Roddy Heyliger: Small Island Developing State issues very relevant to St.Maarten

Some 250 delegates have been attending the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Inter-Regional Meeting for the Third International Conference on Sustainable Development of SIDS Global that started on Monday in Bridgetown, Barbados and concludes on Wednesday.


The meeting includes Ministers and Senior Technical experts from 43 SIDS, Observer Members States of the United Nations Community led by Under Secretary General for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, and several members of major groups of international, regional and local non-governmental organisations.

The high-level meeting is being staged in preparation for the third International Conference on the Sustainable Development of SIDS to be held in Samoa, in September 2014.

Last week His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday held his ‘Governor’s Symposium 2013’ with the emphasis on "Sustainable Development: Challenges for St. Maarten as a Small Caribbean Island Nation."

The purpose of the symposium was to generate greater interest and fertilize the minds of the people towards more discussion, decisions, policies and actions which lead to development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

While every island nation should have their own internal sustainable development agenda further outlined and developed with what His Excellency the Governor has described, the external aspects that impact SIDS and their sustainable development also play a key role in national progression as a people and as a country.

Attendees to the Barbados meeting are discussing these very key topics that include areas for the renewed political commitment for the sustainable development of SIDS; new and emerging challenges and opportunities impacting development in SIDS, and ways and means to address them; Strengthening Cooperation and Partnerships-Framework for the Supporting Partnerships for SIDS Intra-Regionally, Inter-Regionally and through Triangular Cooperation; and celebrating the first UN International Year of SIDS.

The meeting is very important as it will be SIDS countries last opportunity to come together to discuss the agenda that will be presented to the international community next year during the third International Conference on Sustainable Development of SIDS.

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly Resolution provides the basis for the Conference next year, and the four issues are: progress made from 1994 to the present, with respect to implementing the Barbados Programme of Action for the sustainable development of SIDS; proposing concrete and pragmatic actions to close gaps identified in the implementation; identifying new and emerging challenges and issues that came onto the table since 2005; and identifying priorities for the upcoming post 2015 agenda.

Country Sint Maarten needs to do an assessment to see where we are at in our national development with respect to SIDS. The issues and challenges of SIDS within the Region and the world over are similar in nature to what we have been experiencing as well.

Some of the areas that Barbados has identified that they would like to see as part of the 2014 Conference agenda are non-communicable diseases; the graduation issue for some SIDS and access to official development assistance (SIDS classified as middle or high income countries do not benefit from concessional financing and development funds); and the overall concept of financing for sustainable development in terms of access to new and sustainable resources to propel sustainability.

The aforementioned are also very relevant issues for Country Sint Maarten today.

SIDS will also be taking issues relating to the oceans to the table. The Prime Minister of Barbados in 2012 at Rio identified this as a key area for Barbados. Pacific SIDS continue to work to promote their oceans issues. The African and Indian SIDS have also articulated a proposal for the blue economy.

The blue ocean is also a factor for our country since we are surrounded by the sea and our income comes from this very natural resource which our tourism is based upon.

Other relevant issues for SIDS/Sint Maarten are food volatility pricing where commodities traded were becoming very expensive to import as SIDS were net importers of food; volatility of fuel, energy, oil and petrol where some SIDS are having to spend 40 to 70 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product in keeping the engines of their economies well oiled.

For Country Sint Maarten, we need to follow the SIDS agenda very closely because it will influence our own future participation when it comes to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and American Caribbean States (ACS) organization, with respect to our role in the Kingdom of the Netherlands – Holland being a voting member of the United Nations, and also on many other key institutions and bodies that influence the global development agenda and access to resources.

What role will we and the other Caribbean parts of the Kingdom (Curacao and Aruba) play in championing the interests of SIDS within our Kingdom and in the international arena since these are also our issues?

Roddy Heyliger