The voice and experience of the Caribbean Islands towards sustainable development

DE Seminar Series towards Rio+20
Sustainable Development and Environmental Health – SDE – PAHO/WHO

The voice and experience of the Caribbean Islands towards sustainable

Ninth Seminar: 4 April 2012 – PAHO/WHO Rio+20

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm – Eastern Standard Time (Washington DC USA)

To check local time in WDC against your time zone, see the World Clock

Website PAHO/WHO Rio+20 at: <>

“The picture of the Caribbean as an idyllic paradise is an appropriate
one for promoting the area to the outside world and one that most
nationals in the diaspora retain with fondness and nostalgia. The
physical attributes often shown are real, but they sometimes hide the
struggle that many citizens must make to acquire the necessities for a
decent living against the background of the reality”.

(From Report of the Caribbean commission on health and development,

We all know that a healthy population is an essential prerequisite for
economic growth and stability of the Caribbean and we recall the Nassau
Declaration (2001), which underscored the importance of health to
development which states that “Health of a Nation is the wealth of a

Additionally challenges specific to the Caribbean and Small Island
States call for a constant attention to preserving the gains made
through sustainable development. In the Caribbean, specific
vulnerabilities exist such as size (while the problems are not less than
in larger countries, the opportunities from economies of scale are not
there) and fragility of the economic base, with tourism being the main
source of income and employment in most of the islands. Furthermore,
potential outbreaks, emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, and
natural hazards such as hurricanes, now aggravated by the impact of
climate change, are accentuating the vulnerability for the Region.

Sustainable tourism -tourism attempting to make a low impact on the
environment and local culture, while helping to generate future
employment for local people and aiming to ensure that development brings
a positive experience for local people, tourism companies and the
tourists themselves- is an imperative for the Caribbean countries. Any
ecological or environmental crisis, be it an oil spill, a cholera
outbreak or a leak of pesticides, can have a devastating effect for the
environment, the inhabitants of the islands and the economy.

Finally, the speed of demographic transition in the Caribbean is
unprecedented. By 2030, in many countries in the Caribbean the number of
persons aged 60 or over will be 2.5 to 3.5 times as large as it was in
2000. As things stand, for the next three to five decades the speed of
ageing in the region will continue on a singularly rapid course, a
result of the momentum of demographic forces set in motion long ago. The
other aspect of demographic transition is the rapid decline of fertility
rates which leads to a decrease in the younger population and a trend
towards an increased population of older age groups. This phenomenon is
further aggravated by the migration dynamics within and outside the
region and will have major implications for pension schemes and social
protection interventions among others.

The Caribbean has often been in the forefront in leading innovative and
important processes, as recently proven again when the Region was
operational in motivating the High Level UN NCD summit. It is now time
to examine where the Caribbean health movement stands when it comes to
sustainable development in the light of the Rio+20 Summit.


12:00    Welcome and introduction: Gerry Eijkemans, PAHO/WHO
Representative in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos

12:05    The experience of the Caribbean in the lead up to Rio+20 and
the involvement of health; Looking back and looking forward:
Henriette Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Coordinator for Rio+20

12:20    Comments

Patrick Martin, Chief Medical Officer, St Kitts and Nevis

Hugh Sealy, St George’s University

Rudy Cummings, Head of Health Desk, CARICOM

12:35    Questions and Answers

1:00      Closing remarks and conclusions.

Moderator: Gerry Eijkemans, PAHO/WHO Representative in The Bahamas and
Turks and Caicos

How to participate:

In person:
525 23rd ST NW
Washington DC, 20037 Room 812 – 12h to 13h Eastern Time (WDC)

Online: via Elluminate link:

– Spanish room:

– English room

SDE Seminar Series towards Rio+20

“Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development.

They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with
nature” – Principle 1 of the Rio…..” Declaration on Environment and
Development, 1992.

The Rio Declaration of 1992 recognizes that healthy populations are
central to human progress and sustainable development, and remains
equally true today. However, the economic pillar has been prioritized at
the expense of the social and environmental pillars of sustainable
development over the last few decades, becoming itself a source of
volatility and destabilization.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, now
offers an opportunity to re-examine the relationship between health and
sustainable development. The proposed SDE Seminar series towards Rio+20
aim at contributing to this important debate by bringing different
themes of relevance to sustainable development and health to inform all
areas of the Pan American Organization about the themes under discussion
in the Rio Conference, but also to inform public health stakeholders and
other decision makers in the health sector, to better take part in the

The SDE Seminar series will happen every Wednesday   from 12 to 1pm
(Washington time), from February 8 to June 13th.

All Seminars will be life-streamed, and opened for participation in
person at the PAHO/WHO HQ, or via Elluminate.
Some of the Seminars will be in English, others in Spanish.

For those who cannot follow the seminar alive, they will be available
later at PAHO Rio+20 Toolkit at:

Twitter <>

Short Bio participants

Ms. H. Elizabeth Thompson, a former Minister for Energy and Environment
of Barbados, was appointed by the Secretary-General of the United
Nations as Executive Coordinator for the UNCSD Rio + 20 Conference and
assumed her duties in 7 December 2010. Ms. Thompson also served as
Minister for Physical Development and Minister for Health. Ms. Thompson
was appointed to the Barbados Senate and was a practicing attorney as
well as a journalist. In addition, she was a lecturer in ecology,
economy, energy and politics. Ms. Thompson graduated from the University
of the West Indies and obtained an MBA, with distinction, from the
University of Liverpool and a Master of Laws from Robert Gordon
University, Scotland.

Dr. Patrick Martin, a USA Certified Paediatrician (ABP) and Physician
Executive (ACPE), is the Chief Medical Officer of St Kitts and Nevis
having assumed that role in October 2004.He is a graduate of the
University of the Virgin islands and Howard University college of
Medicine. At the regional and international levels, Dr. Martin
represents St Kitts and Nevis in matters relating to public health and
its interface with sustainable development.

Dr. Hugh Sealy, a chemical engineer with a MSc in Environmental
Pollution Science and PhD in Environmental Science is a consultant with
over 25 years of experience as a project manager, a professional
engineer, an environmental scientist and a university lecturer. He was
the Chairman of the Barbados National Energy Policy Committee and the
Chairman of the National Commission on Sustainable Development for the
Government of Barbados. In January 2008, Dr. Sealy was elected as a
Member of the Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
under the UNFCCC. In December 2011      Dr. Sealy was reelected to the
Executive Board of the CDM to serve as the Member for the Alliance of
Small Island States (AOSIS). Currently, Dr. Sealy is an Associate
Professor in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine in
the School of Medicine at St. George’s University in Grenada.

Dr. Rudolph Cummings MD, MPH, is Health Sector Development Programme
Manager in the Directorate of Human and Social Development, CARICOM
Secretariat, Guyana. Formerly Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of
Health of Guyana, Dr. Cummings assumed office in 2007. In this post he
is responsible for the co-ordination of regional health policy (CCHIII)
across the English-speaking Caribbean, Surinam and Haiti (20 states). He
is also Principal Health Officer of the Community Secretariat, providing
policy guidance to the Secretary General and technical and policy
support to the Ministerial Council on Human and Social Development. He
also participates in the interdisciplinary agenda of the Secretariat.

Dr. Gerry Eijkemans is currently PAHO/WHO Representative in The Bahamas
and Turks and Caicos Islands. Previously, Dr. Eijkemans was PWR for
Suriname. She has 20 years of working experience at country level,
regional level and global level at PAHO, WHO and ILO in the areas of
occupational and environmental health.

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