John WH Denton

Chair of CARICHAM and the ICC Secretary General, John WH Denton.

Call to Action: The ICC campaign to end the pandemic in the Caribbean

COVID-19 has had the effect of compounding an already challenging economic climate in Trinidad and Tobago and other countries of the region, many of which are dependent on tourism and related products. The declaration of a pandemic has almost paralysed some sectors, and even driven a number of businesses to fold. The region’s private sector therefore has a vested interest in any and all measures to lift our countries out of pandemic conditions and align with global efforts.

On April 28, 2021, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, along with the Caribbean Chambers of Commerce (CARICHAM) and the Caricom Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) will partner with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) for a regional webinar “Call to Action: the ICC Campaign to end the pandemic in the Caribbean”. The T&T Chamber has been a member of the ICC for over two decades and is committed to its overarching goals.

The ICC campaign is a global initiative executed through its national committees which seeks to advance measures to accelerate the end of the crisis. According to the ICC, “...a growing body of evidence points to the critical role that business will need to play in addressing public anxiety about new vaccines—in particular, as a trusted provider of information, guidance and practical solutions.”

The current pandemic has without a doubt been unprecedented in the Caribbean. No pandemic has been declared within living memory of any of the current leaders. Moreover, where national disaster plans existed, it is unlikely that a global pandemic and its consequences would have been factored in. Caribbean economies have had to withstand several shocks in the last decade, whether from decreased tourism, falling oil prices or extreme natural events. The typical resilience however, has been a poor match for Covid-19. And the longer the pandemic persists, the more at-risk these islands become. As governments grapple with how to balance lives and livelihoods, one inescapable fact remains: the rate of economic recovery will be dictated by how effectively the virus is curbed.

In its February 2021 ICC Global Vaccines Campaign—Ending the Global Pandemic document, the ICC notes that “...studies have shown that effective testing and verification systems have significant untapped potential to restore economic activity and global mobility.”

It goes on to state that demand for vaccines is likely to outstrip supplies for months to come “—and with the virus spreading faster than ever—it will be vital for governments to use every tool available to reduce transmission of the virus.”

The campaign is underpinned by the ICC’s Access to Covid-19 Tools (or ACT Accelerator) which was launched on April 24, 2020. This is meant to accelerate the development of tests, treatments and vaccines, and to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 tools globally. It has been made possible through the support of a worldwide coalition of public, private and multilateral donors.

The April 28 session is intended to start the conversation on the role of the private sector in the vaccination roll out. The meeting will be moderated by the current Chair of CARICHAM and the ICC Secretary General, John W.H. Denton, AO, will deliver opening remarks. Secretary General Denton is a global business leader and international advisor on policy, and a legal expert on international trade and investment. Currently, he is also a Board member of the United Nations Global Compact and Co-chair of the B20 finance and infrastructure task force. A former diplomat, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to the business community, the arts and the rights of refugees, including as a founder of Human Rights Watch (Australia) and Teach for Australia.

Due to the importance of this discussion to the region, we are inviting businesses across the Caribbean to join the 90-minute Zoom webinar as we begin to chart the way forward out of Covid-19. The discussion will examine and advocate for the adoption of the ICC’s roadmap for action. The roadmap is contexted in terms of five major downside risks. These include: Banking on vaccines as a silver bullet; Vaccine nationalism; Production disruptions; Trade logistics frictions; and Vaccine hesitancy.

As a responsible national business organisation and a Member of the ICC, the T&T Chamber believes that there is a critical role to be played by the private sector in ensuring there is an effective rollout of vaccinations to the population. This can be considered a key part of the global cooperation that is needed to contain the pandemic and return the region to economic stability.

John WH Denton is the secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce.

The webinar is accessible free of charge to members of the T&T Chamber and corporate representatives across the Caribbean. Join us on April 28, 2021 from 10-11.30 a.m. via Zoom to be a part of this critical discussion.

For more information on this session, e-mail chamber@chamber.org.tt.

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