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Caribbean updates: Vanuatu resolution passes U.N. (March 29, 2023)

Just Caribbean Updates

The United Nations adopted a resolution, led by the island nation of Vanuatu, to ask the International Court of Justice to issue an opinion on whether governments have “legal obligations” to protect people from climate hazards and, more crucially, whether failure to meet those obligations could bring “legal consequences.”

Vanuatu Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau called it “a win for climate justice of epic proportions.” The resolution ultimately had 120 nations — including 11 from the Caribbean — signed on as co-sponsors. It asks the court to pay particular attention to the harm endured by small island nations. (Washington Post)

The historic resolution passed by consensus. While the ICJ’s ruling would not be binding it could potentially turn the voluntary pledges that every country has made under the Paris climate accord into legal obligations under a range of existing international statutes, reports the New York Times, which would, in turn permit new legal claims.

Vanuatu, which has net-zero carbon emissions, is consistently ranked as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change and more than a quarter of its population of more than 300,000 is at risk due to rising sea levels. (Al Jazeera)

Cuba’s National Assembly Vote

Voter turnout in Cuba’s National Assembly elections on Sunday was nearly 76 percent, according to government officials, topping participation in municipal elections in November and a September referendum on the Cuban family code. (Al Jazeera)

Participation in Sunday’s election was widely seen by both pro- and anti-government groups as a litmus test to gauge support for the Cuban leadership at a time of deep economic crisis and growing social unrest, reports Reuters.

Cuban independent media outlets and civil society organizations questioned the Cuban government’s reports of high turnout in Sunday’s National Assembly elections. Independent groups issued a statement alleging several irregularities, including not publishing the voter rolls in time, allowing unregistered voters to cast a ballot, excluding eligible voters from the electoral list, and coercing citizens into voting by sending volunteers to their homes carrying the ballots, reports the Miami Herald.

A Cuba Data poll found that 70 percent of Cubans don’t believe the elections are legitimate. (El Toque)

Democratic Governance

  • El Toque launched Legalis, a new platform for access to Cuban legislation that includes a search engine for regulations published in the Official Gazette, and a glossary of legal terms.

Racial Justice and Reparations

  • “Better integrating Haiti into the movement for reparations can accelerate the larger movement’s journey toward justice, while also helping Haiti secure sovereignty and democracy,” argue Mario Joseph, Brian Concannon and Irwin Stotzky in a Miami Herald op-ed.

  • The owner of the Guardian has issued an apology for the role the newspaper’s founders had in transatlantic slavery. The Scott Trust announced a £10 million, decade-long program of restorative justice.

  • A landmark exhibition devoted to the history and impact of slavery by Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, now in abridged format at the U.N., “shows the need for an international reckoning,” reports the Washington Post.

  • Laura Trevelyan writes about her family’s reckoning with past profits from slavery, and about restorative justice efforts in Grenada. (Guardian)

Public Security

  • A previous security crisis in St. Lucia, and human rights violations in the police response, contributed to the country’s current spike in violent crime, argues Guyanese columnist Earl Bousquet. (Global Voices, see March 15’s Just Caribbean Updates)

Climate Justice and Energy

  • Drilled podcast season 8, “Light, Sweet Crude” looks at Guyana’s oil boom as an example of 21 century colonialism. “Oil executives and Guyanese officials are still telling the story that oil equals development and prosperity, and on paper Guyana is the fastest-growing economy in the world, but average citizens aren’t benefiting from the boom.”

  • The cost of the cruise industry, both financially and ecologically, likely outweighs the benefits for the Cayman Islands, according to leading Caribbean economist Marla Dukharan. (Cayman Compass)

  • Diana McCaulay advocates respect for natural attractions’ carrying capacity if they are to remain at all natural, with particular reference to Jamaica’s “Blue Hole.”


  • Barbados independent Senator Kristina Hinds is calling for an urgent revamping of the island’s education system to address worryingly low literacy levels among students. (Barbados Today)

Drug Policy

  • A member of the recently established Commission on Cannabis Legalisation and Regulation in Grenada said legalization is not imminent, but that an interim recommendation will be a pardon for people under the age of 25 convicted or imprisoned for simple possession. (CMC)


  • More than 98 people have died, and over 340 have gone missing traveling from Cuba towards the U.S., since January 2021. “Little is said about those who do not arrive, because they die or disappear in the attempt. Their names, often unknown, are diluted in imprecise statistics. However, behind the numbers there are suffering families, broken stories and incomplete dreams.” — El Toque

  • 31 March — “Climate Change, Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in the Caribbean, and a Collective Search for Solutions.” — Global Americans — Register

  • Apply for the International Youth Climate Delegate Program — COP28

Just Caribbean Updates

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