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CIBC FirstCaribbean’s First in Business Seminar a Success

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - “The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector is one of the primary drivers of economic growth and employment in a country in which they operate. 

They create financial independence, provide employment and encourage innovation, said Garth Sherwood, Country Manager CIBC FirstCaribbean as he addressed some eighty (80) businesses at the opening of the First in Business Seminar hosted by the bank on March 14th. 

“Prior to Hurricane Irma you accounted for 85% of companies operating and you provided approximately 20% of the TOT collected by Government. I have used these numbers to properly put into context the importance of you and your business to the economy of our Island. Time has come to provide the MSME community with an opportunity to grow their business, not only by providing you with working capital assistance when necessary but also by facilitating a forum that provides important information that can assist in facilitating an improvement in the performance and management of your businesses.” Sherwood further stated.

Minister of Finance the Honorable Perry Geerlings, who was also present, said the event “a welcomed and much needed seminar - an excellent platform to share information and knowledge.” 

The forum provided businesses the opportunity to network and gain expertise in the specific fields of Law, Finance, Insurance and Accounting in an engaging setting. Presentations and discussions were conducted with guest speakers Daniella Engelhardt of Van Eps van Doorne Law Firm, Ms. Marcia Illidge, BDO Accounting Firm, Mr. Neil Henderson, Henderson International Insurance and Mr. Jimmy Challenger of CIBC FirstCaribbean. 

“With the vital information presented, the bank aims to assist businesses with improvements in management and performance within their industries. CIBC FirstCaribbean remains adamant in its prominent role in the success of the island and its businesses. The First in Business seminar is confirmation of this commitment”, said Sherwood.  

The bank recently also held a Driven to Own Financial Planning and Mortgage series event in collaboration with MotorWorld, bringing more than two hundred (200) attendees together seeking ownership and solid financial freedom. 

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Workshop teaches focusing on the positive things

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - On March 11th– March 13th, the Mental Health Foundation organized the Positive Supervision, Intervention & Conflict Management Workshop given by Drs. Fredrike Bannink and sponsored by Samenwerkende Fondsen at the Holland House hotel conference room.

During three days, Drs. Bannink attendees were trained and given insight that in complex situations (such as how best to avoid conflict situations), it is more effective to focus on the positive happening in one’s life, workplace etc. and build on that, instead of concentrating your energy on the negative. This mind set is based on the positive psychology movement and solution-oriented working which is increasingly applied all over the world. 

Before the workshop, a lot of interest was shown from multiple organizations and individuals on the island which led to all the spots been taken within three days. The 54 people who were able to claim a seat consisted of staff from the Mental Health Foundation, White & Yellow Cross Foundation, VSA, Safe Haven, Turning Point & the Bureau Ombudsman of Sint Maarten.

Overall the workshop was found to be very constructive and inspiring, as many people bought the books and asked for a follow-up session. Empowered with new insights, the Mental Health Foundation will continue to provide the best care possible for the people on Sint Maarten and would like to thank all attendees, sponsors and of course Drs. Bannink for these successful three days said MHF executive assistant Cyrille Brooks.

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Finance Minister impressed with Oryx Residences. ‘Construction to be finalised by the end of Summer’

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) — Construction of the Oryx Residences in Cay Hill is at  60 per cent according to its developers the Algemeen Pensioenfonds Sint MaartenAPS and should be completed at the end of Summer this year. 

This information was conveyed to Finance Minister with oversight on APS the honourable Perry Geerlings who was treated to a "walk-through inspection of the property" on Thursday afternoon. He received a progress report from Contractors Liccom and from the Management Team of APS. 

The Minister expressed his satisfaction at the APS's decision to invest in the development of homes for residents on St. Maarten.

He said, "This means that those paying into the Pension Fund such as teachers and police officers along with government administration workers, can have the opportunity to benefit from the Fund even before entering pension age and become homeowners which by itself is a great achievement." 

In attendance for the guided tour of the facility were, Manager of APS Projects Kendra Arnell, APS Managing Director Nadya Croes-van Putten, Hans Hootsmans, Andre Sneep and Henk Van den Heuvel of Construction Company Liccom and Jelle Janssens representing APS. Geerlings was accompanied by the Director of the Cabinet of Finance Wilgo Lieveld.  

The first stop on the tour of the property was a visit to one of the 44 Town Houses that are near completion. The Town Houses consist of two and three bedroom houses. The next stop was a visit to the apartment complex which rests on top of a parking structure built for its residents. There are 18 apartments including three 1 bedroom homes, three are 3 bedroom homes, with the remainder being 2 bedroom homes.  

One key factor for the Oryx Residences according to APS is the common area that sits in the centre of the facility. The idea behind the design of the complex is to recreate the “St. Maarten community style of living.” 

Geerling said, "The Complex is impressive and a new concept for St. Maarten that offers a very high-quality product to potential homeowners." The structures sit on the outskirts of the compound creating an enclosure, making it a private residential area with secured access. Persons interested in becoming owners of any of the Oryx Residences are encouraged to visit the pension funds office and apply.  

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Minister inside one of the Two Bedroom Apartments that is near completion. 

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Minister walks through property. 

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Tzu Chi donates 150 food packages to needy; touches hearts at gratitude, blessing event

SINT MAARTEN (CUL DE SAC) - “Touching,” “a blessing” and “impressive” were some of the words used by attendees to describe the 2019 St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation Gratitude and Blessing Ceremony held at the Philipsburg Cultural and Community Center on Sunday, March 10.

“It touched my heart,” Indian merchant Damu Rawtani said at the end of the event.

Tzu Chi holds the ceremony in the first quarter of every year to give thanks and to reflect on its work in the community over the past calendar year as well as to educate the public on environmental and other important issues. The event also serves as the occasion to present Tzu Chi Founder Master Cheng Yen’s appreciation Hong Boa (red envelope) to local volunteers and participants. The Hong Boa is a red envelope containing a gift usually given on special occasions.

During this year’s ceremony, the foundation presented 150 food packages to pre-selected recipients, as it continues its efforts to help alleviate burdens on families in need in the community.

This year’s event was informative, educational and entertaining and included a performance from a group of Chinese students, a performance of the sign language song “So I stand up,” an educational presentation on global warming from St. Dominic High’s International Baccalaureate (IB) students, a review of Tzu Chi’s post hurricane Irma efforts in the community in 2017 and 2018 and speeches and sharing from past recipients.

Roger Yee-Fong, Eldica Richardson and Carlos Dollison were emcees for the event.  Guests were told that Tzu Chi international is now 53-years-old; has offices in 57 countries and brought aid to 97 regions in the world.

“We are connected like one big family. Therefore, we love each other during peaceful times and help each other when there are calamities. In a darkness, there is a light of Tzu Chi,” Richardson told the capacity crowd.

She urged attendees to strive to cultivate blessings for a mindful year and to be grateful every day and every moment. “Towards every person, every matter, in every hour, every minute, we should always have a heart of gratitude. Let us get rid of the old and welcome the new to celebrate a mindful year. Live each of the 365 days of the year with mindfulness by eliminating afflictions,” Richardson stressed.

In remarks at the ceremony, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (ECYS) Wycliffe Smith said volunteering, helping others, and reaching out are very important attributes that St. Maarten seems to be losing. “People seem to be more selfish and ego centric and into themselves and we are losing reaching out to others, caring and showing kindness,” the minister said. He thanked Tzu Chi for demonstrating these attributes in its work in the community and urged it to continue its “good work.” “Important are the lessons that we learnt about saving the earth and preserving the environment and eating well.”

Smith said at the end of the program that it was very enlightening to see what Tzu Chi has been doing in St. Maarten over the past years and especially after hurricane Irma. “You have reached out to those in need, you have assisted, provided the necessities that people needed and I know that St. Maarten is very grateful to you and I want to wish you well... for doing such excellent work. You are touching lives and you are making a difference in the lives of people and when you make a difference in the lives of people gradually you can make a difference in the whole world.”

Winston Flanders, whose home Tzu Chi volunteers cleaned and decluttered after hurricane Irma, expressed his gratitude to the foundation for their efforts during brief remarks at the event. “I appreciate all that they do for me,” Flanders said. “It was a wonderful experience. Even though I don’t know you, you still came out to help me clean up my home and I really appreciate it,” Flanders said adding that when he gets better he wants to return the favor by helping persons in need in his area of expertise – plumbing and electrician.  

Representative of the Preparatory Secondary Vocational Education (PSVE) section of St. Maarten Academy Amy Arrindell thanked the foundation for their continued support to students and wished everyone “a mindful new year.” The school also presented a token of appreciation to Tzu Chi for their constant and consistent support.  

A group of St. Dominic High IB students depicted the effects of global warming on the environment through video and skit and showed the audience how they can play their part to stop the degradation by conserving water and electricity.

At the end of the event the students said they enjoyed working with the foundation for the project, noting that the work of the foundation is touching and loving. One student said she learnt a lot during the process and another said the experience opened her mind to see how humanity can work together to create a better world.

Saskia Amatdawoed, who was one of three persons to be certified as a Tzu Chi commissioner last year, said she has been a happy Tzu Chi volunteer for more than ten years. “I feel that being part of Tzu Chi has done something positive in my life for me. Tzu Chi is more than charity and it is bigger than humanity; it is a great culture and it is so much a part of my life that Tzu Chi is center of my calm,” she said. “It took me a long time to realize this. In life, you have to find yourself. You reach a point in Tzu Chi that it is not about keeping yourself together or on the ground, it is about the people around you. It is all things positive, not perfect, but good.”

She said being in Tzu Chi has allowed her to assist others, discover life and most of all, help people who are in need. “In Tzu Chi, I don’t look at myself in a negative light, I look around and see the beauty that surrounds me. After Irma, I realized that many people needed help… I went to Taiwan in November 2018 to be certified. Being certified does not mean I have reached the finish mark, it means that now is the real beginning. It is now that I will start to actively take on Tzu Chi’s mission; walk in dharma and learn to live according to Tzu Chi’s mission by working in the community.

Former first lady Angela Richards-Huggins said after the event, that following hurricane Irma residents were hit hard and “we as St. Maarteners are happy that Tzu Chi is here to help.”

The curtains closed on the program with volunteers and attendees holding lit candles during the singing of prayer song “Love and Care;” the presentation of Master Cheng Yen’s “Hong Boa;” and the distribution of 150 food packages to the needy.

Attendees then enjoyed vegetarian delicacies prepared by Tzu Chi and the St. Maarten Filipino Community Foundation with love.  A number of volunteers were at the event including four VKS officers who went to assist as volunteers.  

Tzu Chi Commissioner Sandra Cheung said she is grateful to everyone who attended the event, performed, presented or in one way or another supported the event and she looks forward to working even more in the community in the coming period.

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28 Civil Servants take the Oath

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Twenty-eight persons took the Civil Servant's Oath before Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication TEATT the Honourable Stuart Johnson on Monday afternoon at the Government Administration Building in Philipsburg. These individuals are now officially members of the St. Maarten Civil Service in the Ministry of TEATT.

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SUV crashes into Food Truck injuring three passengers. Driver wearing seatbelt uninjured

PHILIPSBURG - The Traffic Department is currently investigating a traffic accident which left three injured on Sunday 10thMarch at approximately 05:30 am. The accident took place on the Walter Nisbeth road, the official police report on Monday said. 

The central dispatch received a phone call and immediately sent patrol and ambulance to the scene, where they found a vehicle, gold Honda SUV, travelling on the Walter Nisbeth road had crashed into a food truck. 

According to reports received from the traffic department the driver of the SUV was travelling at high speeds and causing the driver to lose control and crash into the food truck. Three of the passengers suffered injures due to the crash. 

They were treated on the scene by paramedics and then taken to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) for further treatment. The driver, who was the only occupant in the vehicle to have on his seatbelt, walked away without any injures.  

The food truck was closed at the time of the accident. A traffic investigation is still currently on going to determine the actual cause of the accident.  (Sint Maarten Police Force) 

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1000 Women March

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - POSH hosted the second annual 1000 Women March this past Saturday, March 9th, under the umbrella of the 2019 Womanity Fest

The march began at the One Tete Lokayroundabout in Cay Hill and proceeded on Welgelegen Road to Church Hill round about on to L.B. Scott Road and concluded at the Jose Lake Sr. Ball Park

For the second year, the march was led by the reigning Carnival Queens followed by the Generation New Status Drum Band and a combination of the 2019 Delegates and supportive women, men and children. 

The march commenced directly after the “Four Faces of Women” seminar given by Sister Devki of Bhrama Kumaris at the Belair Community Center. The Seminar was the second collaborative event hosted by Elektralyets, Positive Foundation, Womens Desk and Posh Productions under the Womanity Fest calendar for 2019, in a press statement from Anna Richardson, Director of Posh Productions.

At the end of the march the drum band played sets for the enjoyment of the marchers and spectators who gathered around. 

POSH President Anna Richardson shared some words of appreciation to the supporters who took the time to see the significance in the march of unity, togetherness, empowerment and positivity amongst women in our community. 

She extended words of appreciation to the reigning Queens of St. Maarten, and her partners in Womanity Fest; Mercedes “Elektra” van der Waals Wyatt president of the Elektralyets Foundation, Shelly Alphonso of Positive Foundation and Malayka Marlin of Women’s Desk, for their support that made the events a successful one

She urge the public to visit any of the participating collaborators social media pages for more eventsand activities in the month of March.

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Nature Foundation Requests Update from Parliament on Single-Use Plastics Ban

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has requested in writing an update from Parliament on steps currently being taken to ban single-use plastic products such as plastic bags, straws and cutlery and Styrofoam food containers in an effort to reduce marine litter and pollution on St Maarten. Single use plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of this generation. These types of plastics are also a major contributor to the current situation at the Philipsburg landfill. 

St Maarten uses a remarkable amount of single-use plastics every day, as plastic bags are given for free for every purchased item and plastic straws with any drink. Also takeout food in Styrofoam is normal and very popular, this also includes plastic cutlery. The Nature Foundation calculated that Dutch St Maarten alone uses more than 1.4 billion plastic straws a year; straws are used for a few minutes and last forever in the environment. A lot of our single-use plastics end up in our environment and ocean due to littering and poor garbage disposal. Besides, St Maarten just cannot handle this much single-use plastic waste, the landfill is already overfull. 

Single-use plastic products are easy to be replaced with more environmentally sustainable materials; reusable products are highly recommended, such as reusable shopping bags, these bags are much more durable and stronger, the less waste we create the better for our waste problems. Single-use products can easily be substituted by biodegradable products such as paper straws or biodegradable cups and food containers, which are all already available on the island.

Biodegradable disposable products are abundantly available on our island; the more businesses will shift to biodegradable alternatives the lower the prices will go and availability will increase. Paper straws, paper or sugar cane plates, bamboo plates, biodegradable cups, paper food containers, paper bags, wooden cutlery and much more are all already available on St. Maarten but without an official ban businesses and events will continue to use single use plastics.

Worldwide, there is a growing movement to move away from single-use plastics. Over 200 nations have already either banned items like plastic bags and straws or require consumers to pay a fee per use. Recently various Caribbean countries have banned various forms of single use plastics.  EU planned to ban single-use plastic products in order to reduce the massive amount of ocean pollution. The Sint Maarten landfill reached its maximum capacity already in 2008 and garbage bins along beaches are overflowing daily, there is simply no more room for unnecessary waste.

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Record 27 troupes for Grand Carnival Parade. Cultural Parade with Juniors

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Grand Parade for Carnival’s 50thanniversary will feature a record 27 registered troupes of all sizes, while the Junior Parade will feature 4 troupes followed by a Cultural Parade right behind it. The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) on Thursday said it is “beyond excited” and “extremely grateful and proud” to see so many decide to join in the anniversary parade.

The Grand Carnival Parade will start at its usual starting point at St. Johns Estate, down L.B. Scot Road, Bush Road, over Prins Bernard Bridge, Pondfill, turn at what is still called “Old van Dorp”, take Frontstreet, Emmaplein, around the Sundial round about then end at Carnival Village. The parade will begin at 10am on April 30. The second day parade or Labor Day Parade on May 1, will begin at 12 noon. The trucks will line up along Pondfill just after the Sundial round about.

The Junior Parade on April 28 will feature 4 medium to large troupes, with a little extra at the tail end. In collaboration with the Department of Culture, onlookers of the parade will also be treated to a Cultural Parade being organized by Clara Reyes and her team at the department. The SCDF expressed many thanks to Reyes and her department for stepping up and answering the call of culture for the parades. 

President of the SCDF Alston Lourens said Reyes is well known for bringing out the best of any cultural event and it was important to the foundation that this aspect be incorporated with the children parade in particular. 

As for the Grand Carnival Parade, Lourens said the amount of registrants even caught the foundation a little off guard but “we are not complaining.” He added: “Several troupes leaders were making plans long before 2019 and we didn’t know about it. So it was a nice surprise in the anniversary year when all of the registrations started to roll in.”

He said that many people who used to take part in troupes in the past have also decided to participate this year for Carnival 50. “So many revelers who hung up their jamming shoes told us they will be back on the road for this year. That’s the Carnival spirit we love and we hope it carries over to other years.”

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Building Hurricane Resiliency through Disaster Management and Disaster Medicine Lessons

SINT MAARTEN (CUPECOY) – His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday delivered recently his opening address at the opening ceremony of the 2019 International Conference on disaster medicine and hurricane resiliency by the American University of Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) Cupecoy, Sint Maarten.

The address is as follows:

Ladies and gentlemen 

Good evening,

I am pleased to join and welcome you for the opening of this conference on disaster medicine and hurricane resilience. To our guests from overseas, I extend special greetings and invite you to explore Sint Maarten and enjoy the warm hospitality of our friendly island.  

You are here at this conference as professionals responsible for healthcare delivery, disaster preparedness, emergency response, and medical education to foster collaboration among yourselves and thus our countries. Having examined the objectives and program of this conference, I applaud the decision of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, AUC and the Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to team up to organize this important event. Dr. Chumley and Dr. Quirk of AUC and Dr. Ciottone of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians I am particularly pleased that you have chosen Sint Maarten as the location of your newly established Caribbean Center for Disaster Medicine. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Natural disasters, in various forms, strike indiscriminately around the world leaving behind a trail of severe physical and emotional damage. We have all seen or experienced the heartbreak as a result of the loss of lives, the loss of homes and the destruction of critical national infrastructure caused by hurricanes here in Sint Maarten, in the wider Caribbean and on the American Main land.Notable in this regard are hurricanes “Luis in 1995”, “Ivan in 2004”, “Katrina in 2005”, Sandy in 2012, “Irma in 2017”, and “Maria also in 2017”.Andall indications are that hurricanes are only going to become stronger and more devastating as a result of the impact of climate change. In fact, the World Travel and Tourism Council predicts that the Caribbean will become the most at-risk tourist destination in the world between 2025 and 2050[1]. I believe that we already are. 

We must therefore continue to build hurricane resiliency; that is we must continue to build our national physical infrastructure and institutional and human capacity to effectively prepare for, withstand and recover quickly from the effects natural disasters. With that in mind it is imperative that we draw from and build on the lessons of our experiences with disaster management, in general, and disaster medicine, in particular.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The people of Sint Maarten, like the people of the wider Caribbean, are no strangers to hurricanes. Given that hurricanes are the most frequently occurring natural disaster on our island, disaster preparedness and hurricane preparedness are virtually synonymous for the public. A brief examination of the development of our disaster management program, in terms of preparedness, risk mitigation, response and recovery,show the resiliency lessons learned from every major storm. Some important lessons, which are by no means complete, include the following:

  • In 1995 hurricane Luis among others underscored the importance of enforcing strict building codes, of adequate emergency housing and of a more robust electricity and telecommunication grid. As a result, emergency homes have been built and significant investments have been and are being made to put the cables of the national grid underground.
  • In 1999 hurricane Lenny highlighted the importance of improved flood management. The infrastructure for the management of the water level of the ponds as the catchment area for flood water has subsequently been upgraded. 
  • And in 2017 hurricanes Irma accentuated the relevance of public order controls, of evacuation protocols, of collaboration with partner government agencies, of coordination with international non-governmental organizations and of maintaining adequate national and individual water, food and medical supplies. 

And as with previous lessons government is taking steps to further strengthen resiliency in these areas.

The question for this conference however is: What resiliency lessons have we learned from a perspective of disaster medicine? That is from the perspective of the provision of disaster medical services to save lives, to care for the injured, and to prevent outbreak of disease, as a result of hurricanes. I am sure that the session regarding “St. Maarten/Saint Martin Experiences of Hurricane Irma: Healthcare and Public Health Perspectives” as well as other sessions will provide some answers to that question. To anticipate the discussion, I shall however highlight a few points, as food for thought during your sessions. 

The role of disaster medicine has broadly speaking been around throughout human history. It is therefore not surprising that “Public Health and Medical Assistance” has a central role as an Emergency Support Function, in our national disaster management organization and program. Within that context it is, as you know, important to note that amedical disaster, by definition, is an event that requires medical services which exceed available resources. This is particularly challenging in the context of small island states, like Sint Maarten, where the human and physical resources are limited and part of the disaster area. Critical points of attention and lessons learned in this regard include: 

  1. The importance of securing the hospital from damage; 
  2. The imperative of operational self-sufficiency of the hospital during and in the aftermath of hurricanes;
  3. The need to secure or restore the supply of critical services, such as water, electricity and telecommunication to keep the hospital operational;
  4. The importance of having adequate medical supplies; and
  5. The maintenance of effective medical evacuation protocols.  

These issues translate in the difference between life and death and between emergency and disaster.  And as such underscore thesignificance of disaster medicine in building hurricane resilience. Hurricane resilience therefore requires that all health care and public health professionals within and across our borders must be prepared to respond to emergency situations. And as I make these remarks, I am aware that I am in fact preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, I believe that it is important to reemphasize the point given our common interest and challenges as a result of the real risks associated with climate change. 

I am, from the perspective of our common interest and challenges, encouraged to see representatives from a wide variety of nations from the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe gathered here for this conference. Experience show that natural disasters, in general, and in the Caribbean, in particular, take on regional and international dimensions requiring close cooperation and coordination between countries. 

The attendance of representative from countries from the region, and with close links to the region has the potential to strengthen cooperation and coordination and is testimony that our people have a common interest in disaster preparedness and building hurricane resilience. A fact which the AUC and the Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians recognize with the organization of this conference and the establishment of the Caribbean Center for Disaster Medicine.

I therefore congratulate the AUC, through you Dr. Chumley and the Harvard Medical Faculty Physiciansthrough Dr. Ciottone with organization of this conference and wish you much success with the further development of the Caribbean Center for Disaster Medicine.   

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, I trust that your discussions and interactions will lead to greater insights and answers in the management of medical disasters and as a result build greater hurricane resilience across our nations. I therefore wish you much success in your deliberations during the coming days.  

Thank you.

[1]Report from UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Published on 20 Sep 2017

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