NASSAU, The Bahamas – During the press briefing upon his return from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis noted that, as he closely followed the news from The Bahamas the week prior, he was able to candidly exchange views with other leaders at CHOGM about what was happening in The Bahamas, compared to what was happening in their countries.
“I was able to learn some of the ways in which they are tackling the same challenges, and some of the ways in which they are creating new opportunities for their people,” Prime Minister Davis said, during the briefing in the VIP Lounge of the Lynden Pindling International Airport, on June 27, 2022.
Among those present at the press briefing included Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper; Minister of Health and Wellness, the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville; Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister David Davis; Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, the Hon. Myles K. LaRoda; Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle; and Mrs. Ann Marie Davis, of the Office of the Spouse of the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, like many other small island states, The Bahamas was being hit by global challenges, which are not of its own making. He said that the activities of larger nations were creating and exacerbating pressures on The Bahamas’ economy and national development.
“Whether it’s the pollution from the industrialised world that ultimately result in storms like Hurricane Dorian, or the behaviour of authoritarian leaders that cause global instability, CHOGM provided an opportunity to challenge some of those leaders directly,” Prime Minister Davis said.
“In my contribution to the Business Forum, in which I was one of only a small number of leaders who was invited to make a presentation, I emphatically made the point that ‘none of us will succeed if we try to do things on our own’,” he added.
“It is a similar point I made to the Bahamian people at the start of our administration: that our country will only succeed if we all work together, in partnership,” Prime Minister Davis continued. “The meetings and discussions we had at CHOGM emphatically reinforced the point: by working together we can achieve so much more than by trying to go it alone.”
Prime Minister Davis said that he was happy to report that his Government’s international efforts were “bearing fruit”. He said: “Our voice is being heard. Other countries want to strengthen their relationships with us. Other world leaders and business people want to invest in us. And international organisations want to help us.”
“We are at an ‘inflection point’, a moment when we can see our fortunes changing. We are now in the kinds of discussions where we can not only make our needs known, but have our requests honoured.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that the global idea of The Bahamas was shifting, and people wanted to do business with the nation.
“This kind of influence and these kinds of outcomes have become possible because of our decision to make our foreign policy work better and harder for us,” he said.
“For example, the pressure that we have been applying in terms of receiving funding and support to protect ourselves against the impact of climate change, that pressure is yielding results,” Prime Minister Davis added. “Before too long, we will be able to say more about the specific offers of funding and support that we have received.
“In terms of the big picture, there’s still a way to go before the polluting countries fulfill their stated obligations; but slowly and surely, The Bahamas is starting to benefit.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, at CHOGM 2022, his Government settled formal diplomatic relations with its host, Rwanda, and also with Tuvalu and Gabon. “We are grateful to the President of Rwanda, who conferred special courtesies upon us,” he said. “On the first day we were there, we were honoured when he invited me to escort him into the opening session, and referred to me, referred to The Bahamas, as his special guest.”
“The next day we were all deeply moved to visit a memorial in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, paying tribute to the millions who died in the genocide there in 1994, just 28 years ago,” Prime Minister Davis added. “On that single site alone were buried some 250,000 people, more than half our population. I cannot describe the feeling of walking on such hallowed ground.
“To witness some of the horrors of that time, and to now see the modern state which they have since built, prompted tears of sympathy and admiration.”
“We can take what we’ve learned and apply it to our own national development,” Prime Minister Davis continued. “And they are keen to learn from us about how to build their tourism industry.
“As so many countries do, they recognise The Bahamas as world leaders in the sector.”
Prime Minster Davis noted that his delegation also held a number of meetings with other countries and organisations.
“The discussions covered multiple issues, as diverse as the emerging threats of new healthcare challenges, such as microbial infections, and how to secure energy supplies,” he said.
“We also participated strongly in events developing strategies to improve and promote the rights and welfare of young people and of women.
Prime Minister Davis said that he was proud to see the Office of The Spouse “so prominently engaged in the Women’s Forum”.
“Issues especially affecting women in The Bahamas were well-represented, from ways to better and fairer employment, to dealing with issues of gender-based violence,” he said.
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that in his delegation with the President of Botswana, they agreed to mutually support each other by Botswana helping The Bahamas to develop its livestock industry, and The Bahamas offering them support, again in developing tourism.
“As with so many of the African leaders we met, we recognised in each others’ faces, people who not only look like us, but people who remind us of specific individuals at home,” Prime Minister Davis said. “And as the President of Botswana said, they want to reconnect and strengthen ties with our brothers and sisters who were so cruelly taken from us hundreds of years ago.
“He has accepted our invitation to attend some of the celebrations surrounding the 50th Anniversary of Independence, and in return, invited us not just to engage in the technical issues of mutual interest, but also to get to know a little of their culture.”
“If we continue on this path, and succeed in The Bahamas becoming a kind of bridge between the Caribbean and Africa, opportunities for Bahamians and The Bahamas will continue to grow manifold,” he added.
Prime Minister Davis said that, in time, he hopes that many more Bahamians could be facilitated to visit, and even work for a while, in some of the countries “with whom we share so many ancient ties”.
“We were pleased to host a dinner for a small number of Bahamians who are already living in Rwanda or neighbouring countries,” he said. “Travel certainly broadens the mind, and our country will be richer from the kind of exposure these experiences will bring to each of us.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, in wider discussions about strategies about managing the economy, dealing with crime, improving housing and access to financial services, better protecting and managing the resources in our oceans and seas, time and again, the voice of the Bahamian people was strongly heard, and people expressed their enthusiasm in working with the nation.
“We have already issued a statement on the outcome from CHOGM,” he added. “We were especially pleased with the re-election of Patricia Scotland as Secretary-General.
Prime Minister Davis noted that The Bahamas played “an extremely active role” in encouraging others to join the nation in its support. He pointed out that, behind the scenes, over many months, there were efforts by some states to go against convention, and deny automatic re-election of the first female Secretary-General, whom he termed “a strong Caribbean woman”. “We not only thought it unfair, but have benefitted from several of her initiatives, such as ‘The Commonwealth Blue Charter’,” Prime Minister said. “Their recent Ocean Action report, ‘An Ocean of Opportunity’, contains much which can benefit The Bahamas.
“I encourage you all to read it.”
“I also encourage you to read the formal documents which the Leaders produced, including the Final Communique, the Leaders’ Statement, the Commonwealth Living Lands Charter, the declaration on Sustainable Urbanisation, and so on,” he added.
“At the moment these documents may seem far away from the struggles which so many of us are facing every day.
“But these agreements, they will help to guide and shape our future.”
Prime Minister Davis said that if Bahamians wanted to safeguard and protect their tomorrows, then those were the kinds of actions the nation needed to “start taking today”.
“We return home inspired, confident that we have worked hard, productively and well on behalf of The Bahamian people,” he said.
“And of course, it’s always good to be home.”