Two years ago, my wife and I, along with millions of people across the globe, watched with utter horror as Hurricane Maria wrought such terrible destruction upon your beautiful island. This second anniversary of those terrifying events is an occasion to remember all those who lost their lives, and the dreadful suffering that so many of you endured, the impact of which continues to be felt so keenly to this day.
It was particularly important to me that I could visit Dominica in November 2017, in the weeks following the hurricane, to offer you my support and solidarity, on behalf of the whole of the Commonwealth, at that most difficult of times for you all. During my visit, I was profoundly shocked by the devastation I saw, by the way that whole communities were destroyed and by the terrible impact on Dominica’s economy and society. Maria, like Hurricane Irma just a fortnight before, was a terrifyingly vivid demonstration of the threat posed to small island states by the accelerating and potentially catastrophic effects of climate change. Just this month, we have seen that same horror visited upon The Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian. The increased ferocity and frequency of these storms mean that, tragically, it is only a matter of time before another island community faces their destructive power.
Despite the heartbreaking scenes I encountered during my visit to Dominica in 2017, my abiding memories are of the strength of character, the resilience and extraordinary resourcefulness of the Dominican people in those desperate circumstances and their remarkable determination to overcome such terrible adversity. Today, I know, your resolve remains strong. Your determination to “build back better” and make Dominica the world’s first climate-resilient nation, serves as a remarkable example to others, especially those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
What you have been through, and how you have responded, must inspire and compel the international community to act against climate change before it is too late, so that the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria, or that we have seen recently in The Bahamas, might be consigned to the past and not become a paradigm for the future.
I can only say how much the people of Dominica remain in my thoughts and prayers. My wife joins me in sending all of you our special greetings and heartfelt best wishes.