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The Sixth Summit of the Americas is taking takes place in Cartagena, Colombia on 14-15 April 2012.Heads of Government and the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will be among those participating. One of the themes of the Summit is “Disaster Risk Reduction and Management” an issue that is very important to CARICOM. In that regard the Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque is presenting an opinion piece on the Caribbean’s view of this issue within the context of the Summit.
By Ambassador Irwin LaRocque
(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Based on the history of frequency of hazard impacts and related social and economic losses, Latin America and theCaribbean is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. Understandably, then, the subject of disaster risk reduction is a key item on the agenda of the Sixth Summit of the Americas, which takes place this weekend in Cartagena, Colombia.
Under the overarching theme of “Connecting theAmericas: Partners for Prosperity,” the Heads of State and Government of 34 countries will examine how to strengthen regional collaboration and reduce obstacles standing in the way of development. In this context, they will promote strategic cooperation among the specialized disaster management institutions in the hemisphere and seek to improve mechanisms to reduce and manage risks.
Volcanoes, earthquakes, droughts and floods are permanent features of the development landscape. Comparing the years 1971-1975 with 2002-2005, the frequency of droughts in the hemisphere has increased by 360%, hurricanes 521% and floods 266%. This suggests that the issues associated with climate change and climate variability must be assertively addressed in our disaster-reduction policy and overarching development planning frameworks.
In the Caribbean, with a population of approximately 18 million people, very few countries have escaped serious disaster-related damage within the past two decades. Approximately three-quarters of this population is estimated to live in at-risk areas, and one-third lives in areas highly exposed to hazards.
That harsh reality is reflected in a recent report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and theCaribbean, which finds that in the past four decades, natural disasters have caused significant fatalities. In the last 10 years, it estimates the financial toll from natural disasters in this hemisphere to be more than US $446 billion. The impact on society and economy has been debilitating.
PARAMARIBO–The US embassy has announced a change in the processing fees for visa. Effective April 13, 2012, the U.S. Department of State will adjust visa processing fees. Those for most nonimmigrant visa applications will increase, while all immigrant visa processing fees will decrease.
GEORGETOWN, GUyana – Staff of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat came in for high praise from Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government, President Desiré Bouterse, who visited the Georgetown-based Secretariat on Tuesday.
President Bouterse who together with Foreign Minister Winston Lackin and a Government delegation was on board the inaugural SLM Guyana-Miami fight, when he visited the secretariat. Bouterse, who chairs the Community from January to June, held discussions with Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM Secretary-General, and later interacted with staff members of the Secretariat, Caricom wrote in a press release. “I know that many of you work long and hard and it is much appreciated. It may look as if your contribution is overlooked. But let me assure you that it is much appreciated,” he told staffers.
As he acknowledged that the Region had to change if it wanted to survive, the President made reference to the recently-publicised Landell Mills Report on restructuring the Secretariat and pointed out that staff of the Secretariat were the most important part of the wheels of change and reform. He said the document will be used as a basis for going forward, not necessarily following every recommendation, but by utilising those that would make the Region and the Secretariat more relevant.
ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Individuals, enterprises and organizations based in the Caribbean are invited to submit proposals for the 2012 IDEAS Energy Innovation Contest. UKAid from the Department of International Development (DFID), GVEP International, South Korea and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) launched the contest this week.
The organizers are particularly looking for submissions from Antigua & Barbada, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago. The contest, being held under the theme “What’s your bright IDEA?” is intended to promote innovative solutions to energy problems that have local or regional benefits, provide jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a release from organisers said. Winners could receive up to US $200,000, as well as technical and business development support to implement or scale up their ideas.
Deadline for submissions is April 30. Applications should be submitted electronically. Details and guidance are available at www.iadb.org/ideas. Grant winners will be announced July 15, 2012. “The Caribbean has great potential for economically and environmentally sustainable enterprises in renewable energy and energy efficiency,” said Simone Banister, Climate Change Adviser at DFID Caribbean.
PARAMARIBO–Suriname’s parliament must reject a proposed amnesty law that would allow the country’s president to escape investigation for past gross human rights violations, Amnesty International has said. The following is a press release issued by AI on the matter.
The long-delayed trial of President Dési Bouterse, who is accused of abducting and killing opponents in December 1982 while he was military leader, could be scrapped if the amnesty law is passed. The proposal will be debated in parliament today.
PARAMARIBO–For those who enter Readytex Crafts, better known as the souvenir department of Readytex in the Maagdenstraat, what makes the biggest impression is the variety of locally crafted objects from our own Surinamese artisans. Because of their oeuvre, their ambitions and their work ethic a number of these craft artists are certainly deserving of the extra exposure only a special exhibition can bring about. It is therefore that Readytex Crafts launches, on the 20th of March, the first ever solo exhibition of one of her key contemporary craft artists and expert in the field of maroon woodcarving (Tembe): Danasion Akobe better known as ‘Dona’.
In De Hal at the Grote Combéweg 45 the large collection of Dona, with among other things wooden bowls, panels, benches, chairs, mirrors, boats and oars big and small, will be displayed in an artistic, contemporary way. Dona’s product line is called ‘Malohkoh’. Handcrafted maroon art from Surinamese wood, based upon the culture of the Saramaccaners, and named after the ancestral matriarch who had the courage to escape slavery and map out her own course for the future. Occasionally, and mainly in the painted details, influences from the culture of the Aucaners are also visible. The title Dona chooses for his exhibition is Da mi wan maun [da m’wan mauw], give me a hand. This is how during his work, he regularly seeks out the help of friends and family for certain tasks he can impossibly complete all by himself. And either consciously or subconsciously, the title also reflects his wish; his wish that more people from his community, his family and his culture, will choose to join him in the craft of Tembe so that he can ultimately produce much more than he is currently capable of.
Dona, who in the past concentrated mainly on crafting furniture with elaborate antique detailing, entered the craft department of Readytex for the first time in 1994. The‘Hati dendoe’, a beautifully carved hand mirror which he presented there that day, was the beginning of a new career for the maroon artisan and a solid, creative and productive partnership for all involved. For over 18 years now, Dona is the steady supplier of the extensive ‘Malohkoh’ line at Readytex Crafts. The wooden objects from Dona often have a traditional look, but many also incorporate a modern twist. His woodcarvings, the patterns sometimes clean-lined and abstract, sometimes flowing and intricately curved, are masterful and precise, just like the painted details he adds every now and again. He uses the ‘Tembe’ traditions from his ancestors as point of departure and indeed also studies these traditions meticulously, but Dona aspires to take the skill of woodcarving to new heights. Thus he develops either by himself, sometimes with Readytex and sometimes on commission by others, new products and designs that never cease to fascinate the public. He also assigns a unique name to every piece.
Because of his expertise in the field of woodcarving, Dona also contributes to the art projects of several visual artists who require his skills, such as Marcel Pinas and recently also Remy Jungerman. In 2010 for the exhibition SURE Suriname! in The Hague, he crafted a modern line of products which were designed by the makers of the exhibition.
After the opening on March 20th the exhibition ‘Da mi wan maun’ is open to the public from Wednesday March 21st thru Sunday March 25th 19:00 – 21:00 hrs. During a ‘meet the artist’ event on Saturday the 24th of March Dona will elaborate further on his work.
Readytex Art Gallery press release
PARAMARIBO–The Foundation Suriname Lepidoptera Institute SSLI has made an urgent call to authorities to stop gold explorations in the butterfly rich nature park Browns Berg. The call comes just a few months before the foundation launches the first book about Surinamese butterflies. “We’re horrified by how the Browns Berg nature park has been ravaged by gold miners. We have been researching butterflies in the park for over six years and cannot stomach that STINASU (Foundation Nature Management Suriname) hasn’t taken action against this destruction of nature in this protected area,” Foundation President Borger Beckles states.
Brownsberg nature reserve is located in District Brokopondo, at a two-hour drive southward from Paramaribo. In its center is a 400 meter peak, which gives a magnificent view over the Brokopondo Lake. The lodges on top of the hill are popular with vacationers, who undertake nature walks to the refrigerating Irene and Leo waterfalls. The area is rich with wildlife and amazon vegetation, but hunting, poaching and collecting the abundance of medicinal plants is forbidden. STINASU is charged with the monitoring of this 12,200 ha protected area, but with Suriname’s hinterland under the spell of a destructive gold rush, small miners have apparently found their way into the reserve as well.
Beckles notes that the park has always been considered perfect for enjoying butterflies and other nature elements in Suriname. The destructive gold mining activities put all this in danger, he says. “At least 700 day butterflies dwell at Brownsweg, that’s about half of the species that exist in Suriname. Only about 200 of the butterflies at Browns Berg have been scientifically identified,” Beckles explains, adding that there are about 5,000 to 8,000 night butterflies that haven’t even been identified yet.
Among the day butterflies he lists several that are rare. Heraclides garleppi lecerfi, a species that is protected by the IUCN and only lives on the Guiana Shield, Telenassa fontus fontus is consided a living fossile, closely related to the ancestor of about 80 butterflies that only exist in South America, and Eueides lampeto brownbergensis, a rare passion flower butterfly that only exists in Suriname (and possibly French Guiana) and was named after Browns Berg. “SSLI recently mentioned this butterfly in the Journal of the Lepidopterist Society,” Beckles said.
He said that despite the destruction being caused by the gold miners, his Foundation would continue undeterred with its research. The book “Butterflies of Suriname, a Natural History” is expected off the presses in July this year. The colorful, English publication with jawdropping beautiful nature pictures of Suriname will set standards in publishing Suriname’s nature; many of the pictures were shot by Beckles, himself an avid nature photographer. It will be sold locally and internationally on amazon.com.
PARAMARIBO–Non resident EU Ambassador to Suriname Robert Kopecký, resident in Georgetown, Guyana, presented his Letters of Credence to President Desi Bouterse last Wednesday. He was accompanied by resident EU Chargée d’affaires in Paramaribo Esmeralda Hernandéz Aragonés. Also present at the ceremony was Minister Winston Lackin of Foreign Affairs. First Lady Ingrid Bouterse and Mrs. Eška Kopecká joined the group at the end of the talks.
Ambassador Kopecký has almost 20 years of experience, working with the Czech Republic Diplomatic service, including missions in Cuba, Mexico, Angola and Uzbekistan. This is his first visit top Suriname. Together with Chargée d’affaires Esmeralda Hernandéz Aragonés, he met several representatives of the Surinamese Government and dignitaries, including Vice President Robert Ameerali, the Chair of the National Assembly Jennifer Geerlings-Simons, Minister Lackin, Minister of Agriculture Hendrik Setrowidjojo and Minister of Trade and Industry Michael Miskin.
Talks centered on strengthening of relations between the EU and Suriname, the promotion of the country on EU instances and countries and the next programming of the EU assistance. Ambassador Kopecký was also introduced to other Diplomatic Missions accredited in Suriname: French Ambassador Joel Godeau, Dutch Ambassador Aart Jacobi, the Ambassador of Guyana Keith George, the Chargé d’affaires of the United States of America Margaret McKean and the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador of India K.J.S. Sodhi.
He also met several representatives of Surinamese civil society including the President of KKF Henk Naarendorp, President of ASFA Rahid Doekhie, Director of Projekta Sharda Ganga and Hans Breeveld of the Democracy Unit at the Anton de Kom University. A visit was paid to the Cathedral which was restored with the contribution of EU funds. He also visited the EU supported SBBS Banana plantation in Jarikaba and travelled via Nickerie on Saturday 17th March, from where he caught the ferry back to Georgetown.
Source: EU press release
WASHINGTON—The partnership between Suriname and the InterAmerican Development is revitalizing and reaching results, the Bank wrote in a press release on Friday. Aside from securing close to US$ 400 million in loans and financing from the IDB over 2011-2015, Suriname is hosting the “First IDB Caribbean Governors Meeting” at BergenDal resort in March this year. The conference will bring regional ministers to Suriname, to hold discussions before the next IDB Annual Meeting in Uruguay in March. “Less than a year after the Central Bank’s President and IDB Governor, and the Minister of Finance of Suriname concluded an agreement with IDB Vice President Roberto Vellutini to revitalize the partnership between the Government and the Bank, many good results were already achieved,” said IDB Representative in Suriname, Marco Nicola.
The loans and finances are part of a new strategy in which Suriname will loans a record amount of around US$300 million in the period 2011-2015. The Bank also approved financing and disbursements of US$80 million this year.
“In the wake of the Government’s ambitious reform agenda to structurally transform the economy the IDB is poised to become a more significant development partner,” added Nicola. “Throughout 2011, Government and IDB officials have worked to deliver important milestones that will contribute to an improved outlook for Suriname.”
PARAMARIBO– Suriname has agreed to address several national human rights matters raised by the United Nations Human Rights Council. During its four-yearly Universal Periodic Review, a United Nations process in which it seeks to report on the state of human rights in the 192 Member States every, the council made several recommendations. A press release from the UN says that Justice and Police Minister Martin Misiedjan has since reported that Suriname has accepted strengthening the participation of women, combating the trafficking of minors, combating poverty and ensuring economic, social and cultural rights for vulnerable groups as well as setting up a national human rights institution in accordance with international standards. The Council has appealed to the international community to provide constructive assistance to help Suriname achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Minister Misiedjan, the release stated, is responsible for addressing the Council. It said Misiedjan reported that the Universal Periodic Review which took place in Switzerland last May, had prompted an in-depth analysis of the national human rights situation in the country and that a significant number of the recommendations were accepted as they provided a sound foundation for the implementation of policies aimed at providing a more effective protection and enjoyment of human rights.
In terms of health, much work had been done in Suriname to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child and in the fight against malaria. Speakers present at the Council said that the international community should provide constructive assistance to help Suriname achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Among the recommendations accepted to promote the human rights in Suriname by the Government, there is the agreement to conclude the ratification process of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Also, the Government will consider starting the ratification process of the two Optional Protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).