Media Center



June 27, 2019 - Medellín, Colombia

Distinguished Foreign Ministers,
Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General,
Ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives,
Mr. President,


Permit me at the outset to thank the host government, the government of the Republic of Colombia, for their kind hospitality and excellent efforts to ensure that our visit to the “city of eternal spring” is a very productive one.

It is not every day I get the opportunity to enjoy such beautiful mountainous views as they are here in Medellin, because as you are aware, the highest point in The Bahamas is 207 feet! This lovely change of scenery is certainly appreciated, as we gather to discuss matters of importance to our hemisphere.

Our robust agenda for the next two days will call for much dialogue and ultimately compromise to bring some resolution to the issues that confront our region. Mutual respect, trust and common understanding should be the order of the day, while also adhering to the principles of non-interference.


Mr. President,

This year’s theme, “Innovating to Strengthen Hemispheric Multilateralism” is a most fitting one. Almost a century ago, hemispheric alliances were formed and in 1948, the OAS Charter was signed, which brought together thirty-five (35) independent member states of the Americas, to pursue common goals in the areas of democracy, human rights, security, and development.

There is an old African proverb which states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together’. I strongly believe that we in the Americas have the power to do more together. As such, The Bahamas is unequivocally committed to multilateralism and its proven benefits. This mechanism gives small vulnerable states a voice and a platform, which would otherwise be impossible at the unilateral level.

The Bahamas believes that the OAS still remains one of the premier forums for our region to not only address our mutual concerns but also to find practical solutions that will benefit us all.


Mr. President,

With this premise in mind, The Bahamas will continue to reiterate the importance of the development pillar of the OAS and to advocate for more equitable focus and resources to be allocated to this area. Compared to other multilateral bodies, the OAS is leading the way in the areas of technical cooperation, capacity building, political agenda setting and human development. This obvious comparative advantage should be exploited fully, thus ensuring that our development goals are successfully achieved.

Climate Change

As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), the development of our country is consistently hindered by the increased frequency and severity of environmental threats and external shocks. These recurring natural disasters adversely affect our ability to prosper as we have to allocate resources to recover year after year, stagnating our overall growth as a nation.

The Bahamas is faced with a myriad of environmental challenges mostly related to climate change. Our geographic size, archipelagic composition and low- lying coastal nature make us extremely susceptible to hurricanes and localized flooding every year from June 1st to November 30th.

Mr. President,

Comprised of 700 hundred islands and cays, during any given hurricane season, multiple islands of The Bahamas can be affected. Damage to our infrastructure, agriculture and tourism sectors all have devastating effects on the Bahamian economy. To date, Ragged Island, one our most southern islands, still remains “uninhabitable” as declared by our Prime Minister after Hurricane Irma-a Category 4 hurricane leveled the island on September 8th 2017. The island was completely destroyed and data suggests that it will cost the government tens of millions of dollars to rebuild. The impact of hurricanes has long-lasting effects and it is for this reason The Bahamas and other countries in the Caribbean are strong proponents of improving existing mechanisms for cooperation and dialogue on integrated climate resilience building and recovery within the OAS.

Building Partnerships for Resilience

Mr. President,

The Bahamas, along with other CARICOM Ministers of Foreign Affairs, participated in the “Building Resilience to Natural Disasters” Conference, convened in March 2019 by the Government of Romania. The need for collaboration and cooperation against climate change, and on the building of resilience to natural disasters were among the topics of discussion. Similarly, the “USA-Caribbean Resilience Partnership” was launched in April in Miami, Florida, which aims to strengthen relations between the US and the Caribbean, and to work together to achieve greater resilience to natural disasters.

The Bahamas is certainly grateful for these local, regional and international collaborations and partnerships which will assist our resilience building efforts. However, it would be remiss of me if I did not also advocate for the OAS to continue working toward strengthening its facilitative role in natural disaster response in the Americas. To this effect, The Bahamas is particularly proud of CARICOM’s advocacy to include in this year’s resolution on “Advancing Hemispheric Initiatives on Integral Development”, language which encapsulates the merging of natural disaster response with integral development and security, respectively. The Bahamas is cognizant that navigating natural disaster response involves cross-cutting approaches that require the collaboration of two major pillars of this organization. We support all mechanisms through which this issue is addressed, to ensure that the States of this hemisphere can manage the risk of, respond to and recover from natural disasters.


Mr. President,

In addition to the development challenges caused by climate change, the situation is further exacerbated by the flawed use of per capita income (GNP/GDP) as the sole metric for overall development. The Bahamas does not support this method of measuring economic growth, as it is ineffective and fails to accurately reflect the challenges in development experienced by SIDS, who are economically, socially and environmentally vulnerable to existential threats. Furthermore, it prevents us from accessing loans at concessionary rates and places a burden on existing financial resources.

In its recent study on “Measuring Vulnerability: A Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for the Caribbean”, the Caribbean Development Bank found that The Bahamas is the sixth most vulnerable country in the region (June 2019).

Education and Human Development

Mr. President,

Since taking up office in 2017, education has been a major priority for my government. As stated in our Manifesto, we “recognize and believe that the progressive and sustainable economic development of The Bahamas rests entirely upon the proper education and training of its people.”

In this vein, The Bahamas is committed to supporting the on-going execution of the Inter-American Education Agenda (IEA), which was adopted at the 8th Meeting of Ministers of Education in Nassau, Bahamas in 2017.

Through the IEA, The Bahamas is currently in the early implementation stages of a project partly funded by the Development Cooperation Fund which will aim to bolster the administrative and policy frameworks for early childhood development in the country, in accordance with the Government’s commitment to universal pre-schooling.

We also look forward to signing the Profuturo Digital Classrooms for CARICOM Agreement at the 10th Meeting of Ministers of Education, which will be held in Washington D.C next month. This project in collaboration with the Inter American Telecommunications Commission and the Profuturo Foundation, will provide a digital platform and hardware for expanding digital education across CARICOM Member States.

Mr. President,

The Bahamas is very much aware that this is a crucial time at the OAS, as it relates to the imminent threats to the long-term sustainability of the organization and its programmes, particularly the Scholarships and Training programmes, which has undergone a significant reduction in resources.

It is extremely important that as many Bahamian citizens as possible, are afforded the opportunity to avail themselves of the countless education and training opportunities made accessible through our bilateral and multilateral relationships.

To this end, we call on the OAS to restore the Scholarship and Training programme to the prestige that it once held by ensuring adequate allocation of financial resources and creating a more cost-effective way for the programme to achieve sustainability.


Mr. President,

As we consider innovation and multilateralism, The Bahamas believes that the OAS must continue to evolve as it seeks to meet the needs of all its members. Looking to the future, The Bahamas envisions a more diverse organization; one that is truly reflective of its Member States. The continued relevance of this organization is inextricably linked to how best it tangibly meets the real needs of citizens on the ground in our respective societies. More now than ever, when reinvigorated multilateral responses are required for the contemporary challenges facing our hemisphere, we require an OAS that is buoyant as it is adaptable; that enhances its credibility as a forum for political dialogue and that continues to renew itself even while staying true to its core values.

The Bahamas is fully committed to partnering with the OAS to help fulfill the mandates and principles enshrined in the OAS Charter. The road toward reform will not be easy and will require the support of all Member States to ensure that every voice is heard.

The Bahamas believes that the OAS must continue to make momentous strides towards a more inclusive hemisphere where equality, prosperity and sustainability are at the forefront to ensure “more rights, for more people”.

I thank you, Mr. President.