skip to main content
Statement by: Bahamas
20 Jun 2012
H.E. Frederick MITCHELL, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Bahamas

1
Statement by the Honourable Frederick A. Mitchell
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration of
the Commonwealth of The Bahamas
to the
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
(Rio+20)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
20 June 2012
2
Madame President,
Heads of State,
Heads of Government,
Heads of delegation,
distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the People of The Commonwealth of The
Bahamas and our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable
Perry G. Christie, whom I represent, I bring warmest
greetings.
Madame President,
3
At the outset, allow me to express the sincere gratitude of
my delegation to the Government and people of Brazil for
the hospitalities extended to the delegation of The
Bahamas during the convening of this Conference.
Further, particular acknowledgement is made of the
laudable and tireless efforts of negotiators and the
remarkable level of resolve and flexibility which was
demonstrated. These efforts are duly reflected, Madame
President, in our adoption, by consensus, of the outcome
of this historic venture.
Madame President,
This Conference takes place against a sobering backdrop
of global economic and social challenges. The hard won
consensus achieved on this occasion, attests to an
4
understanding that present challenges must be braved
alongside our efforts to confront with resolve the
challenges of the future.
The goal of sustainable development lies at the heart of
this Conference, and, the declaration adopted on this
occasion is one which we recognize as offering significant
opportunities.
Madame President,
at this juncture, it must be made abundantly clear that The
Bahamas is an archipelagic, state with an open economy
which is challenged by external shocks and by the
increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters,
including hurricanes; due in large part to the effects of
climate change. These, together with the economic
5
recession have left our economy tenuous with deep and
lasting wounds. National debt, dependence on fossil fuels
and other imports, which exhibit significant price
volatility, constrain efforts to develop sustainably and
eradicate poverty.
Madame President,
Despite these constraints, the Commonwealth of The
Bahamas embraces sustainable development and strives to
eliminate exploitation, poverty and deprivation. We are a
people inextricably linked to our environment, our
shallow blue seas and our way of life. The environment
sustains our lives and livelihoods. The environment is the
very foundation of our economic activity.
6
In this regard, The Bahamas, as a recognized leader in the
tourism industry, is cognizant of the importance of
establishing and implementing sustainable tourism
development strategies and plans as tourism has the
potential to destroy the very assets it depends on. As the
single largest sector in our economy, we are keenly aware
that the future of tourism hinges on the sustainable
development strategies we implement today.
The Bahamas therefore fully reaffirms its commitment to
sustainable development. Advancements continue
nationally in important areas pertaining to the protection
of our biodiversity and supporting the development of
policies which seek to promote renewable energy. The
Bahamas has enacted legislation to foster the sustainable
7
use and management of ecosystems, through better landuse
planning. Under the United Nations Convention on
Law of the Sea we have initiated actions to preserve our
fish stock by introducing penalties for overfishing. We
have taken action to ban long line fishing, to establish The
Bahamas as a shark sanctuary and to establish and expand
marine protected areas. Madame President, for The
Bahamas it is imperative that we seek to ensure that our
Sustainable Development strategies are comprehensive,
yet we must also establish a transparent process which
will respond to our peculiarities, vulnerabilities, and
national objectives. It is of particular importance that we
are mindful of not only our policy space but also of our
8
fiscal space and the impact that such strategies will bear
on the welfare of our peoples.
Accordingly, The Bahamas has commenced a process to
engage and incorporate our partners in efforts to
overcome the challenges we face, to recover, to expand
job creation and deal head-on with the vexing problems of
crime and youth unemployment. These challenges form
part of the context in which our sustainable development
efforts are undertaken, we must make certain that
sustainable development is for all; that is the future we
want.
Madame President,
It falls upon Governments to make policies “peoplecentric”.
We commit to engage and sensitise our citizenry
9
in clear and concise terms through public education.
People must be involved in the process and informed of
the costs and benefits of implementing sustainable
development policies. We are particularly focused on the
need to engage young people in our public education
efforts.
In consideration of the Green Economy, The Bahamas is
guided by the Principles of the Rio Declaration.
Additionally we must ensure our pursuit of a Green
Economy will enhance our efforts without compromising
our current improvements. More importantly, we must
ensure that greening initiatives do not place our macrodevelopment
at risk and/or increase our dependence on
technologies which may be incompatible with preserving
10
our environment. Much like our fellow SIDS, in order to
appropriately address the transition and eventual
implementation of Green Economy initiatives there are
some preconditioning fundamentals we must adhere to.
That is, we must strengthen our institutions and enhance
our technical and economic capacities.
Madame President, in light of our Declaration, it is
incumbent upon us, both the developed and developing
countries, to redouble efforts and mobilize our resources
to adhere to our commitments to implement accordingly.
Madame President, for many the axiom which states that
“We should put our money where our mouths are”
becomes even more relevant. Sustainable Development
11
financing should usher in mechanisms that will be true to
the essence and rationale of development.
We therefore must not permit our ambition to wane and
call for a greater sense of urgency in efforts to achieve the
internationally agreed MDGs and to sustain the progress
already made. For a small island developing state like the
Bahamas, GDP must not be used to restrict access to
support and resources needed to achieve sustainable
development. Our uniqueness gives greater definition to
our vulnerabilities and exposes the disparities and
inconsistencies that international agencies often employ
when considering The Bahamas. The Bahamas continues
to be deserving of considerations which will not restrict
access and deny us the right to develop sustainably,
12
supported by financial, human and technological
resources.
Madame President,
I must underscore the importance of the unique challenges
of SIDS countries like The Bahamas, it is our desire that
this conference not only validates our uniqueness but
translates rhetoric into concrete and tangible assistance.
The Commonwealth of the Bahamas will continue do its
fair share, based on its national circumstances and
economic realities, and, in full light of the inherent
existential challenges faced. But Madame President, we
cannot do it alone.” Let not small islands states suffer at
the expense of inaction.
In closing, Madame President,
13
The people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas are
proudly described, in the preamble of our Constitution as
“We the Inheritors of and Successors to this Family of
Islands…”.
Mr. President,
Our duty of guardianship is both a gift and a
responsibility. We are proud of the islands inherited from
our forefathers; we must be equally proud in bequeathing
them to our children. Madame President, Future
generations should not be recipients of our failure.