Confronting the Debt Challenge within the Caribbean, Charting a Sustainable Path for Caribbean Development, aims to coordinate a Caribbean civil society solutions-oriented regional policy and advocacy strategy to highlight and address the adverse effects of high debt levels exacerbated by public health crises, climate change effects, and the historical development deficits caused by the structural vulnerabilities of Small and Vulnerable Developing States (SVDS).
The Open Society Foundations (OSF) and Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) partnership comes against a background of the multidimensional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both governments and individuals. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the region, governments have implemented policies and directives to limit the spread and safeguard their populations. While these policies have been effective to varying degrees, the virus’s adverse social and economic impacts have been unwavering and widespread. The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 affects countries at every levels. Notably, on the national level, governments face high levels of debt, reduction in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), struggling tourism sectors, and dwindling funds for social protection. For individuals, these challenges are characterized by unemployment, inability to provide for families, little food security, increased crime, increased domestic violence, and significant impacts on mental health due to sustained lockdowns.
Amid the pandemic, the Caribbean is still experiencing climate change impacts through frequent and intense natural disasters. The reallocation of public funds to social protection programmes and rising debt levels limits the finances allocated to preparation and response to disasters. The IADB reported a baseline stimulation that suggests debt in Latin America and the Caribbean will rise from 57% in 2019 to 74% at the end of 2020 and 78% by 2021.
As a regional umbrella body for NGOs, CPDC seeks to develop a broad stakeholder platform at the national and regional level that would permit the inclusive formulation of policies and interventions. This platform will focus on the development response to COVID-19 in the region, examining and promoting practical policy responses to the economic and debt crisis while also addressing critical issues of social protection.
The Centre aims to be a civil society catalyst for meaningful change in the global architecture that governs development finance and how it treats small and vulnerable economies and their developmental needs. CPDC alongside its regional and international partners intend to build strategic partnerships that will help SVDCs to get their messaging on debt across to global policymakers and to forge concrete actions to assist them in coping with and overcoming the spectre of a widening development deficit and a failure at meeting the UN SDGs.
The Key Components of the project are:
Online Monitoring and Advocacy Hub
This component seeks to establish a single regional repository for debt related information through CPDC’s website to engage regional and international actors. The project seeks to educate and improve the understanding of indebtedness in the region towards the development of the clear articulation of civil society policy response to the issue as well as increase levels of advocacy at the international and regional fora on debt issues. The additional value in the development of regional debt monitoring and advocacy hub would be the existence of a Caribbean based specialized system for one of the biggest challenges facing regional governments.
Regional solutions-oriented policy research
The regional solutions-oriented policy research aims to highlight the current debt conditions of CARICOM States and present alternative development options that prioritise sustainable development, climate resilience, gender and racial equity. Through three (3) research and policy papers, this component will build a case for Caribbean Debt relief and restructuring based on its inherent climate and economic vulnerabilities (vulnerability index). Additionally, options to restructure will be proffered as they relate to climate impacts and the greening of Caribbean economies as well as gender policy solutions in the policy responses to debt.
Engage with global civil society networks to build cohesion, support and an international lobby for Caribbean debt advocacy and solutions
The aim of this project is to engage in Global civil society networks to building cohesion, support and an international lobby for Caribbean debt advocacy and solutions within the international policy arena. The key outcomes will comprise of engagement with global CSO networks towards the development and advocacy of three (3) civil society policy positions to be articulated to and accepted by various policymaking groups. The CPDC coordinated the UNCTAD 15 Civil Society Forum and developed a CSO policy positions and a Civil Society Declaration with the help of CSOs that was present at the UNCTAD 15 Conference.
Technical Assistance programmes in partnership with Regional Governments
The main objective of this programme is to formulate policy and advocacy positions on debt and development finance reform, access to concessionary financing and acceptance of the inclusion of the concept of vulnerability for access to financing. This would be achieved through technical assistance with regional governments. Key outcomes of this component are three (3) comprehensive policy/advocacy position papers on debt and development finance reform and one (1) Development finance strategy paper. These will precede other key activities, namely intense lobbying and advocacy within the region for the widest possible canvass on the above position papers through regional consultations and online sourced inputs to crystalize common approaches and the key recommendation.