PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten—Prime Minister Jacobs recently flew to the United Nations (UN), as part of the delegation in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. She was part of the delegation taking part in the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). During the three-day visit the Prime Minister attended and presented at various discussions aimed at familiarizing countries with the others’ issues, solutions, and future plans.
“It was very important to be at this Forum. The representation of the Caribbean islands is imperative when discussing the progression of global policies.” said Prime Minister Jacobs. Although the international community is not completely aware of the differences between the Netherlands and the other three Caribbean countries, the HLPF gave the Prime Minister a platform to highlight the vulnerabilities of the Small Island Developing State (SIDS) countries even while being a part of a Kingdom, which many associate solely with the Netherlands.
The days were packed with panels of discussion, presentations, and other smaller networking moments. One such moment was broadcasted live, as the Prime Minister sat in on a round table event with Tajikistan and other representatives from the Netherlands to converse on their joint plan for water conservation.
Prime Minister Jacobs also had the honor officially hand over the ‘SDG Piano’ to the UN. A collaboration between the Kingdom and Sing for Hope, a non-profit US whose mission is to harnesses the power of the arts to create a better world. The piano, painted in the 17 SDG goals, combines the value of art not only as a means of expression and healing but as a diplomatic tool as well with the important educational component of the Global development agenda. “On Sint Maarten we have seen the importance of art, in all its forms, as a means of comfort during this pandemic but also as a serious means of expression and livelihood for our countless artists so participating in this initiative fell very much in line with both my personal but also our cultural diplomacy program” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.
During the HLPF, Prime Minister Jacobs also attended, bilateral meetings with United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Suriname and Jamaica, and the Minister of Minister for Planning, Economic Development, Climate Resilience, Sustainable Development, and Renewable Energy of Dominica. There was also a technical-level meeting with the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The meetings were fruitful, centering around issues thematic to SIDS including food security, rising inflation and global shortages, trade, and airlift. With some of the countries areas for cooperation in education, training, and sports were also identified. She went on to say, “It was an opportunity to meet other SIDS to share, learn and where possible to collaborate to build new partnerships with regional SIDS and organizations facing similar challenges. We are stronger together, and that can be expanded upon when we convene.”
Each country presenting at the panel put forth their Voluntary National Reviews (VNR), which aims to share best practices and raise awareness for issues that may hinder the steps to implement the country’s SDGs. Attending the HLPF, among other things, involved the Prime Minister presenting the VNR, which was an opportunity to highlighting the effects of climate change on each of the low-lying, coastal countries.
“St. Maarten is particularly vulnerable to increased extreme weather, risks, and vulnerabilities; we are investing heavily in disaster preparedness and disaster risk management. Coming together to draft and present the VNR was an enlightening process giving much insight into each other’s challenges and strengths.” said the Prime Minister Jacobs.
“We are focused on strengthening our greatest asset, our people. Therefore, investing in the equitable development of our population is our priority – reducing inequalities by strengthening education, health and creating opportunities to build the needed human capacity.” said the Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs, Silveria Jacobs, during one of her addresses. The government has been working diligently to rebuild and strengthen the country of Sint Maarten, as well as solidify its position on a global level.
“As countries within the Kingdom, while we differ greatly in our geographical locations, economic and social capacities, and starting points of the SDGs, the report also identifies our commonalities: Climate change is the main overarching concern for us all, which coupled with Covid-19 has delayed the needed progress towards the goals. Having said that, our ability to combat the effects of climate change, given these significant differences, must be considered when we engage internally with our Kingdom partners. As such, in my bilateral meetings I indicated my strong support for the Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Index, a mechanism being developed by the UN to determine developmental levels more comprehensively and in turn access to concessionary financing.” said Prime Minister Jacobs.
This is an important agenda for our region and more importantly very important to us as Caribbean countries within the Kingdom given that it will consider a wide range of factors besides GDP as a tool within which to frame future global discussions on development policy.
While the SDGs are part of a collective outlook, each country within the Kingdom of The Netherlands is responsible for its individual outcomes. To represent SIDS at the Forum was an opportunity to be vocal about our challenges and provide a framework on how we can further develop.
For more information on the HLPF, please visit the website at https://hlpf.un.org/.