LAURENTINO CORTIZO COHEN, President of Panama, highlighted human development as the greatest priority in order to provide people the opportunities for a more decent life in their own countries. As the “bridge of the world” and “the centre of the Americas where all roads converge”, Panama is making colossal efforts to provide solidarity to irregular migrants, whose number is increasing every year and forcing the country to allocate significant resources to humanitarian aid. Panama is working actively with countries in the region to improve care and protection for irregular migrants entering from Colombia and crossing the dangerous Darien jungle, but the situation is unsustainable. It is “not something we asked for”, he said, characterizing Panama as “not responsible” and a “victim” to the inhumane and painful humanitarian tragedy.
The problem of irregular migration must be addressed multilaterally, he urged, with a focus on respect for human rights and under the principles of solidarity and shared responsibility. He called for the international community to fully address irregular migration as an issue not only concentrated in the Mediterranean but also as a global issue that directly affects Panama. Seeing the suffering and death of hundreds of thousands of migrants embarking on a perilous journey, he called for human development so migrants do not need to abandon their countries and expose themselves to human rights violations or even lose their lives.
Further, he emphasized that the climate crisis is a ticking time bomb, and that “time is running out for all of us”. Panama is one of 15 countries most exposed to climate risks, but it is also one of only seven countries in the world declared “carbon negative.” The country has introduced an ambitious energy transition agenda with the goal of finding and developing accessible energy that does not pollute, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 24 per cent by 2050. Panama has already faced its first case of climate displacement, relocating the population of the Carti Sugdup island due to rising sea levels. He urged the “most polluting countries” to respect the commitments made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, considering Panama’s “effective contributions” to environmental protection. On repeated occasions, he noted, countries that commit to making changes do not deliver later on.
“We must ask ourselves: How does the climate crisis impact the first three Sustainable Development Goals? Can the international community really end poverty, achieve zero hunger, and provide health and well-being in the midst of serious drought afflicting the planet, rising sea levels, and devastating fires razing huge areas of land?” He underscored conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning of an unprecedented escalation of climate changes posing a grave threat to survival of life on Earth. In closing, he reiterated an appeal for dialogue, peace, and multilateralism, with respect for international law and its underlying principles. “We are in a race against the clock for human survival,” he stressed. “Panama wants for the whole world what we want for our own people: peace, well-being, justice, and development.”
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