16 April, 2020 – Cole Bay, Sint Maarten – The European Union and Expertise France on Monday, 6th April approved a special, fast-tracked €10 million COVID-19 mechanism to support the Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) in their efforts at managing and responding to the impact of the Novel Coronavirus.
The RESEMBID COVID-19 Resilience Response Facility has thus been established against the backdrop of overwhelmed public health systems across the OCTs, and jarringly deepening social and economic crises in most Territories.
The Facility is funded by the European Union under the 11th European Development Fund, and is a component of its regional RESEMBID Programme (Resilience, Sustainable Energy and Marine Biodiversity). RESEMBID is being implemented by Expertise France, the development cooperation agency of France.
According to Fabian McKinnon, RESEMBID’s Programme Director, the genesis of the new facility was his team’s recognition of the “crushing pressure” that the increasing number of cases and mortality are placing on the public health systems of the OCTs, on vulnerable groups and on the capacity of Governments to manage and respond.
“In these exceptional circumstances, and as the outbreak began to gather pace and rapidly internationalise, our team at RESEMBID quickly set out to explore ways and means of leveraging our Programme in order to come to the support of the OCTs at this terribly trying time,” said McKinnon.
He further pointed out that while the Facility is an integral part of the ongoing RESEMBID Programme, it does not displace any strategic or functional aspect of the existing Programme, that the allocated funds are geared specifically towards financing COVID-19 Resilience response actions across the twelve OCTs.
Highlighting the simplified approval procedures, McKinnon further noted, “We crafted it [the Facility] as a purpose-designed, fast-track, flexible response tool for the OCTs to confront the multiple challenges of responding to the pandemic.
“Its aim is to be very quick and flexible, whilst affording each Territory maximum control and latitude in determining their needs and requests. We will do our utmost to support the OCTs.”
Speaking on the European Union’s decision to support the new “fast-track” Facility, Karel Lizerot, Head of Cooperation at the Delegation of the European Union in Guyana – with additional responsibility for Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, and Suriname – cited the convenience and good fortune of having a pre-existing resilience-based programme already operational within the OCTs.
Referring to the recently concluded RESEMBID formulation missions to all twelve OCTs, Lizerot said, “To have Expertise France and RESEMBID already up and running, and comprehensively covering all the Caribbean OCTs in a way that is very much based on listening, and taking care of their needs, has been very encouraging.
“So all that trust that we have towards Expertise France, enabled us to give our green lights to this Facility.”
The decision came just days before Eurozone Finance Ministers successfully negotiated a €540 billion stimulus package in response to the devastating impact of the Novel Coronavirus on European economies. While the OCTs are linked to their respective European mother countries, politically, they are not a part of the European Union, and therefore are not eligible for EU external funding.
While most Governments have already implemented stern measures to prevent the community spread of the Novel Coronavirus – thus avoiding a complete collapse of local public health systems – the socio-economic fabrics of the OCTs, are today being tested in ways previously unimaginable.
Lizerot in acknowledging the challenge of predicting the ultimate impact of the coronavirus on the OCTs, and determining immediate responses, said, “I can only praise the fact that we have a running programme that has always been – even before COVID-19 – resilience-based.
“It was more based on climate change resilience, but it was also contractually and procedurally relatively easy for the European Union to reorient it towards the health resilience.”
Highlighting the unsung value of solidarity in crisis situations, Lizerot said, “Prior COVID-19, I had my questions about how we were we going to set up a truly regional approach among twelve OCTs, that are very diverse – different languages, different systems, different geography.
“However, I think now is really a good time to actually come together, and be one front against COVID-19 – all of the OCTs. Because COVID does not discriminate.”
The RESEMBID COVID-19 Resilience Response Facility is now deployed across the twelve OCTs, under a fast-track expedited procedure, with priority actions to be determined by each country or territory, consistent with local needs.
The twelve participating OCTs are Anguilla, Aruba, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Montserrat, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, and Turks and Caicos Islands.