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Campbell to CARICOM Council for Human and Social Development: Build resilience at front end of all future planning
By Matt Maura
Jun 8, 2021 - 9:48:13 AM

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NASSAU, The Bahamas – If the global COVID-19 Pandemic has taught regional countries one lesson, that lesson would be the need for regional planners across countries to place greater focus on building resilience at the front end of all future planning so as to create sustainable, preventative programmes for, when, and if, those crises do occur.

Addressing the closing session of the 40th Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on Gender held virtually June 3-4 under the theme: “Strengthening Gender Equality in COVID-19 Response and Recovery in the Community,” Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, told delegates that while the COVID-19 Pandemic has dealt regional, small-island development states such as the Caribbean a “vicious blow,” it has also presented countries with opportunities for additional human growth and social development.

The Bahamas served as Chair of the 40th Meeting of COHSOD – a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) body that consists of Government Ministers of Member States. The Council is responsible for the promotion of human and social development throughout the Caribbean Community.

“There is no doubt that COVID-19 has dealt regional countries a vicious blow, but I am also satisfied that it has caused us to come to the realization that it cannot be business as usual; that there must be greater focus on resilience on the front end; that there must be sustainable, preventative programmes that are the norm so that when we do find ourselves facing these types of crises, those programmes -- having been already established and sustainable -- would kick in and jumpstart the road towards recovery,” Minister Campbell said.

The 40th Meeting was held against the backdrop of the socio-economic fall-out the global COVID-19 Pandemic has had on regional countries in general and regional women and girls in particular. Minister Campbell told his virtual audience that the presence of the COVID-19 Pandemic has also had a negative impact on the socio-economic development of global countries, pointing to a World Health Organization (WHO) Report which showed a “drastic” increase in physical and/or sexual violence, usually from an intimate partner, in global women.

“In the Caribbean region, Reports from several member States have confirmed a sharp increase in incident rates (of Gender-Based Violence) largely because women were forced to shelter in place with their abusers,” Minister Campbell said.

The Reports also speak to other social ills that have been exacerbated in the region as a result of COVID-19 including reports that indicate children are facing “a rapid increase” of online child abuse and bullying, with girls encountering increased sexual abuse and harassment. The Report says older persons are not only struggling with greater health risks, but also elder abuse, while homeless persons – because they are unable to safely shelter in place – are more exposed to the dangers of the virus.

Additionally, the Reports indicate that Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) could be left without vital support due to social distancing, and those in prisons, in migrant detention centres, or in mental health institutions, face higher risks of contracting the virus because of confined spaces.

Regional officials say the loss of household incomes and protracted school closures in some communities, may also place adolescent girls at an increased risk of sexual exploitation, harassment, early unions, and child marriages. The “disproportionate job losses,” they say, has severely affected women with 70 per cent of Caribbean households reporting reduced incomes. This is heightened by the fact that the informal economy, where most of the poor work, is “oversaturated” with women who often have no, or low, social protection such as in the tourism sector and the Gig economy and who were among the first to suffer job losses. (Gig workers consist of independent contractors, online platform workers, on-call workers and temporary workers).

Minister Campbell said the 40th Meeting of the COHSOD Ministers and regional officials, allowed the Community to put its collective brain trusts together so as to devise and develop the kind of strategies and programmes to address any potential negative socio-economic fall-out that could be associated with any future crises.

“If we learn anything from our experiences as a Caribbean Community, it has to be that there will be various crises – man-made or otherwise -- from time to time. For example, we are in the Hurricane Belt, and so it is important for us, in our discussions, in our deliberations, to speed up and accelerate the interventions that we have been talking about for more than 25 years and ensure that they are in place so that we are prepared to deal with whatever crisis that might arise,” Minister Campbell added.

Under Article 17 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the Council for Human and Social Development on Gender has been tasked to promote the improvement of health, including the development and organization of efficient and affordable health services in the Community; to promote the development of education through the efficient organization of educational and training facilities in the Community, including elementary and advanced vocational training and technical facilities, and to promote and develop co-ordinated policies and programmes to improve the living and working conditions of workers and take appropriate measures to facilitate the organization and development of harmonious labour and industrial relations in the Community.

It is also been tasked with establishing policies and programmes to promote the development of youth and women in the Community with a view to encouraging and enhancing their participation in social, cultural, political and economic activities; promote and establish programmes for the development of culture and sports in the Community; promote the development of special focus programmes supportive of the establishment and maintenance of a healthy human environment in the Community, and undertake any additional functions remitted to it by the Conference, arising under this Treaty.

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