22 September 2023
FREDERICK AUDLEY MITCHELL, Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Public Service of the Bahamas, said his country’s number one foreign policy issue is climate change, as declared by the Prime Minister, who also equally expresses fears for associated existential issues faced by island territories in the Atlantic or Pacific. “Will we be climate refugees, or will we face a watery breath?” he asked. He expressed his Government’s shock on hearing the position on climate reparations on loss and damage by one of its developed nation partners, which stated that “under no circumstance will there be reparations for loss and damage from climate change”. Small island developing States like the Bahamas have been negotiating for loss and damage for over 30 years, asking how much the 399,314 lives of his nation are worth. He noted how the United Kingdom Government paid 20 million pounds to slavers for the “loss of their property”, which represented 40 per cent of their national budget, translating to 17 billion pounds today, the bonds of which were completely paid off in 2015. He lamented that not a penny was paid to the slaves themselves or their dependents, nor an apology “for the moral tragedy slavery represents”.
He went on to say that because their forbears never accepted no for an answer, each succeeding generation, including his, has been respectively freer than their predecessors. His Government therefore wants the world to know that “no is not an answer to an unfree people” on reparations for slavery or on climate change, adding that “we must use our collective voices to reject the gospel according to ‘no’”. This message will be passed to the next generation until success is attained and justice served. The Bahamas’ position is same for Haiti, as the “the Western world owes Haiti and the Haitian people, and we must fight to help them resolve their issues.” While thanking the Governments of the developed world, the United States, Canada and in CARICOM for their work towards resolving the security issues in the Caribbean nation, he called on its Government and people to do all they can to develop a Haitian-led political solution, as well as the international community to approve a Security Council-backed resolution on a multinational force for the country.
He also called for a geopolitical settlement on Cuba, urging the dropping of all restrictions and economic sanction as “the continuation of the status quo represents a security problem for the Bahamas.” He said that, on taxation, the OECD and the European Union have made themselves the moral police of the world, a result of which “free trade no longer exists”, making banking and international trade difficult. He therefore expressed his country’s support for the calls by other developing States for a United Nations convention on tax.