“Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals is not about ticking boxes, but about making a real difference, said Francine Baron, who stressed that the effects of climate change continue to impact development in her region, as countries are experiencing more severe and prolonged droughts, often times followed by sudden and high volumes of rainfall which result in massive soil erosion and catastrophic loss and damage. “Likewise, the ongoing phenomenon of beach erosion, destruction of coral reefs – so vital to our tourism product and the character of our islands – risk untold damage, to our prized tourism assets,” she said, calling for more urgent and wide-ranging action “to ensure our very survival.” In this regard, she looked forward to building on the momentum generated by the Paris Agreement ahead of the next meeting of the States Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Marrakesh next year. As an example of the urgency of the issue, Mr. Baron noted that Dominica had been painfully reminded of that in 2015, when Tropical Storm Erika had killed 30 of its citizens. That event had caused economic damage estimated at $483 million, the equivalent of 90 per cent of national gross domestic product (GDP), she recalled. While Dominica has since made great strides in building more climate-resilient and adaptive infrastructure in a process facilitated by the support of bilateral and multilateral partners, it “still suffers the disproportionate burdens and impacts of climate change,” which hamper its efforts to develop in a sustainable manner, she said, adding that resources intended for sustainable development programmes have instead been shifted to post-disaster rehabilitation efforts. Dominica, therefore, continued to call for the establishment of an international natural disaster risk fund, she said, describing the Caribbean Risk Fund and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Disaster Recovery Facilities as “good starting points.” In her address, Maxine Pamela Ometa McClean, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, said it is necessary to act now to make the vision of the 2030 Agenda a reality, and that this is particularly true for the small island developing States. She was proud to have participated in the launch, in Barbados, of the Caribbean Human Development Report 2016, and noted the three central issues it highlighted for low-lying coastal Caribbean States: vulnerability, resilience and sustainability. The existential threat which climate changed posed for island States is well-documented. The Prime Minister of Barbados had participated in the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement at the UN in April, and deposited the instrument of ratification on the same occasion. Barbados developed a National Climate Change Policy Framework, and recognized the potential of sustainable ocean exploitation as an important component of its future development. “As we seek to protect and preserve our oceans and seas for future generations, Barbados will continue to participate actively in the various oceans-related processes of the United Nations,: reported Ms. McClean, noting that during this current session, her delegation will collaborate with other members of the Association of Caribbean States to strengthen the level of support for the ‘Caribbean Sea Resolution,” with the ultimate aims of designating the Sea as a “special area in the context of sustainable development.” In his remarks, Elvin Nimrod, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Grenada said history has shown that development is tenuous wherever human rights and the environment are not prioritized. The 17 SDGs are the product of “deep reflection and learning, and the realization that development without human rights and environmental considerations is unreliable.” Foreign Minister Elvin Nimrod of Grenada addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session. UN Photo/Cia Pak Foreign Minister Maxine Pamela Ometa McClean of Barbados addresses the general debate of the seventy-first session of the General Assembly. UN Photo/Cia Pak With this in mind, he said Grenada is resolute in its commitment to conserve and promote the sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources, in line with SDG 14. Indeed, the ocean economy is an important starting point for thinking about conservation. “The natural capital of the ocean is like the principal deposit of an interest-bearing bank account. Unfortunately, instead of living off the interest, we have been drawing from the principal,” he said. Mr. Nimrod said the work done by the World Wildlife Fund and the Boston Consulting Group on the Ocean Economy notes a $24 trillion asset value of the oceans, which generates $2.5 trillion per year. “The need to preserve this natural capital is self-evident,” he said, adding that Nine Caribbean nations have committed to conserving and managing 20 of the region’s marine and coastal environment by 2020.