PETER YOUNG: Wise words as the world watches

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ALL the crises in the world dominate the news and demand the attention of other countries, the center of diplomatic activity during the month of September is still in New York where the United Nations General Assembly meets for its ordinary annual session.

The UNGA is the principal decision-making body of the UN and its function, according to the Charter of the United Nations, is to discuss and make recommendations on matters “pertaining to international peace and security, including development, disarmament, human rights, international law and peace. arbitration of disputes. This year’s 76th session opened on September 14, and its debates this past weekend will have sparked interest among Bahamians due to an impressive speech by the country’s new prime minister.

The size of delegations was limited this year due to the global pandemic, and although UN member states were encouraged to provide pre-recorded official statements, more than 100 heads of state or government were expected in person. Among them, Philip ‘Brave’ Davis who delivered his speech in person on the podium on Saturday. In my opinion, it was a well put together and incisive speech that showed seriousness and conviction – and, judging by the applause at the end, it was well received.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson before him, Mr Davis focused on climate change as a real and present danger. He underscored the vulnerability of a small island developing state like the Bahamas to global warming due to rising sea levels and hurricanes and said Dorian, who hit two years ago as the one of the most violent storms on record in the Atlantic, was a catastrophic shock. to the economy of the nation and the country more broadly – and there was a hunch that the nightmare might happen again. He therefore called for radical action at the Glasgow climate change conference in November, including real commitments to cut emissions.

He also spoke at length about the pandemic and the need for an equitable distribution of vaccines as well as new funding both for the COVID-19 crisis and in connection with climate change; and he highlighted the opportunity for collaboration and cooperation in an interdependent world, repeating the mantra related to vaccine distribution that “you will only be safe when we are all safe”.

It was also interesting that the Prime Minister mentioned the need for the UN to play a role in monitoring global anti-money laundering and tax cooperation issues. He said the financial services sector is a crucial component of the Bahamian economy and access to the global financial system should not be compromised by the constant movement of arbitrary goal posts accompanied by threats of exclusion.

On this subject, it has always seemed to me that bureaucratic behemoths like the EU and the OECD, which constantly put pressure on international financial centers – in the Caribbean, in particular – to adhere to certain standards and requirements. , must be subject to some kind of political control. While it is important to implement effective internationally agreed anti-money laundering measures, their constant modification and the introduction of new requirements are creating growing confusion and concern – and the demands of the EU and OECD themselves should be the subject of further scrutiny.

Moreover, it is surely not in the wider interest of the West to seek to harm the small Caribbean countries by forcing these centers to close, thus removing a pillar of their economies and possibly creating social instability or worse. . Influential observers have long advocated raising the issue to the global level through the UN and have called for the control of money laundering and terrorist financing to be subject to an international convention.

When it comes to foreign affairs more broadly, it seems a lot of people are happy to see that the PLP’s return to power means that responsibility for this important topic has returned to experienced hands with a government minister who knows the scene. cooperation, values ​​cooperation within CARICOM and will ensure, where necessary, that the voice of the Bahamas is now heard more effectively – including by taking the lead on regional issues as well as developing responses from the CARICOM to international issues.

As for Britain, economic and trade issues are likely to be of concern as the Bahamas seek to rebuild their economy. From what I have read, therefore, a priority should be to ratify the UK / CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement which was signed in 2019 and which has been applied on a provisional basis since then. Agreements like this one that remove barriers to trade are helpful to suppliers of goods and services.

Another hot topic is the post-COVID increase in the number of direct BA flights between Nassau and London and the start of operations on this route by Virgin Atlantic. Airlines’ websites show that starting in November there will be eight direct flights per week, BA operating six and Virgin operating two. I expect there will be considerable pressure to update and clarify the coronavirus requirements for passengers traveling in both directions. The restrictions on people arriving in the UK from the Bahamas have been in place for some time. It seems to me that with the number of additional direct flights there will be increasing pressure to relax them and allow the recognition of vaccination certificates given the likely large increase in the number of passengers.

“Go ahead, Your Highness”

Last week I came across a funny tale that others might enjoy.

On a recent BBC show called “The Royal Family Remembers” – which was earlier designed to mark the Duke of Edinburgh’s 100th birthday – Prince William recounted how one day near Balmoral in Scotland his grandfather met schoolchildren wearing backpacks who were on an expedition as part of their participation in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Prize program.

When he greeted them and asked them how they were doing, the children clearly did not recognize him and was told to “jog, grandpa”. Prince William explains that the words used were coarser than that. But, accustomed as he was to foul language during his days in the Royal Navy, the Duke of Edinburgh would not have been fazed by the vulgarity and he continued in a good mood.

This story drew light comments in the British press. As one observer put it, one of the most striking things about the Duke of Edinburgh was that, despite his unusual and diverse talents and the extraordinary circumstances of his long life which he had devoted to public service, he Always seemed to have our feet on the ground planted in the real world soil that the rest of us lived in.

A man of many and varied accomplishments in so many different spheres of activity, a particular endeavor which has benefited many people across the world was his establishment of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Prize in 1956. His aim was to encourage the development of young people through self-improvement and the acquisition of new skills. The Prize is now offered in some 145 countries – including, of course, here in the Bahamas where it is known as the Governor General’s Youth Award – and it has improved the lives of so many young people.

Maybe the moral of the story for others is not to take yourself too seriously – and for everyone a little humility should be the order of the day.

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Never to forget

Since this milestone has received little publicity, those interested in WWII history may want to remember the 81st anniversary this month of the famous great air campaign known as the Battle of Britain. which took place in the skies of southern England. It took place from July to October 1940, but the date of September 15 was considered the crux of the battle.

The RAF’s decisive victory over the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, thwarted Hitler’s plans to invade Britain after the fall of France and the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force from the French port of Dunkirk in May of the same year.

Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s remarks on Remembrance Sunday last November that “no virus should stop people from honoring those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom,” there has been a clean commemoration of the battle from England last year because of the pandemic. .

In more relaxed conditions this year, a service was held at Westminster Abbey in central London on September 18, in the presence of Prince Charles and the Prime Minister as well as government figures, to remember the 1497 pilots and crews killed or fatally injured during the conflict. An honor roll was worn through the abbey in an act of remembrance – and it’s interesting to hear that Westminster Abbey held a service of thanksgiving and consecration on Sunday of the Battle of Britain every year since 1944.

In 1940, German rulers recognized that Britain’s invasion plans depended on gaining air supremacy over the English Channel and chosen landing sites on the south coast of England. They ruled that the invasion would not be possible without protection against British air attacks. That summer, therefore, the Germans waged a destructive and relentless bombardment campaign against RAF ports and bases as well as raids on London and other cities. But, although largely outnumbered, the RAF managed to push back the Luftwaffe with the result that the planned invasion was eventually called off and Britain survived to continue fighting.

In his history of World War II, the famous British warlord Winston Churchill confirmed how the Germans considered that, in order to mount an invasion, complete airbending was a decisive condition to protect the Channel crossing and the landings on the beaches. The operation therefore revolves around the destruction of the RAF and the airfield system between London and the sea.

He wrote that it was later learned that Hitler told his commanders at the time that, if the Luftwaffe were unable to do so, the invasion would have to be postponed until May 1941 due to the coming winter. But, of course, it was canceled entirely.

In his book, Churchill praised the RAF and wrote that “the endurance and bravery of our fighter pilots remained invincible and supreme. So Britain was saved. Can I say to the House of Commons: never in the field of human conflicts, so many people have owed so much to so little ”. Unforgettable words, indeed, that the British still savor today.


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