Bishop Malzaire speaks at the Dominica Climate Change Day of Action at the Botanic Gardens, Roseau on Saturday November 28, 2015
Bishop Malzaire speaks at the Dominica Climate Change Day of Action at the Botanic Gardens, Roseau on Saturday November 28, 2015

In a statement released last week Caribbean church leaders called on the international community and Caribbean governments to "establish debt relief as an instrument for emergency support and reconstruction."

Here is the full statement:

"The 2017 hurricane season has been one of the most devastating in the history of the Caribbean. In the most affected of the Eastern Caribbean islands, Barbuda and Dominica, we have seen lives lost and destruction totalling more than twice the annual GDP.

"All research points to the fact that the growing severity of hurricanes in the Caribbean is related to man-made climate change. This means that we in the Caribbean, like some other nations elsewhere in the global south, are least responsible for but most affected by climate change. The few dozen small Island States across the world, for example, have neither the size nor developmental history to have been major contributors to current climate change. Yet these small Island States are the most easily devastated by rising seas and harsher storms. Our brothers and sisters who inhabit these places are in peril, through no fault of their own.

"Still, our nations are not only exposed to adverse weather phenomena. Moreover, we are small Island States with small and less diversified economies that have little capacity to withstand external shocks, with which poor but larger nations may be able to cope. This has been one of the reasons that we have never been able to sustainably escape from our debt traps. However, our external debt can be turned into an instrument of efficient support in the event of future catastrophes, if there is a proper mechanism to allow for moratoria and serious debt restructuring.

"As Churches in the Caribbean we have witnessed the grief and despair of our people last September, and we are not prepared to enter the next hurricane season without at least being able to tell them that our authorities shall be able to use scarce resources for immediate relief and mid-term reconstruction rather than debt service. "We therefore call upon all those who bear responsibility for responding to any crisis in the next hurricane season and beyond:

Our own heads of State and Government must unite and collectively demand the creation of an efficient debt relief option ahead of the next hurricane season through all available means, including the United Nations System and the Bretton Woods Institutions.

The IMF must use its rule-setting power to endorse a full debt moratorium once a hurricane or any other serious disaster brings destruction beyond a pre-defined level and make sure that a serious debt restructuring of all external commitments shall be possible under due consideration of our peoples' human rights.

The ECCB and the CDB must act as supporters of a comprehensive debt "restructuring process once it is needed.

"We as Churches and broader Civil Society in the Caribbean commit ourselves to support our authorities in their efforts towards global justice in every possible way, including through global advocacy with the help of the international community.

"Debt relief has been provided before to countries in need, e.g., through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPCI) under WB/IMF leadership or the IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) after the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Through these initiatives, beneficiaries have been given the opportunity of a fresh start and found a way out of their debt traps. There is no reason why our people in the Caribbean, in contrast, should have to slide deeper and deeper into their debt traps after each hurricane season.

"We urgently need a tailored Heavily Indebted Caribbean Countries Initiative, which will combine immediate relief and an efficient form of debt restructuring. We do not want to face the next hurricane season without a proper mechanism for relief in place".

Signatures to the Statement:

Rev. Dr. Osbert James - Presbyterian Minister, Member Conference of Churches in Grenada & Chair of Jubilee Grenada

Fr. Sean Doggett- Roman Catholic Priest & member of the Conference of Churches in Grenada and Jubilee Grenada

Rev. Joachim Phillip- Pentecostal Pastor representing the Alliance of Evangelical Churches in Grenada & and a member of Jubilee Grenada

Rev. Jerome Gordon- Seventh Day Adventist Pastor and member of Jubilee Grenada

Mr. Alvin Clouden -Roman Catholic Layman and member of the Conference of Churches in Grenada & Jubilee Grenada

The Hon. Oliver Joseph - Roman Catholic Layman/Minister of Labour & member of Jubilee Grenada

Ms. Janice James- Representative of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Christian Council

Mrs. Valerie Ramoo- Executive Secretary of the Conference of Churches in Grenada

Rev. Vonnie James - Ag. Chair of Conference of Churches in Grenada & member of Jubilee Grenada

Rev. Sylbert Prescod-Superintend Minister of the Methodist Church – Grenada Circuit

Rev. John Lewis - Director of the Grenada Institute for Theological Education

Bishop Cuthbert Edwards-Superintendent of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean (Barbados)

Bishop Clyde Harvey - Roman Catholic Bishop of St. George's in Grenada

Bishop Gerard County-Roman Catholic Bishop of Kingstown, St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Bishop Leopold Friday - Anglican Bishop of St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Archbishop Robert Rivas - Roman Catholic Archbishop of Castries, St. Lucia

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire -Roman Catholic Bishop of Roseau, Dominica

Archbishop Jason Gordon - Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain, Trinidad

Fr. John D. Persaud- General Secretary of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, Trinidad & Tobago

This statement is also supported and endorsed by the following:

Jurgen Kaiser Jubilee Germany

Eric LeCompte Jubilee USA

Sarah-Jayne Clifton Jubilee UK