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The Bahamas: UN expert calls for long-term financial planning to address climate change

01 September 2023

NASSAU (31 August 2023) – A UN expert today called on the international community to step up support for the Bahamas and small island States at high risk of natural disasters due to climate change.

“The Bahamas needs long-term financial planning to address its climate vulnerability and economic dependence on tourism,” said Attiya Waris, the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt, international financial obligations and human rights, in a statement at the end of a 10-day visit to the country.

Waris noted that the Bahamas’ high-income status limits its access to international financial institution loans and development aid. “The reality is that they should be supported by the international community, including international financial institutions and development banks,” she said.

The expert urged the Bahamas and the international community to adopt a comparative indicator other than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, noting that the country has unique challenges that require more resources than most States, including a high cost of living and a constant risk of devastating climate-related disasters.

The Bahamas’ economy is heavily dependent on tourism, Waris said. After five major hurricanes in the past decade, the Bahamas was most recently hit by Hurricane Dorian in 2019, which caused USD 3.4 billion in damage, nearly 25 per cent of the country’s GDP.

“The impact of Hurricane Dorian, COVID-19 and the decline in tourism was devastating for both the population and the country’s economy,” the expert said. “The country is still repaying the debt incurred for reconstruction and will continue to do so for many years to come.”

The Independent Expert urged the Government to consider long-term economic planning that considers the consequences of climate change and explore the diversification of its economy to become less dependent on tourism, increase its food security and use local innovation.

“The collective responsibility of the international community towards climate change and its consequences should not be forgotten,” Waris said.

The expert will present her report to the Human Rights Council in March 2024.

Ms Attiya Waris (Kenya) took up the function of Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights on 1 August 2021. She holds a PhD in Law and is a specialist in Fiscal Law, Policy and Development. Ms Waris teaches at the Law School, University of Nairobi, Kenya and has previously taught in South Africa, Rwanda, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. Ms Waris has researched and published on global and regional issues. She published 'Tax and Development’ (2013) offering links between tax and human rights and her more recent publication ‘Financing Africa’ is the first publication globally to map out African fiscal systems.

Follow the Independent Expert’s work on Twitter: @IEfinanceHRs

The Independent Experts and Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact: María Muñoz Maraver ([email protected])

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts

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