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Civil society identifies sustainable development priorities for Trinidad and Tobago
Published on July 26, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Twenty-three leading civil society organisations (CSOs) have identified priorities for sustainable development in Trinidad and Tobago and roles they can play in addressing these. Priorities focus on improving health and education services, women's empowerment, more equitable and green economic development, mitigating and adapting to climate change, and conserving biodiversity and natural resources.

Economic growth was a key area discussed. CSOs felt that the current economic model in Trinidad and Tobago is not sustainable as it is resulting in degradation of the environment while not achieving adequate distribution of economic benefits across the population. Diversification of our economy is needed, building more on green economy principles of economic development that are socially and environmentally responsible.

The question of how to measure growth in the economy is fundamental to how development success is measured and to what extent the fundamental pillars of sustainable development are integrated into the development agenda in Trinidad and Tobago.

Health priorities included addressing non-communicable diseases, reproductive health and delivery of health services (including maternal health services). The relationship between poverty and the number of children borne by women is a specific issue that needs to be addressed.

Education priorities revolved around improving access to quality education, which has declined.

Gender priorities included development of a national policy to address gender issues and enhanced education and awareness. Despite the increasing role of women in Trinidad and Tobago, a key issue is for women to break current barriers to reach top positions in public and private sectors.

Climate change mitigation was seen as very weak in Trinidad and Tobago, which is one of the top ten emitters globally per capita. Strengthened action on mitigation is needed to address this serious concern. Action needs to address the issue of high subsidies for non-renewable energy (oil and gas) as well as education for the public to encourage support for a move towards more sustainable energy consumption nationally. At the same time, continued focus on climate change adaptation is needed, particularly building capacity and awareness for community-based adaptation.

Environment and biodiversity priorities noted the need to protect natural resources for delivery of ecosystem goods and services to support economic development. CSOs felt that oil spill issues need to be addressed more proactively through enforcement and implementation of existing policies, and less through crisis management.

Sustainable tourism discussions focused on community tourism. The draft community tourism policy needs to be finalised to include mechanisms to enable ownership and access to resources by local communities as well as to provide clear standards for what can be branded as 'eco' tourism. Capacity building is needed for state agencies, the private sector, CSOs and communities.

Rural tourism business needs to be made more attractive for community residents so that communities can be the main supply point for services and partners in sustainable tourism efforts.

These priorities were identified at a meeting of the CSOs held on Friday 18 July 2014 facilitated by the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) – United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Trinidad. The objective of this consultation was to facilitate the development of a strong and coherent civil society position on sustainable development priorities for Trinidad and Tobago.

This will be presented to the government of Trinidad and Tobago for consideration in development of the national position for the upcoming third international conference on small island developing states (SIDS) in September in Samoa and the United Nations process to develop a set of post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as the overarching global development framework. These two global processes will provide an important framework for sustainable development in Trinidad and Tobago and the government will be presenting a national position as input in these processes.
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