Georgetown, Guyana – (October 18, 2018) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, today, said it is imperative that every Caribbean state come together to work to overcome challenges and pilot solutions to address sustainable land management as it is one of the most important resources needed for the continuation of humanity and development.

Minister Harmon was at the time speaking at the opening of the two-day Third Partnership Initiative for Sustainable Land Management (PILSM 3) High Level Meeting of Caribbean Ministers from Small Island Developing States (SIDs), which is currently underway at the Marriott Hotel, Guyana.

He noted too that this is the third year since 190 world leaders, inclusive of Guyana, committed to achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and fix climate change. One of those Goals, SDG 15, speaks to sustainable management.

“SDG 15, ‘life on land’ which states that; “human life depends on the earth as much as the ocean for our sustenance and livelihoods” is as important as the other 16 goals. This third session of the Partnership Initiative for Sustainable Land Management (PILSM) High Level Meeting will allow us to exchange ideas and learn about the best practices from each other as we all strive to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030. The global threat of land degradation is recognized as one of the greatest challenges of all countries. A country’s wealth is its resources, which includes the protection of people, resources and its economy,” Minister Harmon said.

Further, the Minister of State said, “LDN is achievable through problem solving, strong community involvement and co-operation at all levels. We have to activate all regional mechanisms to address this issue of land. We have to put as much resources unto this problem as we see fit. We are moving as a region on issues that affect our people and in particularly with issues related to land and sea defence. So this forum is important of us to demonstrate that at the technical and political level, that we are capable of working together, we are capable of identifying the problems that affect us that we are capable of producing the solutions to those problems which we identify and as a region we will move our people from prosperity to prosperity.”

Commissioner of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) and the Chairman of the PILSM Task Force, Mr. Trevor Benn, in his remarks, said the time has come for all Caribbean states to work together as not taking bold steps will result in harsh consequences. Guyana alone, he said, stands to lose up to 25 per cent of its land if appropriate actions are not taken.

“Over the last few years, we have come to realise that the Caribbean is not as united as it should be in a number of areas and the PILSM took it on as a challenge to overcome. In October 2016, we resolved as a community to work together at international fora and to take common positions. Land management is not a very attractive area for most political types, it is not clearly evident to the electorate so we have to do a lot more work to sensitise the people. Guyana has taken the position that we must and we will be very active and proactive. We stand ready and resolute to work with all CARICOM countries. Unless we work together, stick together, educate our political types, unless our land is protected and sustained and taken seriously, nothing else would be sustained. Land is everything. For anything to be sustained, land is important and I think many of us don’t understand that,” Benn stated.

Similarly, Dr. Richard Bryon Cox, who serves on the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said if a concerted effort is made now, then the Caribbean must be prepared to face disastrous consequences.

“Think of all the islands and how much money has been spent to keep the water out and this is just the beginning of it. Everybody else is setting agendas for us but have we ever set agendas for ourselves. What are we going to do? This is not a political question, it is a survival question because our very survival is tied to this land and it needs our vision and action. If we don’t care about our land then we don’t care about ourselves. Guyana is in the lead on a visionary perspective so we are in the right place but it is not only Guyana’s business and it not my business; it is our business, it is the Caribbean’s business! You must understand it is your business and if you don’t take care of it, nobody is going to,” Dr. Cox said.

Meanwhile, Director of the Multilateral and Global Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Troy Torrington, who delivered remarks on behalf of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Greenidge, said climate change is not under debate for the Caribbean and Small Island Developing States. He noted that climate change poses a threat to land management and as such, sustainable mechanisms are needed.

“As experts in this area, you are well equipped to articulate many of the solutions. It is necessary to deliver in these areas if we are to become global leaders and ensure that we achieve SDG 15,” Ambassador Torrington stated.

Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and Technical Officers from Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Suriname, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are among some of the participants at the two-day forum.

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