OECS Ministers discuss environmental sustainability in Dominica
The third meeting of OECS Ministers responsible for environmental portfolios, since the Revised Treaty of Basseterre came into force, is currently under way in Dominica.
The two day meeting commenced on Wednesday 4 May 2016 with an opening ceremony at the Fort Young Hotel in Roseau.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Environment, Helen Royer said the meeting’s purpose is to operationalize Article 24.1 of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre.
The article states, “Each protocol member state shall implement the St. George Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the OECS to minimize environmental vulnerability, improve environmental management and protect the region’s natural resource base for optimal social and economic benefits for member states”.
Dominica, she said, is honoured to host this “timely and relevant” meeting after it was struck with the effects of climate change only recently.
Mrs. Royer said, “The presence of so many high level participants and the active engagement of the OECS Ministers of Sustainable Environment and Development partners show the importance we collectively attach to addressing the issue of sustainable environment”.
The meeting will focus on topics such as ocean governance, water resource management, energy and climate change in addition to other relevant issues related to environmental sustainability, natural disasters and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
These, Mrs Royer said, can be underscored as some of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) including Caribbean islands are said to bear the brunt of impact of climate variability, sea level rise and climate change.
They also face extremely high economic, social and environmental consequences as well as heavy reconstruction costs.
“I am therefore confident that this meeting will give impetus to the ongoing process under the St. George Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the OECS and result in positive outcomes,” Mrs Royer added.
The permanent secretary added that this “high level event” soon after COP 21 in Paris will provide a unique opportunity to take stock of the work done so far and keep pushing towards reaching the 2020 Development Goals.
“We all understand that there are issues of long term strategic importance for our countries, and to address these we need to work together across the political spectrum to build consensus and to take action.”
Climate change Mrs Royer continued is already being felt, thus, “we are clear that we need to respond with global and comprehensive strategy to avert further complications and implications and today’s meeting consolidates the fact and demonstrates that it can be done”.
Moreover, Minister for Health and Environment in Dominica, Dr. Kenneth Darroux, who also addressed the opening ceremony, said with the passage of Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015 the island with its “traditional determination and resilience” as well as “overwhelming support and assistance” from the regional and international community has been able to rise up in the face of this challenge to host this third meeting of Environment Ministers.
“I think this speaks volumes…I would like to thank the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission for convening this council of ministers for environmental sustainability here in Dominica. Thank you for believing in us.”
Dr Darroux said, Dominica – the Nature Isle of the Caribbean, has a responsibility to be a champion and a leader in the management of natural resources for sustainable development.
At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, one of the largest assemblies of world leaders in history, adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration which bound them to a global partnership to reduce poverty and setting up a series of time bounded targets with a deadline of 2015.
“Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals speak directly to the reason we are here today to ensure environmental sustainability,” the minister said adding that as Caribbean Small Island developing states, “operative and sustainable management of our resources of paramount and are directly correlated to our development”.
Small Island Developing States rely on their natural resources as their main source of GDP and on their natural resources to ensure food security, for livelihoods and indirectly health, Dr Darroux said.