UN Day celebrations in the Caribbean: A tapestry of commitment and unity
06 November 2023
Caribbean countries joined the world in celebrating the 78th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations
On 24 October 1945, the United Nations Charter entered into force, giving birth to an international organisation that would become an indispensable force for good around the world: the United Nations (UN). This milestone, known as UN Day, offers an opportunity for celebration and reflection for UN member States. This includes the Caribbean, where UN Day is commemorated with fervour and a diverse array of activities that showcase the region's commitment to the principles of peace, justice, and sustainability.
This year, the call for peace and the cessation of conflicts that affect thousands of people around the world proved to be the common thread tying together UN Day activities in the region. This story explores how several Caribbean nations commemorate this occasion, highlighting their unique contributions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)!
Barbados: A Parliament bathed in blue
In Barbados, the historic Parliament Building in Bridgetown was transformed into a radiant sea of blue as the United Nations collaborated with the Government of Barbados to mark the UN's 78th anniversary. This powerful visual symbolised the commitment to UN values of peace, justice, and equality for all.
Under the leadership of Her Excellency Dame Sandra Mason, the President of Barbados, the event brought together over 150 distinguished guests, including Parliamentarians, members of the senate, diplomatic representatives, civil society leaders, and private sector stakeholders. They converged in the courtyard of the Parliament for the annual UN Day Reception and Lighting ceremony.
The highlight of the evening was the ceremonial illumination of the Parliament, an act that remained a glowing testament to their commitment for a whole week following UN Day. UN Resident Coordinator (RC) for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean states, Didier Trebucq, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Hon. Kerrie Symmonds, were the esteemed individuals who flicked the switch, symbolising the unity between the government and the UN.
In addition to the formal ceremony, the evening was filled with joyous moments. Guests relished delicious food and enjoyed lively entertainment, including performances by former Calypso Monarch and Barbados' Cultural Ambassador, The Hon. Stedson "Red Plastic Bag" Wiltshire, and young steel pannist Judah Goddard. Celebrations extended to Friday, 27 October, with a Staff Day at UN House. It was a day of fun and healthy competition, including activities like the SDG Costume competition, the UN Iron Chef Competition, and a team SDG Scavenger Hunt. This day they also placed a strong emphasis on staff well-being, offering mini massages and a catered lunch.
Jamaica: Threading through UN history
In Jamaica, the UN Country Team joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade for a UN Day celebration at the new foreign affairs building in the country's capital city, Kingston.
Officials highlighted Jamaica's rich history of support for and participation in the multilateral process through the UN. Acting UN Resident Coordinator, Ian Stein, joined the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, The Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, and the State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, The Hon. Alando Terrelonge, in delivering remarks at the ceremony, celebrating the signing of the UN Charter, the history of Jamaica at the UN, and some of the interventions the country has led at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) since becoming a member State in 1962.
Jamaican youth representatives were also in attendance at the ceremony which saw the Resident Coordinator joining local heads of UN offices, agencies, funds and programmes to participate in several panel discussions, fireside chats and the cutting of a UN 78th anniversary cake.
The UN in Jamaica also partnered with civil society organisation, The United Nations Association of Jamaica, for a UN Day activity that brought together scores of young people at the Hillel Academy in Kingston, Jamaica. Participants discussed and generated ideas for peace building within the context of Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG16): peace, justice and strong institutions. UNICEF, representing the UN Country Team, presented on digital innovations and other resources available to help youth navigate the challenges of the modern world: from mental health to skills building.
Trinidad and Tobago: Grow local, buy local
The UN in Trinidad and Tobago hosted a reception that tapped local food artisans from vegan ice cream to steaming hot coffee brewed from locally grown beans. Trinidad and Tobago's food artisans were the stars of UN Day celebrations this year. Under the slogan “Grow Local, Buy Local”, these micro-entrepreneurs demonstrated how they grow and handcraft niche products such as chocolate, jams, cassava brownies, Moruga Hill Rice muffins, fruit bowls, and iced tea using environmentally friendly, sustainable practices.
This significant event, organised by the UN Country Team and the Office of the Resident Coordinator, brought together representatives from various sectors, including government officials, development organisations, the diplomatic corps, civil society, the private sector, and UN staff. The occasion was marked by speeches and reflections on the UN's essential role in addressing global challenges, highlighting the country's commitment to multilateralism, sustainable development, and human rights.
UN Resident Coordinator Joanna Kazana delivered a keynote address at the reception, emphasising the indispensable role of the United Nations in a world characterised by cascading crises and complex challenges. She underscored the need for collective international efforts to address issues ranging from conflict and insecurity to climate change. Kazana's remarks reinforced the importance of upholding the values enshrined in the UN Charter, a guiding light for nations striving to build a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.
Minister of Planning and Development in Trinidad and Tobago, The Hon. Pennelope Beckles, also addressed the attendees during the event. Minister Beckles reiterated Trinidad and Tobago's steadfast commitment to multilateralism, sustainable development, and human rights. Her remarks reflected the nation's dedication to actively participating in global efforts to tackle pressing challenges, recognising the importance of international cooperation and the UN's role in fostering it.
Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Dr. The Honourable Amery Browne, delivered an important message reaffirming Trinidad and Tobago's commitment to the principles of the UN Charter. Dr. Browne highlighted the significance of human rights and sustainable development in the country's foreign policy and diplomatic engagements. This commitment mirrors the values upheld by the UN, making it a natural partner for Trinidad and Tobago in achieving common global objectives.
Guyana: Reaching the fourth estate
The United Nations in Guyana marked UN Day with a series of media engagements that underscored the UN's global agenda in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN Country Team hosted a "media editors' breakfast", which also included the participation of the Guyana Press Association. The UN Resident Coordinator in Guyana, Yeşim Oruç, updated the media on the results of the UN System's work in the country. This annual engagement sought to strengthen relations with the leadership of media entities, recognising the vital role of the media as advocates for the sustainable development agenda in Guyana.
On UN Day, the UN Resident Coordinator participated in television and radio appearances. Her message to the public placed emphasis on the pillars on which the UN Charter was built - peace, development and human rights. Ms. Oruç said, “…it is ultimately the actions of people and of countries that uphold the UN – the only global organisation which belongs to all nations, to all people.”
The UN in Guyana also hosted two special events to show appreciation to its staff: a 24 October townhall helped to reinforce the importance of the UN system in driving the national development agenda; and a staff Games Day on 27 October, added an element of fun and competition.
On 31 October, Guyana's Human Resources Working Group hosted a health fair focused on the significance of SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being. This fair provided essential health services, including dental care, vision screening, medical consultations, and nutritional consultations. The National Blood Transfusion Service was invited and led a blood drive, further emphasising the UN System's commitment to promoting good health and well-being.
Suriname: United in SDG action
The UN in Suriname celebrated UN Day with an SDG Walkathon. The SDG Walkathon attracted more than 300 participants representing UN agencies, government partners, NGOs, diplomatic community and youth.
The SDG Walkathon was a fun-filled event that allowed for UN agencies to showcase their vital work in Suriname, offering participants a chance to learn about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the ongoing efforts to achieve them. Participants walked from Independence Square in Paramaribo and proceeded along a 5 km route through the city.
A number of attractions awaited SDG walkathon participants including games, quizzes and photo opportunities. The impressive turnout demonstrated a genuine public interest in sustainability and understanding the global goals and their significance for Suriname's future.
Antigua and Barbuda: A symbol of hope
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda, in collaboration with the United Nations Barbados and Eastern Caribbean, celebrated UN Day with a series of activities that included a flag recognition ceremony. The event served as a symbol of hope and mutual commitment to multilateralism. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Trade and Barbuda Affairs along with the UN Resident Coordinator delivered remarks during the ceremony which was attended by senior Government, members of the diplomatic corps, civil societies, and UN officials.
Following UN Day, Antigua and Barbuda continued its efforts to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UN Day activities continued with a beach cleanup exercise in collaboration with Adopt a Coastline, an SDG Art Competition, and more.
Bahamas: Youth involvement at the fabric of the UN
The UN Country team in the Bahamas celebrated UN Day 2023 with the first of its kind youth forum and panel discussion with civil society and government partners in the Bahamas.
The Resident Coordinator, Dennis Zulu, was in the country for the celebration where he participated in the youth forum, underscoring the pivotal role of the UN in supporting Bahamas’ national development priorities. The event brought together young people in their numbers to engage around the principles and values of the UN as well as the SDGs.
Grenada: Leave no one behind
The United Nations in Grenada celebrated UN Day with its annual Flag raising Ceremony and a panel discussion with youth with disabilities on the topic of ‘Inclusion’.
The UN Country Team joined members of the Government for the flag raising Ceremony on the grounds of the country's Ministerial Complex. Grenada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Export Development, The Hon. Joseph Andall, delivered remarks on behalf of the Government of Grenada while Grenada Prime Minister, The Hon. Dickon Mitchell, joined UN Country Coordination Officer, Feona Sandy, for the planting of a Yellow Poui tree in commemoration of the 49 years of Grenada’s membership in the UN.
A Panel Discussion was held at the Conference Room of the Windward Island Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), St. George’s University (SGU). In the spirit of partnership and engaging all in the global Act Now Campaign for the SDGs, the UN collaborated with WINDREF/SGU, FLOW and the Grenada Co-operative Bank on the events.
St. Lucia: Youth debate the world we want
Over in Saint Lucia, the highlight of UN Day celebrations was an SDG Debate competition, organised jointly by the Department of Sustainable Development and the UN Resident Coordinator Satellite Office in Saint Lucia. Six students enrolled in the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College Debating Society, deliberated on the topic: The Immediate Acceleration of the SDGs is Sufficient to Meet 2030 Deadline.
Shyne Savory, Daryn Leslie and Cameron Gustave, who proposed that "yes" the Immediate Acceleration of the SDGs is Sufficient to Meet 2030 Deadline, emerged victorious as the SDG Youth Champions.
The audience included students from secondary schools in the north of Saint Lucia, Caribbean Youth Environment Network members, UN staff on the ground and other interested persons. An interesting feature on the programme was the SDG discussion session which provided the opportunity for a thought-provoking dialogue on the SDGs. A Saint Lucia SDG Video was also launched as part of the programme.
Saint Vincent and Grenadines: Charting the course to 2030
In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the UN Country Team organised several public awareness activities for their UN Day celebration. Collaborating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, a flag-raising ceremony was held, along with a School Awareness Session.
The School Awareness Session targeted over 35 students from the Adelphi Secondary School, educating them about the United Nations and its support for the country's national development priorities and its vision of achieving the 17 SDGs by 2030.
Liliana Garavito Canon
Director, United Nations Information Centre for the Caribbean Area (UNIC Caribbean)