Focus on poverty reduction, social equity and environmental protection PM leads high level delegation to Rio+20

POSTED: 06/19/12 11:55 AM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams leads the delegation from St. Maarten that is expected to form part of the larger Kingdom of the Netherlands grouping at this year’s Rio+20 Conference. The prime minister leaves the island today for the South American country of Brazil that is playing host to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) from June 20- June 22. It has been dubbed Rio+20 because this year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. And so twenty years after they would have adopted Agenda 21, a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection heads of governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and countries with observer status in the UN will meet in Rio to discuss their individual progress and draft a political document on how we can “reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an even more crowded planet to get to the future we want,” the conference website states.
“It is important that St. Maarten is represented at the conference due to our fledgling position on the global stage and the sensitivity our country has with regard to the topics being discussed during the Rio+20 conference. All of the points are of particular importance to St. Maarten as we are what is known as a Small Island Developing State and as such we are most vulnerable to environmental changes and external shocks,” a release from the Prime Minister press office stated on Monday.
Although there are seven priority areas for the caucus, two main themes will be focused on; a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development.
St. Maarten continues to face its own challenges in terms environmental protection, the lack of legislation to preserve the flora and fauna of the island and urbanization. Environmental groups such as St. Maarten Pride Foundation, St. Maarten National Heritage Foundation and the Emilio Wilson Estate Foundation have repeatedly called for their joint sustainable development plan drafted in 2007 to be adopted. The plan speaks to the setting up and adherence of standards for environmental and social impact assessments whenever any major development is to be undertaken, among other issues.
“It is also important that we highlight not only the challenges we face in the areas of social equity and environmental protection, but also that we highlight the steps Government has been taking to address these issues. As a young nation we have to be at the forefront of putting in place mechanisms to address the issues we are faced with,” the prime minister commented.
The preparations for Rio+20 have highlighted seven areas which need priority attention; these include decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness. The core theme of the conference will be the development of nations on a sustainable level.
“As is stated in the charter of the United Nations Environmental Program, sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This is seen as the guiding principle for long-term global development. It is important to realize that sustainable development consists of three main pillars, namely economic development, social development and environmental protection. Taking all of these factors into consideration is essential in developing our National Development Program and other framework and guiding documents on which government will base its governing program. It is therefore essential that St. Maarten is represented at such an important conference as Rio+20,” the Prime Minister stated.
In the lead up to Wednesday’s main conference, several side events such as Sustainable Development Dialogues and debates are being held over a four day period. These will involve members of civil society while governments and UN agencies have been barred from the sessions. Three recommendations emanating from each of the dialogues will be conveyed directly to the Heads of State and Government present at the Summit. With the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Dialogues initiative was launched through a digital platform ( in order to provide the wider public a democratic space for discussion.
Broadcasted live through the UN website, ten topics will be debated, based on their relevance to the furthering of sustainable development. They are: unemployment, decent work and migration, sustainable development as an answer to the economic and financial crises, sustainable development for fighting poverty, the economics of sustainable development, including sustainable patterns of production and consumption, forests, food and nutrition security, sustainable energy for all, water, sustainable cities and innovation and oceans.
The on-line debates on each of the ten themes of the dialogues, have been facilitated by researchers from renowned academic institutions around the world. Thus far they have resulted in ten concrete recommendations that can be viewed and voted for in a public website (
It is unclear if any of the island’s environmental organizations will be attending the conference.

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