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New Solar Park supplies entire Statia with electricity

ST. EUSTATIUS - On St. Eustatius, one of the three Public Entities of the Caribbean Netherlands, on the 15th of November a solar park will be officially put into use that can supply the entire island with electricity during the day until after sunset. Thanks to the park, the use of diesel generators, which until recently produced all electricity, can now be reduced by almost half.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate has funded the solar park with a subsidy of over USD 14.1 million. This corresponds to almost USD 7,900 for each of the 1800 households and companies whom the investment from the Dutch Government will benefit.

In addition to the solar panels the park has an innovative battery storage of 2.6 MW / 5.9 MWh that can keep the grid stable without the diesel generators. On sunny days from 9.00 AM until 8.00 PM the solar park is responsible for the entire power production. Around noon the park produces more than 200% of the electricity demand. The produced surplus is stored and utilized later in the day. At night diesel generators take over the production.

This way on an annual basis the solar park provides 46% of the electricity needs of the island. The park has a nominal output of 4.15 MW; thanks to the sunny climate this plant can produce almost twice as much power as would be possible in the European Netherlands. With an expected annual production of 6.4 GWh, after Sunport Delfzijl, this is the Netherlands' largest solar park.

The plant will be put into use officially on 15 November 2017 by the Kingdom Representative, Gilbert Isabella. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

solar park inside


SXM Airport Issues: Are we nuts? FBO Building and Hazardous Flagpole

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Breaking ground for a Multi-Million dollar FBO with the main Airport Terminal Building (ATB) in ruins after Hurricane Irma??? Are we nuts? Has the 195mph winds rattled our brains?

I know a contract with a preferred local construction company has been signed some time ago, but Hurricane Irma was no fiction. It destroyed Governor Holiday’s work of art. The SXM airport IS the gateway into SXM, responsible for the lion’s share of what makes our island’s economy run. TOURISM.

Every available penny and all manpower should be poured into repairing and rebuilding the ATB so we can welcome tourists back to our shores in a pre-Irma fashion before spending an ounce of energy on anything else at the airport.

As an active pilot flying in and out of Princess Juliana International Airport, I welcome a professional looking and operating Fixed Base Operation’s facility, but NOW is not the time.

FBO’s accommodate primarily the rich and famous (I am told 1% of our visitors)....our ATB accommodates everyone else. Do the math..... And then that beautiful, very high flagpole on the hill.... it is in the flight path of the airport when taking off towards the East.

There IS a light on the Minister’s flagpole, however it is so dim, that if you are in an airplane doing upwards of 150 knots per hour, by the time you see the red glow, you have already flown into the obstacle..... The Minister gets an “A” for effort and an “F” for  execution.

Michael J. Ferrier

COMMENTARY: The comments above are the sole responsibility of the author.


No Banana Republics in the Caribbean

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Maracuja Republics, yes. But Banana Republics, definitely not!  A few clarifying lines of political science may be appropriate here. Every government system is a ‘Cracy’ which originates from the Greek word for power: ‘Kratos’. Democracy is the most favored since it is supposed to be the power of the people (demos=people). 

Experts with an academic background claim that due to human nature being essentially faulty, every government system in the beginning of its development has been a ‘Kakistocracy’, meaning rule by the stupid; a form of governance where the worst or least-qualified citizens are in control.

But of course, since we are all non-experts and often lack the appropriate academic backgrounds, we have to see the Kakistocracy claim as a case of mind over matter; if you don't mind, it doesn't matter. Plus, in today’s positively well-developed society, it may not be defensible to claim that ‘human nature is essentially faulty’.  

Just one more classification that we cannot go around. By definition, a Banana Republic is considered a Kleptocratic system that economically depends upon the export of bananas. It features a society composed of an impoverished Ergatocracy and a ruling Plutocracy, composed of the Aristocracy of business, politics, or the military.

Such system is something that is unheard of in the region and the expression Banana Republic is sharply criticized and even considered an insult here. So, let’s move on to the subject of Maracuja Republic. I never like name and blame games and therefore on the topic, I will refer to the government system of the island St.Tosia as a positive example.

St.Tosia is called a Maracuja Republic because it blooms like a Passiflora Incarnata. The Passion Flower, knowingly has herbal calming effects but also may increase the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain which decreases the activity of certain brain cells which is not uncommon for the local politicians and noticeable in their speech and action.  The fruit of the Passion Flower is of course the Passion Fruit or Maracuja.  St.Tosia is an island full of passion. 

The islanders are extremely passionate which comprises anything from love, affection, mania, fascination, obsession and neurosis. The Passion Fruit is a vigorous, climbing vine that clings by tendrils to almost any support, something that is also typical for the politicians on the island. There is no similarity whatsoever with Bananas which grow in clusters hanging from the plant. Because of these differing characteristics a Maracuja Republic is not comparable to a Banana Republic.

St.Tosia is more in line with what the laid-back region is really all about. The island is a political adhocracy. This philosophy is typified by aversion to planning and a tendency to respond only to the urgent as opposed to the important; focusing on 'firefighting,' rather than on establishing systems and procedures through goal setting and long-term planning. On the one hand, there is a world of business interests driven by society members who migrated to the island, and the other hand a swarm of followers, supporting and taking sides among families and clans of native St.Tosians in its House of Assembly. The worlds of business and politics often blend harmoniously well depending on the potential opportunities of benefits and favors for the individuals. And so, the St.Tosian Adhocracy is flexible and non-permanent and can respond fast to a changing environment and circumstances. It can be a thriving factor in the wellbeing of the island for some.

St.Tosia with its population of 25,000 people, has eighteen government ministries and nineteen members of the House of Assembly. So, all is fine and orderly with so many departments, authorities and legislative supervision. The constitution of the island was written by Zadekiah Jones, a man with tremendous social foresight for his time in 1898 when the government form on St Tosia was established.

 It was Zadekiah’s viewpoint that it is better to have more administrative offices rather than just a few because the government could employ more politicians and followers as civil servants. One may expect that this would create more bureaucracy. On the contrary! On St.Tosia, it enhances adhocracy since nothing gets done in the first place unless it absolutely urgent, and then it will be done on the spur of a moment related to a festive event.  St. Tosians love parties and the incentive of having a party can be very motivating to take quick and positive decisions.

With more political seats available, one needs fewer votes to be elected for office. It supports a democratic system that distributes political power in the hands of the public which forms the electorate.  In St.Tosia, it was never quite clear whether it would result in less power for more people, or in more power for less people.  It’s quite confusing. About one hundred votes are enough for a seat in office which pays well, provides healthcare and pension benefits plus a bodyguard and a private secretary of choice and without job qualification requirements.

The political stability of St.Tosia is mainly caused by its people not agreeing on anything. That practically means that no change will happen. And so, everything stays as it is, which may be the most obvious characteristic of what political stability is all about.

Political stability is one of the symptoms that foreign investors value and are looking for. It is one reason why St.Tosia is very popular in financial circles abroad. The other reason is the investment incentives that are offered to them. With the torrent of assets being brought to the island, the economy is flourishing and blooming like a Passion Flower.

As a closing remark on Bureaucracy that comes from a different part of the world. US Admiral Hyman G. Rickover was quoted to once have said: “A system under which it takes three men to check what one is doing is not control; it is systematic strangulation.”

By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert


Sint Maarten: Building Back Better a Climate Resilient Nation

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - There is much discussion taking place this week up until November 17 in Bonn, Germany, where the United Nations (UN) Climate Conference is taking place. This week the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued a stark warning that 2017 is set to be among the three hottest years on record.

The impacts of a warming climate via extreme weather events such as destructive hurricanes, fires, floods, debilitating heatwaves, droughts, melting ice, changes to agriculture that threaten food security, are being felt on a global scale.

The WMO adds that the past three years is part of a long term warming trend of the earth’s climate pointing to recent ‘extraordinary weather,’ that includes temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, and devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.

Our country Sint Maarten, was at the receiving end of two record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession, namely Category 5 Irma and Maria, and we could also add Category 4 Jose which passed to the north of the country, considered a near miss.

Sint Maarten is confronted with a magnitude of challenges at this point in time in its national development. Jump starting the national economy is a key priority in order to maintain a flow of foreign currency; assistance to those in need, who have lost everything; and one can go on and on listing the ills that our country is now being confronted with.

A Workgroup was established to develop the ‘National Recovery Plan (NRP).’  An interim NRP, entitled, ‘Sint Maarten Build Back Better,’ provides an analysis of the economic impact expected due to the loss of the country’s main business activities and infrastructure.  Based on consultations with stakeholders, it ensures a roadmap for the reconstruction and recovery of Sint Maarten, for the short, mid and long-term.

The authors of the NRP based on assessments, places material damage at around US$1.8 billion.  Considerable strategic investments will have to be made between now and the start of the next hurricane season, which is eight months away.  Reason being, our sister island of Dominica, went through two catastrophic weather systems within a two-year period, Hurricane Maria this year and Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015, which at that time was the deadliest natural disaster in Dominica since Hurricane David in 1979.

There is nothing to say that Sint Maarten won’t be hit by another Category 5+ hurricane come September 2018, therefore building back better must be done in a strategic manner within the next eight to 11-months before the peak of the 2018 hurricane season.

Of course, a totally rebuilt Sint Maarten cannot take place within the aforementioned timeframe, however, strategic prioritized choices can be made based on the lessons learnt post-Irma/Maria.

A disaster can strip people and businesses of their livelihoods as has been the case bringing deeply disruptive impacts that push people into poverty and also trap them into an intergenerational transmission of poverty.  A clear example, in 1995, the so-called ‘shanty-towns’ existed, 22-years later, they still exists.

Our disaster risk reduction policies and entities today has to take into account the shifting risks associated with climate change.

The future of our island nation is bright: Insurance sector monies are already being re-invested and this should be stepped up in the coming months; SXM Airport is open for commercial air traffic; Cruise lines to return in December; Kingdom Government funding related to the reconstruction of public infrastructure should be in place in early 2018.

We need to embrace certain principles in order to become a climate-resilient nation.  The UN Secretary General said recently during a visit to Dominica, that natural disasters had tripled, while the economic damage caused by them has increased five-fold; that there is scientific proof that climate change is largely responsible for the dramatic increase in the intensity and devastation caused by hurricanes in the Caribbean.

Building back better, must be based on ‘thinking outside of the box.’  As the nation of Sint Maarten rebuilds, going back to pre-Irma thinking is no longer possible; a new mindset is required in the post-Irma/Maria era in order to build a climate-resilient nation.  We cannot allow disaster risk to outpace resilience.  If we do not change, we will be bound to repeat disaster with catastrophic consequences. #SXMStrong

Roddy Heyliger



SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - In the last couple of weeks, St. Maarten people have seen yet another government fall, making it six governments in seven years. While we have only had Status Aparte for a short time, I believe it should be very evident to the St. Maarten people, the Kingdom and the world that our present politicians, with the exception of three, lack the maturity, transparency and integrity to operate in this new system of government.

Even in the face of our greatest crisis as an island, it is abundantly clear that our older politicians will never be able to put COUNTRY ABOVE SELF. They have turned the constitution upside down and in the process have caused even more suffering for the people, many of whom are already showing signs of Post traumatic stress following Irma.

OUR PEOPLE HAVE NOT GOTTEN ANY HOPE SINCE IRMA ROCKED OUR LIVES. Irma devastated the island and now the people are having to relive their trauma over and over while the politicians fight to control the cookie jar and who will get to manage the reconstruction. In particular, it is heartbreaking to see our elderly mopping up their homes daily from the rain as they try to prevent mold build up and rats taking over. To see the stress on their faces as they try to save any mementos of their past life is so distressing. In all this political turmoil, they all talk about the people's suffering but when will we hear of a short term plan to STABILIZE THE ISLAND for the next 6 months.

It is imperative that we stop the further decay of our social structure before we see unrest and increased crime. This would give the island's economy time to self-regulate from the insurance payouts as wells as time for the island to work on a long term vision and structural plan for the NEW ST.MAARTEN. A long term plan in which St. Martiners will once again become the focal point in rebuilding a strong middle class including reintroducing them into the private sector.

A long term plan which will address our ever increasing social decadence, over population, destruction of the environment, unlivable minimum wage and last but surely not least our St. Maarten Identity. This long term plan must be done in synergy with the French side counterparts so that we can relive this island as ONE ISLAND, ONE PEOPLE AND ONE DESTINY.

As Irma reminded us, “The Gale does not stop at the border”(Source Felix Choisy). Recently in Parliament, it was made clear by the Minister of Finance that the island is facing great budget deficits for the next three years and has no reserves. With that in mind, I would suggest the Council of Ministers and the Parliament work on that short term plan to bring immediate relief in two specific areas in our community: THE UNEMPLOYED AND UNINSURED HOME OWNERS. As we are sort out the political instability and seeing that all parties are now in agreement with the Integrity chamber and Border control conditions set forth by the Kingdom, we ABSOLUTELY need to expedite an official request to the Kingdom for funds to stabilize the most vulnerable persons in our community.

UNEMPLOYMENT SUBSIDY: By now our Government should know how many persons are unemployed. A subsidy can be given to the unemployed for the next six months. The amount of the subsidy per person or per family would have to be decided based on our minimum wage and based on the cost of the basic food basket. I would say at least Ang 900 per unemployed with an additional Ang 150 per child. Please keep in mind this is money which will circulate in our economy if the proper measures are taken.

We should be proactive and assist those businesses who are being forced to layoff workers due to loss of business. Government should subsidies part of the employees pay so that the company can keep those workers on their payroll. This would be a lot less burden for Government in the long run and prevent work apathy.

UNINSURED HOME OWNERS: The uninsured home owners should be assisted to make temporary repairs in cases of major damage and final repairs in cases of minor damage. It is imperative to make as many homes livable again so that persons can return home and regain a better mindset. This would also reduce the amount of temporary housing needed by government.

Priority should be given to senior citizens and single parents. These repairs can be carried out by the Dutch Military which were already carrying out such temporary repairs and they can enlist helpers from the unemployed persons who can work in that field or have the desire to do so. It may actually be a great learning opportunity for many of our youth. Some would say why not use the local contractors but they should realize that contractors are already overburdened with the amount of insured home and business owners needing repairs.

Besides this is mostly temporary repairs until proper assessments and structural repairs can be made. This will also reduce the need for more bureaucracy and having to set up monitoring institutions in the short term. In the long run we can implement a proper Building Code to reduce the level of damage and increase survivability of persons and homes the next time the island is hit by a category 5 plus hurricane. So I am calling on our Ministers and Parliamentarians to end the people's despair. Please make an official request for funds from the Kingdom to stabilize the island in the short term. OUR PEOPLE NEED HELP AND THEY NEED IT NOW!!!

Claude Chacho Peterson

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



PHILIPSBURG - On November 3rd 2017, His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday signed the national decree declaring that early elections would take place on January 8th, 2018. “This was a very rash decision, seeing that the decree was signed within 24 hours, without taking into consideration the current situation that exists in the country following hurricane Irma,” Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) Wycliffe Smith said on Tuesday.

“Hundreds of families are roofless, homeless, jobless and displaced. People on the island are still in survival mode and election is the last thing on their minds. Moreover, the institutions used to facilitate elections, such as the Electoral Council, the Central Voting Bureau and the Post Office are all severely damaged.

“The decision by the Governor to enforce snap elections shows that he is not sensitive to the needs of the people, nor is he aware that the entities involved in handling the elections are non-functional at this time. Likewise Prime Minister, William Marlin who, due to his daily interaction with the people, should have been even more aware of the suffering of the people and of the severe damage that the various election offices had endured.

“This is Prime Minister Marlin’s third stint dealing with Parliamentary dissolutions. In May 2013, Marlin, then as Acting Prime Minister, submitted a draft national decree to the Governor to dissolve Parliament. This was done while Marlin was deputizing for then Prime Minister, Mrs. Sarah Wescot-Williams. The draft decree was co-signed by Ministers Silveria Jacobs, Roland Tuitt and Romeo Pantophlet and resulted in the famous “Mexican Standoff”. Fortunately, the Governor was able to circumvent the dissolution of Parliament at that time.

“In 2015, William Marlin, as parliamentarian, was completely opposed to the dissolution of Parliament prompted by the government of Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs. In the public meeting of Parliament held on October 28th 2015, MP William Marlin stated that “the government should not have invoked article 59 because of the motion of no confidence. This is a gross violation; it is unacceptable.” Quoting Ing. Ralph Richardson, former Lt. Governor and constitutional expert, MP Marlin said “Richardson says that article 59 is not there for the government to strike back at the parliament”.

“On November 2nd 2017, just two years later, Prime Minister William Marlin ate his own words and in a vindictive move struck back at parliament by submitting a national decree to the Governor for the dissolution of Parliament.

“In 2013, most likely after seeking expert advice, the Governor was able to resolve the conflict. In 2015 the Governor sought advice from three legal minds commonly called the “three wise men”. Unfortunately, as he was unable to quell this conflict, he signed the decree calling for early elections in February 2016. Subsequently, this decree had to be amended due to a faulty date. Then apparently, because of political pressure, the Governor issued a new decree on December 15th 2015, thereby postponing the elections by six months and consequently violating the constitution.

“Furthermore, article 59 states that after the dissolution of Parliament, the newly elected Parliament must meet within three months. The Governor blatantly violated the constitution by postponing the elections by nine months. Lisa Alexander ought to be commended for calling the Governor out and presenting this constitutional violation to the Constitutional Court. Unfortunately, her case was considered inadmissible due to the fact that it was presented to the wrong court.

“On November 2nd last, Governor Holiday, for the third time during his tenure, was presented with a decree to dissolve Parliament. It beats me that he signed off on such a serious decision within 24 hours. Apparently, he did not consult with the persons involved in the election process, like attorney Jason Rogers, Chairman of the Central Voting Bureau, attorney Bert Hoffman, Chairman of the Electoral Council or Stuart Johnson, Chairman of the Supervisor Board of Post Services St. Maarten.

“According to article 21 of the Governor’s Regulation he did not have to sign the dissolution decree but could have submitted it to the King for annulment. Could it be that political pressure once again precipitated such a fast move on the part of the Governor?

“Now that the Governor has signed and published the decree based on article 59 of the Constitution he cannot pull back his decision. An annulment at this time would be in violation of the three months scheduled between the dissolution of the previous parliament and the first meeting of the newly elected parliament. Any period beyond the three months would also be in violation of the constitution.

“The Governor cannot single handedly change the constitutionally specified term mentioned in article 59. A proposal for a constitutional alteration must be endorsed by at least two thirds of parliament and cannot be ratified until the views of the Kingdom government have been obtained.

“In 2015, the Governor unlawfully extended the election date in order to give the Marlin Cabinet sufficient time to deal with ship jumping and electoral reform. However, nothing was done about these two issues. Electoral reform would have ensured that, in the case of snap elections, the Census Office would have had enough time to update the voters’ registry and new parties would have had sufficient time to register for the upcoming election. However, because the postulation date has been set for November 13th 2017, this bars new political parties from registering, which is a violation of the democratic right of the people.

“In summary, the electoral process for snap elections has been initiated based on article 59 of the constitution and the Governor is not allowed to change the constitutionally specified term singlehandedly. As the representative of the King he is duty-bound to uphold and protect the constitution of Sint Maarten,” Wycliffe Smith, Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party concluded.


Journalism under fire amid rise of ‘fake news’ and social media-driven echo chambers – UNESCO report

INTERNATIONAL, 6 November 2017 – The media industry, which remains the primary source of news and information in the digital age, faces both vast opportunities and steep challenges, the United Nations cultural agency said on Monday in its flagship analysis of new trends in media freedom, pluralism, independence and the safety of journalists.

“Covering the period 2012 to 2017, this study not only maps emerging global trends – it makes an unequivocal call to action to counter new and persistent challenges,” stated Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the foreword of the report, titled the World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development.

“This provides a unique reference point for Member States, intergovernmental organizations, civil society groups, academia, journalists and media professionals, and all those who wish to understand the fundamentals of press freedom in a changing world,” she added.

The report highlights such positive developments as civil society mobilizing to push for greater access to information, media houses cooperating with fact-checking services to push back against a torrent of disinformation, and more and more Governments adopting freedom of information laws.

In the digital age, the report says, women journalists are able to develop an online presence liberated from newsroom hierarchies, and citizen journalists and activists have access to modes of mass communication that were previously unthinkable.

The report, however, warned that “across the world, journalism is under fire,” citing the rise of ‘fake news’ stories that shroud the truth and muddy information, as well as social media algorithms that are contributing to the creation of virtual ‘echo chambers’ and exacerbating political polarization. Governments have shut down the internet, notably before elections. Journalists are under wide-ranging attack, facing rising violence.

“The stakes are even higher for citizens across the world, women and men, who rely on professional journalism to navigate the development and transformation of their societies,” Ms. Bokova said.

The key findings were presented by Guy Berger, Director of UNESCO’s Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development at an event, held alongside the Communication and Information Commission of UNESCO’s General Conference in Paris.


The Caribbean needs ThinkTanks

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - As an introduction, I could give you one of the many definitions of a ThinkTank, a Brain-Box or what Brainstorming is.  I’ll spare you the futile semantics and just come to point of what is needed from my perspective. The Caribbean needs ‘Think & Do Tanks’ that are characterized by ‘Leadership of Thought’.  

My vision of a ‘Think & Do Tank’ is not a committee of some kind or other.  It is an interdisciplinary communication process for in-depth consideration of issues and challenges, which relevance reaches beyond individual persons, governments, businesses, operations, associations, and time frames. 

A ‘Think & Do Tank’ must intensively consider how a future generation of professionals, operations and authorities may handle interdisciplinary matters in an ideal manner. It will suggest a pragmatic framework to improve synergy, enhance knowledge sharing and collaboration. It will foster innovation and offer solutions. And finally…, it will actually be implemented.   

Of course, the process must be handled by persons. So, who are they? Individuals who can typically develop independent thinking patterns, which is my personal definition of intelligence! New ideas are more imaginative, original and creative when "hatched" in the company of a group of people who are willing to take on the challenge of being instrumental in making significant changes. We need to find leadership for change.

We are not looking for leadership in the political sense of the word. Innovation is the number one contributor to growth. How does one find new ideas, new ways; how to be innovative? Responding to change and a need to innovate requires an approach that goes beyond conventional thinking and discussion.

If we continue to think and act the way we always do, we would not come up with anything new, would we? Leaders of Change usually break the rules of traditional thinking; fearlessly challenging conventional wisdom, unthinking and rethinking ideas and solutions.

The ‘Think & Do Tank’ will have a predetermined topic as starting point and from there on it is all open to the dynamics of exchanges of experiences and ideas of the participants in a climate of tolerance to different opinions. Any trick of the trade will be used to move forward from that starting point of the Tank by bringing in suggestions which will be pushed as far to the edge as possible by challenging, redefining, adapting, modifying, magnifying, minifying, substituting, rearranging, reversing, combining, infusing, refining, etc.

It will result in sparking positive changes. Emphasis will be put on innovation and creativity. There is a need to have the courage to do things in a new and better way to make a difference. There will be a quest for generating benchmarks and developing new best practices.

My favorite two predetermined topics? How about reinventing Caribbean tourism that is so unique that it can outdo any other offering of tourism products anywhere else in the world. How about reinventing Caribbean economies that are healthy, flourishing, and are a showcase of a prosperous society? 

The conclusions and results of the ‘Think & Do Tank’ will become benchmarks or role models after which political players or captains of the industry may remodel and improve their future operations, activities, or policies. The outcome may become a referral or focus point for other communication platforms in politics or industries locally, in the region, or even abroad.

It is a movement towards a culture of action and responsibility that enables channeling entrepreneurial ideas into actions that improve the lives of people. It can also improve the quality of public policies that directly and indirectly affect the functioning of markets and therefore the possibilities of the territories in the region to develop.

An action-oriented ‘Think & Do Tank’ is a most desired process in the Caribbean. It could even become a building block in developing a knowledge industry in the region since it would allow the educational institutions to attract, retain, build and motivate local talent, develop an independent research program, invest in public outreach programs and ensure that research results inform and influence policy debates.

It is a fact that Think Tanks are in a unique position to effect positive change in their societies. A ‘Think & Do Tank’ shall be conceived to make those changes actually happen.

By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert


Bonn: UN climate conference to maintain ambition one year after Paris accord’s entry into force

INTERNATIONAL, 3 November 2017 – One year after the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Bonn Conference, which opens on 6 November in Germany, will be an opportunity for nations around the world to show their ambition for climate action and their determination to keep their promises.

“While Paris represented one of those moments where the best of humanity achieved an agreement so important to our collective futures, Bonn represents how we will move forward to fulfill its promise”, said the Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Patricia Espinosa, on the margins of a ministerial meeting in Fiji on 17 October 2017 to prepare for the Bonn Conference of the Convention’s States Parties.

“We are running out of time to turn things around. To do so, we must significantly increase our efforts to reduce emissions and our carbon footprints,” she added.

The Paris Agreement, which was adopted by the 196 Parties to the UNFCCC in December 2015 in the French capital after which it is named, calls on countries to combat climate change by limiting the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and strive not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A year ago, the Marrakech Climate Conference concluded with the Marrakech Action Proclamation, for our climate and sustainable development, in which the UNFCCC States Parties affirmed their “commitment” to the “full implementation” of the Paris Agreement. Today, 169 Parties have ratified the Agreement.

At the Bonn Conference, informally known as COP 23, countries will seek to move forward in completing the rule book for operationalizing the Paris Agreement. The Conference, which runs until 17 November, is chaired by Fiji, an island State particularly affected by the impacts of climate change.

“Never has our work been more necessary. We see this with respect to the extreme weather events affecting almost every continent throughout the world,” said Ms. Espinosa.

COP 23 President and Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama agrees. “We can no longer ignore this crisis. Whether it is fires in California, Portugal and Spain. Flooding in Nigeria, India and Bangladesh. The dramatic Arctic melt. Ice breaking off the continent of Antarctica. The recent hurricanes that devastated the Caribbean and the southern United States […] It’s hard to find any part of the world that is unaffected by these events”, he said at the ministerial meeting in Fiji.

Bonn Conference an opportunity to boost climate risk management efforts

In an op-ed published in October 2017, Ms. Espinosa, alongside the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner, and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Robert Glasser, said the Bonn Conference “provides an opportunity to not only accelerate emission reductions but also boost the serious work of ensuring that the management of climate risk is integrated into disaster risk management as a whole.”

A week before the opening of the Bonn Conference, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that the levels of carbon dioxide (C02) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

The Bonn Conference will feature a series of meetings and events, including the high-level segment, on 15 November and 16 November, attended by Heads of State and Government, Ministers, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Mr. Guterres has invited leaders to consider championing six high-impact areas at a special Climate Summit in 2019. These areas are investment in clean technology, maturing carbon pricing, enabling the energy transition, risk mitigation and building resilience, augmenting the contribution of sub-national actors and business and mobilizing climate finance.

“Increasing ambition is the only way to keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius this century, and as close to 1.5 degree as possible. By focusing on these sectors, we can substantially reduce the gap between where we are and where we need to be,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, at the pre-COP meeting in Fiji.

Among the side events scheduled at COP 23, several will be organized under the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action to show how cities, regions, private sector companies and investors are trying to implement the Paris Agreement in the areas of energy, water, agriculture, oceans and coastal areas, human settlements, transportation, industry, and forests.


'Rethink ways to govern cities,' UN-Habitat chief urges on World Day

INTERNATIONAL, 31 October 2017 – Marking World Cities Day, a senior United Nations official on Tuesday spotlighted the need to find innovate ways to govern cities, as more than half of the world's population live in urban areas.

“The scope and speed at which people access information and interact among themselves is unprecedented in history, and institutions need to react to these new ways to exercise citizenship,” said Joan Clos, the head of the UN Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat), in his message for the Day, whose theme this year is 'Innovative Governance, Open Cities.'

“We should not fear innovation,” he stressed.

The adoption of the New Urban Agenda in 2016 at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, widely referred to as Habitat III, has given a vision on how to build, plan and manage cities in a more inclusive, safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable way.

Mr. Clos said that the use of technology, like crowd-sourcing, can help generate ideas and create fresh approaches to governance and policy-making.

“If we open our minds to the possibilities and opportunities open government present, it will contribute significantly to generating a better world for people, planet and prosperity,” he said.

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