United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres traveled from New York to Suriname on Friday, 1 July, for a two-day visit with a focus on the impacts of climate change on the environment and biodiversity.
On Saturday morning, the Secretary-General visited the indigenous village of Pierre Kondre, located some 67 kilometres south of the capital Paramaribo and surrounded by 9,000 hectares of forest.
The Secretary-General was received by Captain Lloyd Read of the Kaliña peoples, along with members of the community of 100 inhabitants. In the village, the Secretary-General was able to see the work of two cooperatives that are supported by the Organization and its agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) — as well as the European Union.
The Secretary-General said that this was a visit of solidarity with the indigenous communities in Suriname and around the world. He stressed that when we witness that we are still losing the battle of climate change, when you see biodiversity more and more threatened everywhere, when you see pollution around the world, it is very important to recognize that indigenous communities are showing the wisdom, the resilience and the will to be at peace with nature.
From the village, the Secretary-General headed to the Anton de Kom University, where he saw the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Butterfly Effect Mural, which was launched as part of the Sustainable Development Goals Butterfly Effect campaign during the 2019 United Nations General Assembly. He was also briefed on the Global Climate Change Alliance+ project, known as GCCA+, which is in partnership with the United Nations and the European Union.
The Secretary-General then proceeded to the Weg Naar Zee mangrove rehabilitation site, where he saw the devastating impacts of climate change-fueled coastal erosion, flooding and sea-level rise. In the area, he learned about a project supported by the United Nations and led by Anton de Kom University, which installs sediment trapping structures along the coast as well as plants to revert the damage. With Suriname’s Minister of Spatial Planning and Environment, Silvano Tjong-Ahin, the Secretary-General planted a young mangrove tree.
Later in the day, the Secretary-General held a meeting with Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of Suriname, which was followed by a press conference. The Secretary-General warned that with every passing hour of climate dithering, the pulse of the 1.5°C goal gets weaker and weaker. He stressed that our world requires the political will and solidarity to make the difference that is needed.
The Secretary-General noted that Suriname and the Caribbean region are leading the path forward, and that we must follow that lead — for people, for posterity and for the planet.
On Sunday, the last day of his visit to Suriname, the Secretary-General flew over the country’s rainforest, with aerial viewing of Brownsberg, Brokopondo Lake, Afobakka and Central Suriname Nature Reserve. Later in the day, he attended the opening of the forty-third Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) Conference.
The Secretary-General told the gathered leaders that this year’s CARICOM summit comes at a moment of great peril — for people and planet alike. Among other problems, he said, the COVID‑19 pandemic has devastated lives and livelihoods across the region, and exposed deep structural fragilities.
The Secretary-General called for three crucial paths that need to be pursued as we move ahead. First, he said, we need climate action that matches the scale and urgency of the crisis. Second, we need a reform of the morally bankrupt global financial system and we need to spur sustainable recovery across the region. And third, he said, we must keep up our fight against the pandemic, since, as he put it, we’re not out of the woods yet.