.
“The country is still repaying the debt incurred for reconstruction and will continue to do so for many years to come.”
Economic diversity needed
She encouraged the Government to prioritize comprehensive, long-term economic planning that takes into account the impacts of climate change.
Additionally, she suggested exploring options to reduce the country's heavy reliance on tourism, enhance food security, and harness local innovation as means to diversify the economy.
These suggestions will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2024.
“The collective responsibility of the international community towards climate change and its consequences should not be forgotten,” Ms. Waris said.
UN independent experts are appointed by the Human Rights Council to monitor specific country situations or thematic issues.
They serve in their individual capacity and are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.
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