– reforestation project in Haiti on the cards
Finland is looking at the Caribbean with interest and has plans to bring technical and financial resources to a reforestation project in Haiti where forest cover has diminished considerably, Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) Luis Fernando Andrade Falla said on Friday.

Haiti’s environmental dilemma was the subject of discussions between Falla and Finland’s Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb last week during a formal meeting between the two held in Finland. Falla said there are positive indications from Finland for the project.

The ACS Secretary General, who was here for formal talks with Caricom Secretary General, Edwin Carrington, told reporters during a joint press conference at the Caricom Secretariat that Finland is currently supporting a reforestation project in the Dominican Republic and is hoping to expand “this particular initiative to Haiti with a focus on developing the border between the two countries”.

Falla said too that Finland is willing to assist the region in the area of disaster preparedness by diagnosing the problems and building capacity. He added that the region is highly vulnerable and that it continues to face serious disasters.

But Finland is also seeking the support of the region as it pushes for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Falla noted that this particular issue is one that countries would have to decide at the national level before a regional position could be advanced.

Falla said his visit here was more than a courtesy call since his organization hopes to build stronger ties with Caricom at what he described as a critical time in the region. He pointed to the upcoming Summit of the Americas calling it a unique opportunity for regional groupings to voice their collective concerns in a “coherent and solidified way that would draw the commitment of the new US administration to our positions”.

He said the summit comes at an opportune time when a new US administration takes office and emphasized the need for the region to act in unison.

With respect to the concerns in the region, he said, the focus cannot simply be on the financial crisis and economic problems, but also on the issues of climate change and the environment.

“Our member states have been looking in different directions and the challenge is to work together, which is why [Guatemala] is pleased that Belize is chairing Caricom because we are looking at strengthening relations between SICA and the Caribbean region”, Falla said.

According to him, countries in the hemisphere must strengthen relations and speak out on issues that are threatening their viability and sustainable development.

Falla acknowledged that relations between the ACS and Caricom have not been the best, but noted that he is looking to forge deeper ties and keep the lines of communication open, which he said is particularly important. Falla, who hails from Guatemala, has held the position of ACS Secretary General for a year now.

Caricom Secretary General Carrington said on Friday that he is impressed with Falla, noting that the Falla has breathed new life into cooperation between the two organizations. He added that Caricom is looking forward to deepening ties with the ACS, particularly in the areas of trade, transport, tourism and disaster management.

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