Ministers, friends of the Caribbean, friends of Australia, thank you for coming today and for your warm Caribbean welcome, especially to Grenada as our host.
Of all the many things we have in common, one of the strongest is our love of sport. The Caribbean has produced a seemingly endless stream of world class athletes.
I well recall seeing the great Usain Bolt win the 100m in Beijing in 2008. We were witnessing the emergence of a superstar.
I was fortunate to be at the Rio Olympics. Bolt won the 100m and the 200m.
While he has now retired, we still hope to see your champion athletes at the Commonwealth Games in April 2018 on the Gold Coast.
I’m sure we’ll see more of your rising stars.
The small island states of the Caribbean have a range of issues that are similar to the island nations of the South Pacific - Australia’s region.
The small economies are dominated by a handful of industries, such as fishing and tourism. The distance from markets challenges potential export industries to join global supply chains.
I am aware of the growing concern about climate change, where small islands states feel uniquely vulnerable.
Australia is the only donor to the Commonwealth’s Climate Finance Access Hub and we have been able to provide access to experts who can help Small Island Developing States, in particular, find their way through the complex world of accessing international climate finance. We have already been able to provide an expert for Jamaica.
It might not be known by all here, but Australia is in fact the largest provider of overseas development assistance to Small Island Developing States – the largest provider in the OECD at USD857 million.
Australia’s contribution is far in excess of the United States and European Union, for example, but we take our responsibility as a voice for small island states seriously and we are seeking to ensure that small island states have their voice heard on the world stage.
That’s why we are one of the largest funders of the UN trust fund that enables Small Island Developing States to have access to, for example the Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva.
In fact, our funding ensured at its tenth anniversary meeting last year there was universal attendance at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
We also provide funding through the Commonwealth for small island states to have offices in Geneva and New York. We are also the co-chair of the Group of Friends of Small Island States at the UN.
We want to ensure your voice is heard in the multilateral forums around the world and that is why Australia is running for a seat on the Human Rights Council for the period 2018 to 2020. We are unashamedly promoting ourselves as a voice of the small island states.
We are up against European countries in WEOG – that’s just a historical anachronism, but there are two spots and three contenders, so Australia will be running as the champion, as the advocate, as the voice, for small island states.
We have not ever served on the Human Rights Council. Our two competitors have been on there before. The South Pacific has never had a candidate win a seat on the Human Rights Council, so we are very keen to get your support so we can be your voice on that Council.
We also strongly believe that every country should have the opportunity to serve, that no country regardless of its size should be prevented from being able to serve on these multilateral boards and forums.
There is an issue where I think Australia and the Caribbean have so much in common and where we can really help each other, and that is in relation to coral reef preservation, conservation and management.
As you would know, Australia is home to the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on earth. It’s a coral reef the size of Italy, just off the coast of Queensland. We have invested a lot of time and money and research and resources into ensuring that this magnificent global treasure is preserved and maintained and conserved. We have a lot of experience in doing that.
We have the Reef 2050 Plan, with about AUD30 billion of funding to support it. It has been endorsed by the World Heritage Committee.
I know there are equally beautiful coral reefs here in the Caribbean and we want to share experiences, ideas and thinking and perspectives so that we can, together, benefit from the work that’s been done in our respective regions on preserving coral reefs.
Yesterday I was able to visit the Grenada Fisheries Department where we have a project together called Reef Guardians. It involves education students at schools, it involves working with local farmers to change agricultural practices and the like, to ensure that we give our reefs every possible opportunity to flourish and thrive.
To that end, I am delighted today to announce that the Australian Government will be providing fellowships, though our Australia Awards Program, for coral reef management.
We will have six fellowships for next year for coral reef management to bring young people – or whomever you select as being the appropriate person to come – to Australia to work with our coral reef managers and our organisations that are dedicated to preserving the Great Barrier Reef.
And of course there is a lot we can learn from you, as well.
I am also very pleased as Foreign Minister to be able to announce that we are inviting members of the Caribbean Community who are eligible for ODA to take part in our Diplomatic Academy, which is within my Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I think it is so important for diplomats from different regions to spend time in other countries, of course as diplomats, but as graduates they have the opportunity to access Australia’s perspective on diplomacy and on foreign policy.
So with those two initiatives, I hope we are underscoring the deep connection that we have with the people of the Caribbean.
This two way exchange, which I think is so very important - whether it is sport, whether it is culture, whether it is through our climate change initiatives, through diplomatic means, but most importantly through people-to-people links.
Australia is very friendly, outgoing and warm, as are the people of the Caribbean, so we want to be sure that we continue the strong, deep and growing friendship that exits between Australia and the countries of the Caribbean.
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