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A STABLE GOVERNMENT WILL BE A PRIORITY FOR SMCP

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Last year September, the St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) contested the elections and received 848 votes. We were close to winning one seat but in elections close if not enough and one vote can make the difference. 

As we took in the results at our campaign headquarters, our brief disappointment about the results was quickly met with an ENERGIZED sense of achievement and gratitude for running a campaign with integrity, void of empty promises and vote buying. We realized this was the first chapter in our long term commitment as a movement to SERVE THE PEOPLE FOR A CHANGE!!

Since then, we have lived up to our commitment to remain engaged in enlightening the people and keeping them informed. We became the EXTRA PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION while UP seemed to have abandoned the people after their failed attempt to execute their hastily signed coalition agreement with NA, when Theo and Frankie did not pass the Minister Screening.

For the last 14 months, unlike most of the 126 candidates in 2016 and other new parties, SMCP has written almost weekly articles highlighting the functioning of Parliament and has maintained a very active presence on the issues plaguing our people via Facebook and in the community. This was always our plan and we actually intended to start our town hall information sessions in all the districts in January 2018.

Since last year we have been monitoring the political scene and were very well aware that all Ministries were operating as individual islands, each making decisions which negatively affected the others. The Council of Ministers was clearly not working in cohesion with one another. I distinctly remember in one of our work meetings, we discussed that this supposedly strong coalition of 10 would not last beyond one year.

Little did we know, Irma would devastate our island in so many ways. Not only did the hurricane destroy people's homes, personal belongings, created looting but it also exposed the now very visible cracks in the shaky coalition held together by the fact that Ship jumping became the new political sin.

It became very obvious the Prime Minister lost control of the island and became a ROGUE PM. It became very evident to me that he would lose his majority support in parliament after he not only alienated his coalition partners and the entire population but also put the island in a  winless feud with the Dutch at a time when they are our only dependable source of relief and reconstruction aid for our island and people.

We lost more than two months in the recovery process while he tried to demonize the Dutch. In the process our people have been suffering as the island sinks further in depression from the trauma, crime, unemployment and homelessness.

During this period we saw another political saga play out which led to a vote of no confidence (article 33), a ship jumping from the US party followed by the PM dissolving parliament and calling new elections (article 59). Finally the postponing of the election dates to line up with the Electoral ordinances on new parties registering and first time voters being able to register. Needless to say it has been another learning experience for our party on exactly what behavior we should never exemplify.

Early on, I was one who called for a NATIONAL GOVERNMENT consisting of a Non politically affiliated Council of Ministers. This COM would be supervised by a Parliament consisting of all the political leaders. They would commission a short term recovery plan as well as a long term Holistic reconstruction plan which should include the following areas:

  • A hurricane proof public infrastructure Including making each district community center and public school a Hurricane shelter with a concrete roof, generator, diesel tank, medical emergency supplies and food supplies. These shelters would be manned as part of the new disaster management plan with nurses, marines, police/vks and community leaders. These would need to be self sufficient for at least 2 weeks in case of another monster hurricane or other natural disaster.
  • An amended building code which should require home owners to have a cistern and at least 30-40 of the house covered by a concrete roof.
  • A new public transportation policy and infrastructure. This policy should address the serious traffic congestions and start to implement measures to restrict the amount of cars on the island.
  • A new energy policy to address areas like solar energy, green energy and waste management. This needs to include dealing with the dump, recycling and Gebe's role in this area not only to secure the future of its employees but mostly to deliver cheap electricity and water to the people.
  • The implementation of a Waste to Energy plant not only deal with the Dutch side waste but also French side, Saba, Statia, Anguilla, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Barths. Taking this approach would secure that the plant would be more sustainable and be able to deliver cheaper electricity to our consumers. Eventually, Government should own this waste to energy plant and it can become a source of revenue for our island as we cater to the region.
  • A sustainable environmental policy including developing eco tourism. Bird watching tourism needs to be developed and other eco friendly sites need to be maintained.  We need to reinforce the Nature Foundation and make sure they have enough funding to protect and preserve our environment. This can be done via an environmental tax.
  • An improved tourism marketing plan to revitalize our stakeholders and reboost our economy. It is imperative we strike the right balance between cruise, timeshare and stay over tourism.
  • An amended labor policy including the elimination of the minimum wage for a livable wage. No longer should our economy be based on the exploitation of cheap labor. This is important if we are to reestablish the family values in our community, prevent and reduce crime.
  • A new agriculture policy to maximize the potential for farming and fisheries in a sustainable fashion. We need to be innovative and seek to implement new methods.
  • A new health care policy which should not only include a new hospital but which should revisit the sustainability of the proposed National Health insurance plan.
  • A new law for tertiary education and the development of a state of the art accredited University. It is time we develop Sxm as the BRAIN HUB of the Caribbean to attract students from around the region and the world.
  • An amended immigration policy to address the land size limitations of the island and the availability of jobs.
  • A Sxm development bank to facilitate soft loans for local entrepreneurs as well as assist in the development of affordable homes.
  • A new tax system such as going to indirect taxes so that the tax burden is spread out over every single citizen amd visitor on the island. This policy should include incentives to boost investment in the island locally and internationally.
  • A redevelopment of our sports and cultural facilities so that the island can be promoted In those areas. Sports tourism can be a great source of revenue for the island if managed and promoted properly.
  • A definition of the Sxm identity in our constitution taking into account our heritage as well as our present social demographic reality.
  • A Unified Congress between the French and Dutch side local governments with honorary observer positions for Holland and France. An idea mentioned by the present President of the Collectivitée. Please note that the reconstruction of the Dutch side absolutely needs to be carried out in synergy with the French side. All attempts should be made to unify forces to combat so many of the common ills plaguing both sides. Both local governments already control many competences such as fiscal affairs, social affairs, transportation, tourism and urban development.

SMCP does not feel now was the appropriate timing for an election but the constitution has played out. We believe our constitution is sacred and should not be trampled on every time our immature and self interested politicians decide to use it to spite each other or grab power. For the last 40, 30, 20 years, our people have been misled and taken for granted while our Politicians have enriched themselves.

Since we have received Status Aparte on 10-10-10, we have seen every single combination of the NA, DP, US and UP coalitions with no tangible results for the island. It is time that we break the political indoctrination which has destroyed our fabric of life, our strong middle class and show the world we can evolve as a people and embrace change. SMCP asks our people to reject vote buying. Do not sell your future and that of your children.

For this reason we feel it is our duty to contest the elections on February 26, 2018. We are more than ever energized to fight for the people of Sxm and bring about the much needed STABLE GOVERNMENT the island will require to rebuild and reintroduce a strong middle class among our people.

Integrity, Transparency, Accountability and ethics should not be used as words only during a campaign or on a rubber wristband. Instead they need to become our way of life as a people and definitely for our leaders of the future.

With stability in mind, we will be asking the population to WAKE UP and vote for a change. It is time we introduce new blood into our political system. After 6 governments in 7 years, it should be more than evident that the present older party leaders and older politicians from the Island Council days are the very same politicians failing the island year in, year out for decades.

If given overwhelming support, SMCP will seek to form a Multi Partisan Coalition majority of Parliamentarians across all party lines who will in turn appoint a Non politically affiliated Council of Ministers to rebuild St. Maarten over the period of 2018-2022. Only the Prime Minister position could be selected from the parties if that candidate can receive unanimous support from this coalition.

It is time we end the fighting to own a Minister and focus on becoming an island with an exemplary Government apparatus, Parliament and Soceity. Both the Multi Partisan Parliamentary Coalition and the Non Political COM will seek to work in an accountable and transparent manner with the Kingdom Government (including Aruba, Curacao, Saba and Statia), the Collectivitée of St. Martin and the French government.

Now more than ever it is time all four governments to honor our forefathers and exemplify the spirit of the Treaty of Concordia which was based on the cohabitation of our people.

The Post Irma Legacy for our future generations should be a NEW ST. MARTIN/ST. MAAREN: ONE ISLAND, ONE PEOPLE, ONE DESTINY FOREVER!!!

Claude Chacho Peterson

COMMENTARY: The content is the sole responsibility of the author.

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Caribbean female leadership needed

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Would female leadership change the Caribbean? Most likely it will! It is all about the characteristics of how the members of the male and female gender have a different way of approaching a task, a challenge, or stress.  Women leaders take care, whereas men leaders take charge.

Researchers suggest that the vital difference might all come down to one gene that only men have, called the SRY gene. According to scientists it is demonstrated in the men’s response to stress with ‘Fight-Or-Flight’, while women ‘Tend-And-Befriend’. While men favor punching or running away, women are more likely to try to diffuse a situation and seek out social support.

Transformational leadership is a prerequisite for Caribbean development. Instead of giving you a definition of ‘transformational leadership’, I’ll present to you a role model of a Transformation Leader who just so happens to be a woman. After reading it, tell me, whether I need to say more of what I believe the Caribbean needs in regard to leadership.

Oprah Winfrey is one of a handful of black billionaires across the globe and her net worth estimated at US$ 2.5 billion. She defied the odds stacked against her in life. Born to unmarried parents, a miner father and a mother who worked as a maid, Oprah’s early years were filled with abuse, loneliness, and heartache. What she was forced to overcome, became a driving force for making her an incredible entrepreneur and mentor to women and men around the world. Her unprecedented success may serve as the undisputed blueprint for many minority entrepreneurs.

Winfrey’s leadership has broken down barriers; her business instinct is stuff of legend; and her innovation is unprecedented. She has spent her entire career beating the odds – and has inspired millions of business-minded minorities in the process. Her entrepreneurial mind-set and willingness to take risks has paid off by propelling her forward throughout her career.

Oprah’s leadership style demands that nothing should be taken for granted. “I don’t yell at people, I don’t mistreat people, I don’t talk down to people. Treating people with respect is the most important thing to me. It’s not just talk”. She has proven that it doesn’t matter from where you come; what matters is where you want to go, how you get yourself there, and how you treat people along the way. She has shown that to be a successful leader it takes courage and the ability to try new things, even in the face of uncertainty.

Studies are suggesting that women are better leaders.  Performing twice as well in order to be thought of as half as good as male counterparts, is the most prevalent reason why women are perceived to be better leaders. Often the double standard demand that women work harder than men. Therefore, they get more things done, deliver results, and are seen as better role models to peers and subordinates. Compassion and being more organized are strengths to be added to their leadership competence. Women are also more likely to be trusted and respected and they show greater concern for individual needs. Women tend to be more nurturing, caring and sensitive than men. These characteristics are more aligned with transformational leadership.

‘Caribbean democratic development requires transformational leadership that values equality, equity, non-violence, caring, cooperation, service, transparency and accountability, and zero tolerance for corruption in political and public life.’ That was one of the conclusions of the ‘Caribbean Regional Colloquium on Women Leaders as Agents of Change’.

There is a typical Caribbean problem with this Colloquium just like many high-level summits; lots of high-level talk, conclusions, but no action. It’s like letting the pressure of the kettle and letting the boiling water cool off again. So, whether this was in last weeks’ news or a date farther in the past, it doesn’t matter when nothing is done. It was actually an event of 2011, which may show the amount of progress made in six years.

Another conclusion was: “Women with a vision of social justice, individually and collectively transform themselves to use their power, resources and skills in non-oppressive, inclusive structures and processes, to mobilize others around a shared agenda of social, cultural, economic and political transformation for equality and the realization of human rights for all.”

However, at the most senior levels of leadership in the Caribbean, men still dominate. Few men in leadership positions may be realizing that the old way of leading - taking charge (command and control) - may not be as effective in today's world and in the future.

Some of you readers may still be puzzled by the SRY-gene, exclusive to men, that was mentioned in the beginning of this essay. Women’s responses to stress are regulated by other genes than the SRY. ‘Tend-And-Befriend’ is a behavior typically exhibited by females in response to threat. It refers to protection of offspring (tending) and seeking out the social group for mutual defense (befriending). In evolutionary psychology, it is theorized as having evolved as the typical female response to stress, just as the primary male response was ‘Fight-Or-Flight’.

There are many physiological gender differences, where men differ on average from women but there is overlap in the distribution of the trait. Men have, on average, much more testosterone in their body than women, yet, there are women whose testosterone is as high as, or even higher than men's testosterone. Recent studies conducted in Australia have shown that when these high-testosterone women respond to stress, particularly stress caused by men, such as being held at gunpoint by a guy in a dark alley, they show the unique and highly effective "kick-the-man-in-the-groin" response.

By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

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NA MP Samuel says €550 Million is Development Aid

PHILIPSBURG - The Dutch has decided to make €550M available to St. Maarten as Development Aid in the context of rebuilding the island after the aftermath of the inflicted damages to the Islands economy and social fabric, National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) Rodolphe Samuel said in a press statement.

“This disbursement will however delayed in being made available to St. Maarten for the following reasons:

“World Bank: It’s rumored that The funds will be made available to St Maarten via the World Bank: The World Bank has no office or officers in St Maarten and will not be handling these funds free of charge – handling fee shall be deducted leaving less –. Not clear of the 550M is based on an application submitted by the Netherlands to the World bank to be assistive in the Reconstruction Cost of St. Maarten, as there are many different funding possibilities from the World Bank for disaster relief situations as in which St Maarten finds itself at this very moment.

“St. Maarten cannot apply directly to the World Bank, IMF, European Union and others  for financial Aid as she’s not an independent member of such August bodies – The Netherlands is and can and hopefully will help St Maarten get to their negotiating table!.

“It seems that it will take onwards of six / seven months after the passing of hurricane IRMA before St. Maarten will have received ANY CASH from the Netherlands.

“What’s the Dutch priority now: There’s a phrase: get your priorities straight. Holland’s priorities and those of St Maarten diverge significantly: for the Dutch those priorities are threefold: Integrity Chamber // Border Control // Customs:

  1. No delay in bringing these about as they will supposedly:

1.1     put bread and money on the table for St Maarten’s people,

1.2     will get roofs over their heads and get our economy moving again

1.3     secure funds to secure the governability of this country.

“Neither of the abovementioned points will achieve the self-evident. Dutch Shaming of St. Maarten:  Holland is seemingly more interested in shaming St. Maarten, and bringing it quickest possible to its knees, so it can be added to the BES-islands group. €550m Development Aid had been pledged and will be available in 6/7 months via the World Bank. This position of Holland brings about unnecessary hardship for St. Maarten and its people.

“Funds Application: Holland has yet to specify for which specific purposes the €550M is to be used/applied, be that housing – in the broadest sense of the word – or general infrastructure rebuild and or what portion thereof is slated for Direct Budgetary Assistance to St Maarten.

“€42M Direct Budgetary Assistance to St Maarten.  There are indications that €42M has been provided for Direct Budgetary Assistance (2017), by the Dutch Government, however no written confirmation of such has been provided to or received by the Government of St Maarten.

“St. Maarten’s Governability: At the end of the day Holland can send the Karel Doorman marine supply ship TEN (10) times to our shores laden with goodies – for which ALL St. Maarten has been and are grateful/thankful - but without Direct Budgetary Assistance St. Maarten’s ability to govern herself shall remain undermined to such a degree that governing - will literally collapse at some point in the near future. This Direct Budgetary Assistance must be seen separate from Development or Reconstruction Aid that’s sorely and pressingly needed. See it as follows: if a taxi drivers works all day and only receives goods instead of payment he won’t be able to sustain his general basic obligations such as buying more fuel to stay productively on the road and take care of his other daily/weekly/monthly obligations.

“Article 43 of the Charter Of the Kingdom: The undermining of St Maarten’s Governability. A very serious matter that brings article 43 of the Charter Of the Kingdom in focus. Yes - How can Holland “with “the immediate urgency of now” defer from making cash available to St. Maarten “to guarantee that the governability of this country is insured and assured”? How can it be that Holland - after declaring that St. Maarten has not only been totally destroyed but that the destruction is worse than any seen in a warzone?

“To date – notwithstanding the highly appreciated emergency assistance provided in the form of goods - not ONE SINGLE EURO BANKNOTE OR CASH transfer by the Government of the Netherlands to the Government of St Maarten has taken.

“From my perspective Holland is grossly failing in fulfilling its role of the guarantor of art 43 of the Kingdom Charter in St Maarten. In these extra ordinary times St Maarten’s governability is being undermined by the guarantor Holland – after hobbled by the disastrous impact of Hurricane IRMA.

“St Maarten – both its Government and Parliament – has accepted the conditions for Holland to release the €550 Development / Reconstruction Assistance to St Maarten.

“We agreed with Holland’s requirements / demands that the Integrity Chamber and Border control be accepted by both the Government and Parliament of St Maarten. There was never a discussion about the €550M fund package first going to the World Bank to thereafter be disbursed to St Maarten. This remains and unwelcomed unilateral moving of the goal posts by the Netherlands.

“Holland must honor is commitment: Agreement is Agreement: Calling / Labelling St. Maarten a corrupt and Mafia infested Island:  As of right now the clear position must be taken by St. Maarten’s Government and Parliament that The Government of Holland and or it’s Ministers and it’s Parliamentarians must cease labelling St. Maarten as a corrupt and Mafia infested Island: Shut up or put up.

“For those in the Netherlands: it’s a nice game to play. What they don’t want to realize is that:

  1. for St. Maarten this namely is no game, that
  2. they are creating a non-level playing field – and this no game -, while in the process undermining – and seriously so –
  3. the economic investment climate of our country is being seriously and detrimentally undermined,
  4. investors are being scared away and will stay away to the detriment of St Maarten’s desperately needed economic recovery.

“Why would a self-respecting Investor invest in St. Maarten’s economy today or even in the past if the Mother country – Holland - labels it as corrupt / mafia infested / underworld intermingled. Why? “

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PPA LEADER ARRINDELL: CLARITY NEEDED SOONEST AS WELL AS DIRECT SUPPORT FOR OUR PEOPLE

PHILIPSBURG – Leader of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) Gracita Arrindell states: “The Holiday season has arrived quietly. For thousands of local house -holds this means little or no Season at all. For the first time in a very long time in our social- economic history, to experience that sadly many of our citizens will not be able to sit around their kitchen table to enjoy quality time with their families, close friends and neighbors.

“Mind you, many are in this situation through no fault of their own.  With the closure of so many business that cater to our main pillar of our economy the Tourism Industry, the impact of the devastation of Hurricane Irma is felt deep within the social fabrics of our Nation. It’s heartbreaking to say the least. “

Arrindell adds; “Three months further, many uncertainties remain, many questions left unanswered.  Two examples that keep raising its head in the public arena are: 1. Who will be receiving part of the reconstruction funds from Holland and from the European Union a.o.  By extension will any part or some of those funds be qualified as a grant or a loan to government.  Will businesses that qualify be able to tap into those funds? To what extent will the ordinary citizen who needs it most and who qualifies to receive assistance, will he or she or that family be able to receive such and if yes, how much per person or per family.

“The second example (there are more) is the question: why is the gateway to our Island Princess Juliana International airport so slow to recover and re-open?  The surrounding islands are capitalizing on our slow pace of decisiveness. The longer our airport remains in this state, the longer it takes to create trust among the industry to get us back on track and better.”

Gracita continues; “Both questions deserve a direct and unambiguous reply from those in the know and authorities in the decision making process.”

Arrindell said; “Food for thought. Regarding the application of funds to for example our most vulnerable citizens, an idea can be for   Parliament, SZV and the social welfare department to establish a temporary unemployment law in collaboration with the community councils for one year. Each employee who is a legal resident of Sint Maarten for the past (for instance) five ( 5) or ten (10 ) years, and lost his or her job as a result of  Hurricane Irma can be made eligible for temporary unemployment benefit. 

“Assuming that we have indeed six thousand (6000) persons who have lost their jobs or will lose their job in the very near future as a direct result of Hurricane Irma.  If those 6000 persons can become eligible for one thousand US dollars (1000) dollars monthly unemployment allowance per month, this would be an expensive injection, but an injection nevertheless of 72.000.000 for the year 2018.”

“Mind you, this would mean, just over 10% of the Dutch recovery funds straight into the economy of Sint Maarten. Families can feed their children and have a dignified period ahead of the more structural decisions to follow by government, and pending the recovery of our tourism infrastructure. A welcome side effect may well be the prevention of an increase in crime.”

“At the same time, government must be a real facilitator and not an obstructionist or competitor to bona-fide businesses that are locally established and to those who care to open shop on Sint Maarten. Government needs to facilitate the business community to create jobs, not to place unnecessary administrative burden on initiatives and encourage entrepreneurship, especially in times like these. Cut the red-tape once and for all.

“The airport and other critically important infrastructural entities, must be up and running soonest. It is completely unacceptable that our Airport has not even started its reconstruction process. People must insist on clarity of explanation. Nothing less.”

Arrindell concludes: “In times of crisis and great uncertainty, support is absolutely necessary for all citizens not only for a select few who qualify regardless of background, and Clarity is equally important to give Hope and build back trust.”

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UN designates 2021-2030 ‘Decade of Ocean Science’

INTERNATIONAL, 6 December 2017 – The United Nations today designated the years 2021 to 2030 as the ‘Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’ to boost international coordination and cooperation in research and scientific programmes for better management of ocean and coastal zone resources and reducing maritime risks.

The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be leading the campaign.

“The ocean is a new frontier – it covers 71 per cent of the globe [but] we have explored less than 5 per cent. The Decade will ensure greater coordination of research,” said Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, urging all stakeholders to join the endevour.

“[We are] proud to be at the forefront of this effort,” she added.

Across the world, close to three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity to meet their needs.

Oceans – critical for survival of all people across the planet – absorbs around a third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by humans and reduces the impact of climate change.

Given this important, the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for specific action for the conservation and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources (SDG 14).

The importance of oceans was also underscored at a major conference this June at the UN Headquarters, in New York.

However, the cumulative effects of human activities on this vital important, including the impact of pollution, warming and acidification are yet to be fully evaluated scientifically and surveying the ocean requires costly ships and equipment, satellite imaging, underwater robots and remotely controlled vehicles.

It also requires thousands of scientists collecting and analysing the data, either in laboratories or in marine environments.

“One of the priorities of the Decade will be to strengthen and diversify financial sources, particularly for small island developing States and least developed countries,” said UNESCO.

“This Decade, will provide a framework for international coordination and partnership to reinforce research capacities in marine sciences and the transfer of technology,” it added.

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Careless disposal of antibiotics could produce ‘ferocious superbugs,’ UN environment experts warn

SINT MAARTEN/INTERNATIONAL, 5 December 2017 – Growing antimicrobial resistance linked to the discharge of drugs and some chemicals into the environment is one of the most worrying health threats today, according to new research from the United Nations that highlights emerging challenges and solutions in environment.

“The warning here is truly frightening: we could be spurring the development of ferocious superbugs through ignorance and carelessness,” said Erik Solheim, chief of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), on Tuesday.

He added that studies have already linked the misuse of antibiotics in humans and agriculture over the last several decades to increasing resistance, but the role of the environment and pollution has received little attention.

As such, the Frontiers Report, launched on the second day of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), which is running through 6 December at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, looks at the environmental dimension of antimicrobial resistance in nanomaterials; marine protected areas; sand and dust storms; off-grid solar solutions; and environmental displacement – finding the role of the environment in the emergence and spread of resistance to antimicrobials particularly concerning.

“This needs priority action right now, or else we run the risk of allowing resistance to occur through the back door, with potentially terrifying consequences,” stressed Mr. Solheim.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when a microorganism evolves to resist the effects of an antimicrobial agent. Globally about 700,000 people die of resistant infections every year because available antimicrobial drugs have become less effective at killing the resistant pathogens.

Clear evidence shows that antimicrobial compounds from households, hospitals, pharmaceutical facilities and agricultural run-off released into the environment, combined with direct contact between natural bacterial communities and discharged resistant bacteria, is driving bacterial evolution and the emergence of more resistant strains.

Once consumed, most antibiotic drugs are excreted un-metabolized along with resistant bacteria – up to 80 per cent of consumed antibiotics, according to the report. This is a growing problem, as human antibiotic use this century has increased 36 per cent and livestock antibiotic use predicted to increase 67 per cent by 2030.

Evidence shows that multi-drug resistant bacteria are prevalent in marine waters and sediments close to aquaculture, industrial and municipal discharges.

Solving the problem will mean tackling the use and disposal of antibiotic pharmaceuticals as well as the release of antimicrobial drugs, relevant contaminants and resistant bacteria into the environment, the report says.

Ocean and coastal values at stake
Antimicrobial resistance and the environment
Other evolving issues

The report also considers other emerging issues, such as nanomaterials in which little is understood about their long-term effects. According to UNEP, past lessons reveal that “no evidence of harm” does not equal “evidence of no harm,” meaning that research into nanomaterials is essential.

Another area it highlighted was in securing Marine Protected Areas as one excellent option for maintaining or restoring the ocean’s and coastal ecosystems health, and a potential driver for economic benefits derived from them.

The Frontiers Report also noted that sand and dust storms, which impoverish arid landscapes soils, and can cause economic losses, indicted that strategies promoting sustainable land and water management must be integrated with measures addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Pointing out that nearly one billion people live without electricity, the report emphasized the importance of bridging the off-grid energy gap as a possible key to achieving the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for universal access to affordable, reliable energy services.

Finally, in an era of unprecedented mobility, the report points out that migration produces environmental changes that include pollution, deforestation and biodiversity loss, saying that unless we deal with long-term environmental vulnerability and build resilience, environmental displacement will become a new normal.

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Caribbean Airlift Council

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN - Airlift is a major Caribbean problem that deserves top priority because it is vital for tourism and trade, subsequently for the economic well-being of all population members of the Caribbean communities. The problem has been acknowledged for many years. Just check the on-line archives of the news media to find the evidence. No one has come up with a true common solution.

How to solve the airlift problem? It is quite complicated. Already because of the geography and the many jurisdictions. Try to define the Caribbean. It could be any area between Bermuda and the Guyanas, and include the coastal areas of Central America.  Yet, the countries need each other’s air transport connections. It is not a kind of project where one should expect to have a complete universal solution at once for all. It will most likely come in steps and building blocks. That is acceptable, as long as the end result is a ‘Caribbean House’ that all feel comfortable to live in. 

Part of the problem is the word ‘unifying’. So let’s post the question to a person who has an objective perspective on airlift matters and panoramic view of Caribbean issues, the Minister of Transportation of the island St.Tosia, the fictitious Honourable Duncan Vanderbeest: “Unifying the Caribbean? Can it be done? Yes! Am I sure? No! Where lies the challenge?

The first challenge is that one would have to unite while leaving all the differences intact! The second challenge is that there are more jokers around than a Caribbean comedy festival could stand. Last but not least, and don’t tell my colleagues that I have said this, or else they may have evil come upon me in a next summit, but, I couldn’t tell one ‘Honourable’ from another; they all sound alike.” End quote. Wow! Thank you mister Minister, as it is an exception to hear the powerful talk as candidly as the powerless.

The solution may be a Caribbean Airlift Council. An institution that is independent from governments.  It cooperates with governments and advises them when asked, yet, it is credible and highly respected to also urgently suggest and be accepted even when not asked.  Where does that leave the representation of the public sector, the various business organizations or interest groups? The expression ‘Interest groups’ says a lot.

They usually pursue a particular interest that is on their mind and they have organized themselves for that purpose. There are three interest segments: aviation, tourism and investment. The Caribbean Airlift Council will cooperate with all of them and communicate, but remain impartial and independent. If the Council is just a mediator in such a complicated environment, why fiddle around with a healing middleman and not immediately call a priest? Not so pessimistic! This is about new life and when differing circumstances meet, creativity is encouraged.

The primary task of the Council is finding realistic solutions for any airlift issue that has not been dealt with (past, current, and future) with a satisfactory result. This global definition in itself creates an immense field of issues. It serves all airlift stakeholders thus not just the aviation industry, but rather also the travel and tourism interests, and to a lesser degree the investment segment. The Council activities could include, consulting and advise, study, mediation, certification (e.g. Caribbean Friendly Sky concept). Several other activities may be included but cannot be listed here.  

The Council shall not copy the activities which agencies or organizations are doing or supposed to do. If nothing else, it will simply outdo these actors with faster and better solutions. There are many issues that need a solution for once and for all, and rather sooner than later. The reason why these needs exist so widely, is because they have never been dealt with on such a broad base. Maybe attempted on a smaller scale or a narrower base, but they have not resulted in accomplishments that serve all governments, communities or interest groups in the region. Sometimes it may have been the lack of foresight or appropriate competence; other times it was the political meddling.

The Council should NOT get any authority. If it was given authority, it may already encounter resistance by a foreseeable number of egos. Yet, the fact that the Council is an authority on the airlift subject itself, may be its most powerful instrument to have its influence and impact. Anyone who ignores the work or advise of the Council might be considered foolish.  The entity, should be strong-minded, undistractible, and remain focused at all times on carrying out the mission leading to the objective of solving Caribbean airlift problems. The unit should be totally integer, impartial, unbiased, neutral, and have no hidden agendas. Therefore, the Council shall be respected by all.

Creating the right organizational structure and its procedures is a challenge for itself. The members and affiliates of the Council should be competent movers, and not well-worded followers. Titles are meaningless; it is not about who a person is, but rather what the person can do. Efficiency must rule; wasting time or energy is a no-no; mediocracy is considered failure. 

In their idle time some people dream. ONE CARIBBEAN may be such a dream or just an illusion. Who really wants ONE CARIBBEAN ANYTHING anyway, let alone a Caribbean Airlift Council? Defining and determining why to unify, may already be a tougher issue to find a consensus on, than the unification process itself. Who will make it happen, a messiah or a navigator? Looking at the conceivable tasks ahead, one would almost believe that this is a great script for either a Hollywood box office hit or TV soap opera scenario. Maybe this all remains food for thought; maybe it could be an appetizer.  

By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

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Caribbean Courts and Lawyers Embrace Technology for Better Justice Delivery

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN - Sadly, it is no longer a surprise when citizens seeking resolution before courts in the Caribbean are forced to contend with severe case backlogs and delays.

Too often, many are denied the right to swift justice, with delays lasting for years and in some cases decades. So serious is the problem, it has triggered the creation of a special regional body to help strengthen the administration of justice and to provide technology to reduce the caseload backlog throughout the region.

APEX is a not-for-profit agency established by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in 2016 to deliver technology-based solutions for Caribbean courts, law offices and justice sector bodies. On November 27, the agency convened a stakeholder meeting specifically focused on enabling higher levels of performance across the Caribbean justice sector.

More than 50 delegates from 15 Caribbean countries gathered at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in The Bahamas, with another 35 joining the forum online. Among the audience were chief justices, attorneys general, judicial officers, directors of public prosecution, legal professionals, court administrators and leaders of bar associations.

It was the first time that a myriad group of stakeholders of Caribbean justice fraternity had gathered for such a meeting. Bevil Wooding, executive director of APEX, described it as “a milestone event” for the Caribbean justice community.

“Our mission, in part, was to bring together a broad range of persons from the justice sector across the Caribbean to directly and candidly confront the challenges and, importantly, to identify tangible solutions for improving the administration of law and justice in the Caribbean. From that perspective, the meeting was a great success,” he said.

Sir Dennis Byron, president of the CCJ, agreed.

“At the Caribbean Court of Justice, our mandate goes beyond simply resolving disputes that come before us. We also have a profound obligation to improve the systems of justice delivery throughout the region, for the greater good of citizens, our beneficiaries, across the entire Caribbean,” Byron said.

Barbados, Belize, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago are among the places where courts and law offices have already adopted technology developed by APEX for electronic case filing, case management and court performance measurement.

Byron pointed out that in every place that APEX’s technology is deployed, the solutions can replace slow, unreliable, manual processes with faster, more accurate, automated systems. He cited examples of inefficient, error-prone and time-consuming manual case management and note-taking of court proceedings, which could greatly benefit from modern technology.

“In many of our courts, the judge or the magistrate takes a manual record of proceedings. This slows down proceedings to the speed at which the judge is recording. It does not produce a complete or completely accurate record. Judges’ time and energy is taken up by trying to take those notes,” he said.

“One of the practical benefits of APEX is that we have been able to make the digital transcript the official record of court proceedings, thus avoiding the need to print, copy, bind, store or ship paper-based records. By simply using the digital recording of proceedings, the court record has become more accurate, and proceedings move much more quickly.”

Wooding added, “The dream of having Caribbean courts benefit from Caribbean solutions for the vexing and persistent challenges in the administration and dispensation of justice, is now a reality. The next step will be for leaders in the justice sector throughout the region to take full advantage of the technology now available to enable Caribbean court and justice sector excellence.”

Caribbean courts, public and private bar associations and law enforcement institutions have significant hurdles to overcome in order to strengthen the region’s justice system. But the advent of APEX and the development of justice solutions tailored to the specific needs of the Caribbean seem to be an important step in the right direction.

BY GERARD BEST

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After Hurricanes, Internet Groups Form New Commission to Improve Caribbean Network Resilience

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN - Still reeling from the utter devastation wrought by a record-breaking 2017 hurricane season, many Caribbean island states are struggling to return to normalcy. By some estimates, relief and recovery efforts after Hurricanes Irma and Maria alone could cost upwards of US$150 billion.

The failure of Caribbean communications networks is particularly worrying. Mobile and Internet technology affect not only the personal communications between millions of citizens but, more critically, are vital to the coordination of emergency responders’ post-hurricane recovery efforts.  Increasingly severe weather events are highlighting an urgent need to strengthen the region’s communications infrastructure.

In response, a special Commission for Caribbean Communications Resilience is being formally empaneled to critically examine the region’s communications vulnerabilities and come up with recommendations for more resilient infrastructure, technologies and methods.

The formation of the Commission was announced this week by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), an inter-governmental entity formed by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to drive the growth of the region’s communications sector.

“There were many deficiencies exposed in the Caribbean’s response to recent hurricanes and disasters in the region,” said Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the CTU. “This special Commission will gather facts about the failures, in order to better understand which ones contributed most significantly to the overall outage. We will develop a set of practical recommendations as to how things can be done better in the future.”

On November 29, one day before the official end of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Lewis made the announcement during the CTU’s sixteenth Caribbean Ministerial Strategic ICT Seminar, held at the Atlantic Paradise Island Resort in The Bahamas.

The Commission will produce a report with specific recommendations to Caribbean governments, regulators and communications ministries. The recommendations will be presented to Caribbean governments at a meeting convened for that purpose by regional inter-governmental treaty organisations the CTU and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

Lewis will chair the new body, and Kim Mallalieu, head of the Computer Science department of the University of the West Indies, will be vice-chair. It will initially be made up of ten commissioners drawn from regional and international experts on communications technology and regulation.

“The Commission will be neutral, in that none of the commissioners will be from the companies whose infrastructure failed, nor companies seeking to compete with them, nor regulators with jurisdiction over them,” Lewis said.

Among others, global technology companies Cisco, IBM, Intel and Uniregistry and international treaty organisations the World Bank and Organisation of American States are supporting the project and overseeing the Commission’s work.

Several regional organisations are also supporters, including the national telecommunications regulators of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, as well as the Caribbean Network Operators Group.

Among the Internet bodies supporting the initiative is Packet Clearing House (PCH), the international organisation responsible for providing operational support and security to critical Internet infrastructure, including Internet exchange points and the core of the domain name system.

“Packet Clearing House is honoured to be participating in this effort,” said Bill Woodcock, who is the executive director of PCH, and one of the ten commissioners. “The scale of the devastation wrought by this season’s hurricanes is unmatched in recent communications history. Having two entire countries go offline through the critical period of evacuation and humanitarian relief is a failure that cannot be allowed to happen again, and the challenge that climate change presents in the Caribbean will continue to increase in future years.”

Another institutional supporter of the newly formed body is the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), which is one of five registries worldwide coordinating Internet number resources. ARIN’s region covers much of the Caribbean, as well as Canada and the United States.  Among the islands hardest hit by the 2017 hurricane season are Anguilla, Barbuda, Dominica, Turks and Caicos, and the British Virgin Islands, all of which are served by ARIN.

“We offer our sympathy and condolences to all who suffered loss. We are pleased to also be able to offer our resources in support of the work of this important Commission. A well-considered and unified plan to build and maintain resilient Caribbean communications infrastructure is a humanitarian necessity and our collective responsibility,” said Commissioner Bevil Wooding, who is the Caribbean Outreach Liaison at ARIN and a founding member of the Caribbean Network Operators Group.

In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall in Anguilla, Barbuda, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Martin/Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

On June 1, 2018, the next Atlantic hurricane season begins. The establishment of the Commission is a positive and necessary step, to increase the resilience of regional communications infrastructure to extreme recurrent natural events.

BY GERARD BEST

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Dutch bees are a bigger threat than terrorists, says new safety atlas

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – You’re more likely to die from a bee sting than in a terrorist attack in the Netherlands and despite perceptions to the contrary, the country has become a safer place in recent decades.

Those are two of the findings published in a new statistical atlas, De bosatlas van de veiligheid, which charts accidents and threats to life ranging from storms to domestic hazards.

‘There are serious dangers, but we do a lot to prevent them,’ author Henk Leenaers told NOS. ‘And when you look at the statistics you can see that the number of victims and incidents is decreasing.

That doesn’t mean the dangers don’t exist, but in general things are getting better.’ Leenaers’s book shows how violent deaths, such as road traffic accidents, murder and even terrorism, are all on the decline, while the chances of being killed or injured by natural phenomena such as flooding, storms and earthquakes are increasing.

‘Human violence is going down, force of nature incidents are going up,’ he said. However, the perception of danger often fails to reflect the reality, with people often overlooking real hazards, such as dust particles and sunlight, and worrying about rare but traumatic dangers such as a plane crash or a terrorist attack.

‘We’re scared of terrorism because it looks so terrible and happens totally at random, but the chance isn’t that big. The problem is that when it does happen it causes huge disruption,’ said Leenaers.

What the statistics omit is the impact of lost lives. The number one cause of accidental death is falling, but Leenaers points out that most people who die from falls are already old and frail, so the effect is less traumatic than a plane crash.

‘We experience that differently as a society because someone’s whole life is lost, rather than a few months at the end of a long life.’ (DutchNews)

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