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Statement of United Nations Special Rapporteur David R. Boyd on the conclusion of his mission to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

2 December 2021

“In all the world of living things it is doubtful whether there is a more delicately balanced relationship than that of island life to its environment”
Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us, 1951. 

Introduction

Today, I conclude my mission to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which began on 25 November. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a breathtakingly beautiful country that has been confronted by a series of overlapping catastrophes in recent years including not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also a major volcanic eruption, hurricanes, severe floods and droughts, all exacerbated by the growing impacts of the global climate crisis. Despite these daunting challenges, I was impressed by the friendliness and resilience of everyone whom I encountered. 

As the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, my role is to promote the implementation of human rights obligations relating to the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. A key task involves carrying out country visits and preparing a public report to the UN Human Rights Council that describes both good practices and challenges in the protection of human rights and the environment. 

This is my first official country visit since the Human Rights Council, on 8 October 2021, adopted an historic resolution recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. I am keenly interested in the implementation of this right, and this visit provided an opportunity to consider how this right can be fulfilled at the national level.

During my visit, I met with a wide range of people, including the Prime Minister, government ministers and officials from nine ministries, representatives of ten United Nations agencies, members of civil society organizations, community leaders, and concerned citizens. I spoke with a wonderful group of Vincentian youth studying agriculture and environmental sciences at a community college in Kingstown. I also received inputs from the executive director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, based in Barbados.

I would like to thank the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for its invitation. I am grateful to Her Excellency Rhonda King (Ambassador to the UN for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), colleagues with the UN Resident Coordinator’s office in Barbados, Makini Barrow and Westford Joseph from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and La Fleur Quammie (UN Country Coordination Officer) for their valuable assistance in arranging this visit. I also appreciated the support of Viktoria Aberg (Human Rights Officer, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Michelle Brathwaite (Regional Coordinator for the English-Speaking Caribbean).

General Overview

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a population of approximately 110,000, a land area of approximately 400 square km and a marine area ninety times larger (36,000 sq. km). The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing collapse of tourism have had dramatic impacts on the economic health of small island states like Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The final three quarters of 2020 saw a 92% decline in air arrivals, and a 90% drop in yacht passengers. The impacts of the pandemic were then multiplied by the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano on April 9, 2021, which forced the evacuation of 20,000 people.  Remarkably, no one died—a testament to excellent emergency planning, although 100 people are still living in shelters and many others face ongoing challenges. To its credit, the government established a Contingencies Fund in 2017, financed by a levy on visitor accommodations and a consumption tax, to address natural disasters and national emergencies. However, the multiple shocks of recent years have depleted the government’s already limited financial resources, increased the debt load, and understandably delayed numerous initiatives related to climate change and the environment.

While in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, I traveled to the red zone around the La Soufrière Volcano, witnessing the extensive destruction and meeting with community leaders and evacuees in Sandy Bay and Fancy. I visited the Lowmans Bay Power Plant, the Diamond Landfill, and the Maderia Valley Forest Park. I also took a ferry to the island of Bequia in the Grenadines, visiting Paget Farm, the landfill, an emergency shelter under construction, and the waterfront Belmont walkway rebuilt by Action Bequia, a local organization. 

International Legal Framework

I would like to commend Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for having ratified all of the major global human rights treaties. Environmental protection is essential to fulfilling many of the rights recognized in these agreements, including the rights to life, health, and food. Of critical importance is protecting the rights of those who may be most vulnerable to environmental harms and climate change, including women, children, older persons, and persons with disabilities. 

There are still some optional protocols that should be ratified, such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure. As well, it would be ideal from a human rights perspective if Saint Vincent and the Grenadines joined the Inter-American Human rights system, by becoming a party to the American Convention on Human Rights and the San Salvador Protocol. I would like to highlight the recommendation made previously by UN agencies that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines should establish an independent National Human Rights Institution, in accordance with the Paris Principles. 

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines deserves praise for being one of the first States to ratify the landmark Escazú treaty (formally known as the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean). This treaty commits States to respecting, protecting and fulfilling the right to a clean and healthy environment, a right that requires clean air, safe and sufficient water, adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainable food, a safe climate, healthy biodiversity and ecosystems, and non-toxic environments where people can live, work, study and play.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is also a party to all of the major global environmental treaties and is engaged in numerous regional environmental initiatives through the OECS, CARICOM, and CARIFORUM. From a human rights perspective I would like to highlight the Enabling Gender-Responsive Disaster Recovery, Climate and Environmental Resilience in the Caribbean (EnGenDER) Project.

Climate Change

One of the world’s most urgent challenges is climate change, which is violating human rights across the planet today and threatening to do so on a vast scale in the years ahead. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, along with other small island states in the Caribbean and across the world, is acutely vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, storm surges, changes in precipitation patterns, and the increasing intensity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes. On Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 80 percent of the population, infrastructure and economic activity are located at less than 5 meters above sea level—the red zone of vulnerability to storm surges and rising sea levels that cause erosion and damage. Small island states have been among the world’s most outspoken voices in demanding urgent action to address the damage that climate change is inflicting on health, human rights, and well-being.

During my visit, I heard about, and witnessed, the extensive damage inflicted on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines by flooding, droughts, landslides, rising sea levels, saltwater intrusion, and ecosystem changes, such massive blooms of noxious sargassum seaweed and bleaching of coral reefs. There has also been an increase in vector borne diseases, including dengue fever. These climate change-related impacts are wreaking havoc on farms, forests, fisheries, housing, infrastructure, and communities, and in doing so are violating the rights to life, health, food, water, housing, cultural rights and a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. In the words of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, “Beyond the headlines, the story of climate change is grimly told in daily experiences of floods, droughts, landslides, coastal erosions, lost lives and livelihoods across our region.” 

Hurricane Tomas in 2010 destroyed livestock and crops, damaged infrastructure (roads, water, electricity system), caused significant ecological damage, and inflicted $EC165 million in economic costs. Torrential rain in December 2013 caused 13 deaths, directly affected 10,000 people, and cost $EC135 million. Intense rainfall in November 2016 caused floods, erosion, and landslides, and cost $EC98 million. A huge influx of sargassum seaweed in 2018 blanketed beaches, harming fisheries, disrupting tourism and threatening people’s health. Severe droughts occurred in 2010 and 2020 causing water rationing and disrupting agriculture. In 2020, farmers endured $EC16 million in losses as a result of the drought. Hurricane Elsa lashed the country in 2021, soon after the volcanic eruption. 

The concatenation of climate-related catastrophes has major impacts on every aspect of people’s lives in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Food production is severely affected by hurricanes, ash from the volcanic eruption, and the changing precipitation patterns that cause extreme rainfall events and droughts. Several people connected the rising volumes of sargassum seaweed with declining catches of sprats and other culturally valued fish. The decline in both commercial and subsistence agriculture causes a shift towards more expensive, often highly processed imported foods, with negative health consequences including obesity and diabetes. 

As noted by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, rural women are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate-related natural disasters. Thus it is important to ensure the participation of women, especially rural women, in the design and implementation of policies and programs intended to prepare for, reduce the risks of, and recover from climate-related and natural disasters. Another vulnerable group is the Garifuna Indigenous people, many of whom live in coastal communities in the red zone of La Soufrière volcano.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is implementing mitigation and adaptation actions domestically pursuant to its National Climate Change Policy (2019), National Climate Strategy and Implementation Plan, and National Adaptation Plan. Examples of actions taken include investments in coastal and river protection, climate-resilient infrastructure, solar energy and an ongoing effort to tap into the abundant geothermal energy of Saint Vincent. Budget 2021 contained almost $EC60 million in expenditures on climate change mitigation, adaptation and clean energy. The government should accept and implement the various climate change-related recommendations made in the course of the recently completed Universal Periodic Review conducted by the Human Rights Council.

Approximately 80 percent of the electricity on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is generated by two power plants that burn diesel, 18 percent from three run-of-the-river hydro projects and 2 percent from solar. An impressive project is a 600kw solar facility with a 637 kwh lithium-ion battery backup on Union Island in the Grenadines. I visited the Lowmans Hill Power Plant, which appears to be well designed, well maintained and prioritizes spill prevention. However, burning fossil fuels is unsustainable and expensive at $0.30-$0.35 per kilowatt-hour. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, supported by international climate finance, should shift to renewables, combining solar, wind, hydro and possibly geothermal, in order to generate environmental benefits and lower electricity prices. 

Deforestation not only contributes to climate change but can affect hydro production because rainfall runs off the land too quickly. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is fortunate to have extensive forested landscapes, but a large area was badly damaged by the eruption of La Soufrière. Climate finance should be available to assist with the reforestation effort. 

To protect the human rights of the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from the ravages of the climate crisis requires action by all States, but especially those who historically have been and/or are currently major contributors to climate change. Large emitters need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop deforestation in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Wealthy countries must immediately fulfill their commitment to provide at least $100 billion annually to assist climate vulnerable States in adapting to the impacts of a problem that they did not create. Wealthy States must also end their inexcusable decades-long delay in making funds available to compensate climate vulnerable States for loss and damage caused by climate change.

Water and Sanitation

Thanks to the efforts of the Central Water and Sewage Authority, safe, clean water is accessible via piped service for 95 percent of residents in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Some citizens expressed concerns that their water appears very muddy every time there is a major rainfall. Turbidity increases the risk of waterborne illness. Other citizens expressed concerns about water services being cut off for poor households due to nonpayment. This is not consistent with the government’s human rights obligations and should not be permitted. Poor water quality and limited water availability have disproportionate impacts on women because women are primarily responsible for cooking, cleaning, laundry, and caring for family members who are ill.

Polluted water threatens both human and ecosystem health. There is one central sewage plant in Kingstown that discharges untreated sewage into the ocean through an outfall pipe. Although government officials indicated they were unaware of any negative environmental impacts caused by this approach, an independent study would be useful. Most other households use septic tanks, which can contaminate groundwater unless properly managed. An education and monitoring program should be implemented for these households. 

There are some squatters and informal settlements in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Their housing quality is poor, increasing vulnerability to climate-related natural disasters, and access to water and sanitation is limited, leading to pollution. The government is attempting to assist residents living in these challenging situations. I visited a community beside the port in Kingstown living in very rough conditions that is being relocated to superior housing in an area nearby. It is vital to ensure the rights of local residents are respected in all relocation projects, through information, consultation, and participation related to the decision-making process.

On Bequia and other Grenadine islands, most water is provided by rainwater catchment and storage tanks. The increasing length of the dry season and increasingly erratic rainfall are exacerbating water stress and scarcity. I received reports that people were unable to wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds during the COVID-19 pandemic because of water shortages. Bequia does have one large desalination plant at Paget Farm, but this is an expensive solution that can create additional environmental challenges. Action Bequia, a civil society organization, is assisting low-income residents to increase rainwater storage.

Air Quality

Air quality in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is generally excellent, fulfilling people’s right to breathe clean air. However, I have several important concerns. First, several people mentioned that rates of asthma are increasing. Second, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines only recently established a pilot project for monitoring air quality and does not yet have air quality standards. Third, populations living in close proximity to the main sources of air pollution in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (i.e. vehicle emissions on busy roads and emissions from two power plants that burn fossil fuels to produce electricity) may suffer disproportionate exposure to air pollution. In both of these cases, the people suffering adverse impacts on their health and human rights because of air pollution are also likely to be living in poverty. 

Globally, air pollution is the largest environmental risk factor for human health, contributing to seven million premature deaths annually. According to State of Global Air 2020, air pollution causes approximately 66 premature deaths per year in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

It should also be noted that black carbon (from diesel vehicles, fossil fuel burning power plants, and open burning) is not only a harmful air pollutant but also a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Overall, reducing emissions from motor vehicles and the two power plants should be the top air quality priority for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Solid Waste Management

For small island States, solid waste management is a major challenge. To its credit, the Government provides weekly garbage collection service to all residents on Saint Vincent, financed by a small monthly levy on household water bills. I visited the Diamond Sanitary landfill on Saint Vincent. It appears to be a well-run facility, fenced off to the public and policed by security guards, with scrap metal separated for crushing, earth covering the garbage, and compost and wood waste being processed to be sold as fertilizer and mulch. There was no foul odour or flies. Although no liner was used in the construction, leachate from the landfill is routed to a pond for natural treatment. The landfill on Bequia appears to be less well managed, with a foul odour, flies, and open access to the public.

To begin addressing the problem of plastic pollution, there is a ban on Styrofoam and several single use plastic products.  Since 2013, a public-private partnership involving All Islands Recycling Inc. and financed pursuant to the Environmental Levy Act of 1991 has collected more than 42 million plastic bottles and aluminum tins for recycling. A deposit-refund policy alleviates poverty by supporting low-income individuals who collect empty containers (sixty percent of whom are women). Prior to the volcanic eruption, 300 people earned between $130 and $1100 monthly, but the number of people involved in collecting refundable items has since doubled. There is also some recycling of cardboard, glass, scrap metal and batteries.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines does not have a comprehensive collection system for potentially hazardous materials including electronic waste (e-waste), used motor oil, batteries, old paint, expired pharmaceutical products, medical waste, solvents, tires, used gas canisters, etc. It appears that the majority of used tires are currently burned, which causes air pollution. I was informed by officials that new legislation for hazardous waste is under development, and encourage the government to be guided by key principles including prevention, precaution and the polluter pays. Another useful future priority would be separating collection of food waste and organic materials, which could increase the amount of compost for sale as fertilizer, reduce emissions of methane, and extend the lifespan of existing landfills.

Senior officials from the fire department reported concerns about perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), a chemical found in fire-fighting foam. Known as a “forever chemical” because of its persistence in the environment, PFOS is implicated in a range of serious impacts on human health, including cancer. To their credit, the Fire Department is seeking an environmentally-friendly alternative product and a responsible way to dispose of the existing stock of foam.

Given the substantial costs involved in recycling systems and handling hazardous waste, a particularly promising approach is extended producer responsibility (EPR), which shifts the burden of collection from governments to the industries that produce or import packaging or products. EPR regulations have proven effective in other nations for plastic bottles and plastic packaging, aluminum cans, metal, glass, batteries, newspapers, tires, consumer electronics, white goods and motor vehicles. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines should consider EPR as a tool for improving waste management, reducing costs, and moving towards a circular economy.

Healthy and Sustainable Food

Agriculture in in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is vital to livelihoods and the economy but faces multiple challenges exacerbated by climate change, including rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns that are causing extreme rainfall events and extended droughts, and more intense hurricanes. The pandemic and the eruption of La Soufrière added to the challenges, although the volcanic ash is a valuable natural fertilizer. 

Fisheries are vital to fulfilling the right to food, as well as playing an important role in the subsistence and commercial fisheries that contribute to the national economy. However, fisheries face multiple pressures, including climate change and over-harvesting. Catches of kingfish have declined, while catches of cavalli (a less valuable species) have increased.
Government is encouraging multi-cropping to increase both the income and resilience of farmers, with crops including coffee, cocoa beans and other valuable products. The Zero Hunger Trust Fund that provides nutritional and financial support to vulnerable children and older persons is an excellent initiative, as is the Love Box program, where the government purchased food from farmers for the benefit of families displaced for months by the volcanic eruption. 

Local food is generally healthier and has a smaller environmental footprint. The government negotiated an agreement with Sandals Resorts International that that will see the resort purchase over 700,000 pounds of agricultural produce from local farmers annually, providing they can supply the produce in sufficient quantities and quality levels.

Toxic Substances

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a strong program, led by the National Ozone Unit of the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, to phase out ozone depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol. The government is in the process of ratifying the Kigali Amendment, and I encourage them to do so as soon as possible in order to accelerate the phaseout of the HFCs that are powerful greenhouse gases.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines participated in a project led by the Food and Agriculture Organization that resulted in over 3,000 kilograms of obsolete, dangerous pesticides being safely managed and exported for disposal. However, I received information indicating that some pesticides classified as “Highly Hazardous” by the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization continue to be permitted. I encourage the government to ban any further use of these dangerous chemicals and collect any remaining inventory for safe disposal. 

Customs officials acknowledged that their ability to evaluate imports of chemicals is limited to reviewing the paperwork. Other officials acknowledged that information is not available for pesticide residues and other toxic substances in soil, water and marine environments due to a lack of monitoring capacity. Concerns were raised by citizens about the potential relationship between pesticide use and high levels of prostate cancer, an issue that has been the subject of extensive research in Martinique and Guadeloupe but not Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. 

Biodiversity

The Caribbean Islands are classified as one of the world’s 35 “biodiversity hotspots”. Two key approaches to protecting biodiversity are protected terrestrial and marine areas and safeguarding endangered species. While Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has both of these tools in place, the resources required for implementation and enforcement may need to be improved. A botanical garden was established on Saint Vincent in 1763, making it the first in the western hemisphere. Twenty-two wildlife reserves have been created in recent decades, including a large reserve (>10,000 acres) for the famous Saint Vincent parrot (Amazona guildingii).

As a party to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines committed to achieving the Aichi targets for protected areas by 2020, which required States to protect at least seventeen percent of its land and ten percent of its marine area. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has protected 22.4 percent of its land area, which is well above average and exceeds the Aichi target, but only 0.2 percent of its marine area, which is well below average and fails to meet the Aichi target. I encourage the government to increase protection of marine areas in consultation with local communities to ensure their rights are respected.

Tobago Cays Marine Park generated controversy when it was created because it was designated as a “no-take” zone, meaning no fishing permitted despite the dependence of local communities, such as the fisherfolk of the Grenadine island of Mayreau, on fishing. However, the community successfully diversified by creating a cooperative to pursue sea moss farming, using an innovative vertical farming approach.

Other commendable actions taken by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines include a ban on sea turtle harvesting or egg collecting, a ban on shark finning, a ban on harvesting parrotfish, and setting minimum and maximum sizes for lobster harvesting. The Sustainable Grenadines Trust Fund is doing important conservation work and would benefit from additional support.

Mangrove ecosystems provide a natural source of coastal defence as well as offering many other benefits, from fish nurseries to carbon sequestration. In some areas of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, mangroves have been removed to make way for tourist resorts and other types of development. Wherever possible, I encourage the government to protect and restore mangroves and explore nature-based solutions to prevent erosion with coastal and river defence projects.

Environmental Laws and Policies

It is not widely known that one of the first environmental laws in the world was passed by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In 1791, the King’s Hill Forest Act created the second forest reserve in the world to prevent deforestation and to “attract the clouds and rain” so that agriculture could flourish. Of course there are many more recent laws in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines that relate to environmental protection, including the Beach Protection Act, 1981; Central Water and Sewerage Authority Act, 1991; Environmental Health Services Act, 1991; Environmental Levy Act, 1991; Fisheries Act, 1986; Forest Resource Conservation Act, 1992; Marine Parks Act, 1997; Marine Pollution Prevention Act, 2019; National Parks Act, 2002; Pesticide Control Act, 1973; Standards Act, 2005; Town and Country Planning Act, 1976; Waste Management Act, 2000; and Wildlife Protection Act, 1987.

However, the Constitution of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is silent on matters related to the environment. Neither environmental legislation nor human rights legislation refers to the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. This is a gap the government should address in order to fulfill the commitment made as a result of ratifying the Escazú Treaty: “Each Party shall guarantee the right of every person to live in a healthy environment” (Art 4.1). 

Both government and civil society representatives with whom I spoke acknowledged that some environmental laws and regulations would benefit from being updated. There was also agreement that the biggest challenge is implementation, in part due to inadequate financial and human resources. For example, the Sustainable Development Unit of the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Sustainable Development and Culture has only five employees.   

Participation Rights

At the same time that the full enjoyment of human rights depends upon a healthy environment, the exercise of human rights helps to ensure the protection of the environment. Pursuant to the Escazú Treaty that came into force on 22 April 2021, everyone in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has the right to information about environmental matters, the right to participate in environmental decision-making, the rights of freedom of expression and association on environmental matters, and the right of access to effective remedies for environmental harm.  

Government websites for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines provide little information related to environmental issues. There are gaps in environmental data, from air quality to pesticide residues to populations of endangered species. I encourage the government to consider creating an online registry that would make environmental information easily available, including laws, regulations, policies, permit applications and decisions, and pollution data. Such a registry would be consistent with the government’s obligations under the Escazú Treaty (Article 5) and would make it easier to submit the many reports required under international environmental treaties. It may be worth considering a regional approach, as was done by 14 States in the South Pacific. 

Environmental impact assessments for proposed developments are required by the Town and Country Planning Act. The legislative provisions are very brief and the opportunities for public participation are not clear. Some citizens and civil society organizations expressed frustration with their inability to gain easy access to important information, the lack of consultation, and constraints on the public’s ability to participate. Officials indicated that the EIA process is being updated. It is essential that the update to the EIA process be informed by, and be consistent with, the requirements of the Escazú Treaty (especially Article 7). 

I recommend that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines carry out a review of environmental legislation to identify where new or amended legislation and/or regulations are needed to be consistent with the Escazú Agreement. There do not appear to be any environmental cases being brought to the courts in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, suggesting a need for increased enforcement of environmental laws, capacity-building in the legal profession and judicial education.

Conclusion

Like many small island, big ocean states, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines faces a complex web of interconnected environmental challenges that affect human rights, especially the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. I am impressed by the progress being made on many fronts, including water, solid waste management, and adapting to climate change. 

The global climate crisis is multiplying a number of environmental risks, forcing the government to dedicate its limited resources to repair, rebuild, and reconstruct instead of develop. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines represents a textbook example of global climate injustice. Despite its negligible contribution to the problem, this nation is suffering and will continue to suffer dramatic consequences with major human rights implications, especially with regard to vulnerable populations. While this report focuses on a single State, the future of all small island states depends on the willingness of wealthy States to make rapid, systemic and transformative changes to address the climate emergency. 

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is committed to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Human rights are at the heart of the SDGs, and should be directly integrated into all plans, policies, and programmes intended to advance progress towards the 2030 targets. This is essential to ensure that no one is left behind. The Escazú treaty should be used to ensure a human rights-based approach to the development and implementation of all climate- and environment-related initiatives, with particular attention to the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Education is a central pillar of the SDGs, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees all children their right to an environmental education. Understanding the ecological challenges facing society, as well as the potential solutions, is a prerequisite to responsible citizenship. Young people must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to play an active role in shaping their future.

I will provide additional details in my forthcoming country report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which I will prepare in the coming months and present to the Council next year. 

Let me conclude by reiterating my heartfelt appreciation to all of the people who took the time to share their views with me over the past eight days. It has been an honour and a privilege to learn about this beautiful Caribbean island nation, its environmental challenges, its resilience, and its determination to build a just, sustainable and prosperous society.