SABA - On October 30th, Mr. Edison Rijna, Special Envoy for the BES Islands for EU & UN Funding and Economic Development with Latin America and the Caribbean, visited Saba together with his liaison, Mrs. Bianca Peters. The main purpose of the visit was to present a report created by the envoy, outlining the priorities and focus areas for the envoy team. During his time on the island, Mr. Rijna met with members of the Island Council & Executive Council and Saba Electric Company. These discussions were centered around core areas of interest outlined in the report released in September 2023.
“The appointment of a special envoy represents an important step in our commitment to the BES islands. The envoy team was created with one clear objective: to play a role in the sustainable economic development of the BES islands. Sustainable growth is important if we want to enhance the social and economic security of current and future generations on the islands. I regard the envoy team as an opportunity to promote the interests of the BES islands more effectively within the EU, the UN and the region, and to increase the use of potential funding by the islands” stated State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen in the forward of the report.
Focuses based on the Report
From earlier visits to the Caribbean, the envoy team identified five main focus areas needing attention and further development.
The first point is the importance of climate change, which includes climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. As the region faces the consequences of rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and environmental shifts, taking proactive measures to combat these threats becomes imperative. Effective climate action not only safeguards the environment but also protects vulnerable communities, sustains agriculture, and ensures the availability of our vital resources. Given Saba's vulnerability to environmental changes, this point holds particular importance in preserving the island's future.
The next topic concerns connectivity. There is a vital need for enhanced connectivity, spanning across sea, air, and digital channels. Enhancing these channels of access can be transformative for Saba, stimulating trade, tourism, and overall economic progress. Strong sea and air connections help facilitate the movement of goods and people, while an enhanced digital infrastructure fosters communication, innovation, and access to global markets. In an increasingly interconnected world, investing in connectivity is crucial for Saba’s competitiveness and resilience. Meaning, recognizing that improved accessibility can serve as a catalyst for trade, tourism, and economic development is pivotal for Saba's future prospects.
The following notion is food security and encompasses not only the availability of food but also its accessibility, affordability, and nutritional adequacy for all members of the community. Ensuring food security is paramount to addressing issues related to hunger, malnutrition, and overall public health. This notion involves the multifaceted areas of sustainable agricultural practices, equitable food distribution systems, and food safety measures.
The fourth focus is on further investing in renewable energy methods that continue to align with global sustainability goals. By harnessing sources like solar and wind, Saba can continue to reduce their carbon footprint, thereby continuing to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and improve our energy security.
The last focus of the report is diversification of Saba’s economy. Diversifying the economy is a strategic imperative that becomes increasingly achievable when we bolster the key areas of climate change, connectivity, renewable energy sources, and food security. A diversification strategy involves reducing dependence on a single industry or sector, thereby enhancing the resilience of Saba’s economy. By expanding economic opportunities across various sectors, such as tourism, agriculture, technology, and services, we can better navigate economic fluctuations and uncertainties. A diversified economy not only promotes stability but also spurs innovation and competitiveness. By drawing on the strengths of our unique resources and talents, we can unlock new potential for growth, and better meet the evolving needs of our community.
It is worth highlighting that Saba has taken proactive steps in all the areas discussed in this report. The island has initiated a range of ongoing and forthcoming projects that align seamlessly with the developmental objectives of the Special Envoy, the Netherlands, and the broader global standards. This positive stance progresses Saba, demonstrating its commitment to staying at the forefront of sustainable development and growth in the Caribbean region.
Mr. Rijna's visit underscores the significant role that his envoy team plays in providing valuable insights into the support available from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN). The contributions of the envoy team are expected to yield benefits, including improved regional relations, enhanced representation of Saba with the EU and UN, creation of financial opportunities through a focus on horizontal funds from the European Union, and closer consultation on these themes with the ministries in the Netherlands. These collaborative efforts promise to be beneficial not only to Saba but also to the ministries in the Netherlands and the Kingdom as a whole.
The Special Envoy Team’s visit to Saba marks a significant step towards advancing economic development on Saba and in the Caribbean region. With the discussions held during his stay and the role of his envoy team, Saba is poised to bring about positive changes, strengthening relations, representation, financial prospects, and collaboration, all in pursuit of sustainable growth for Saba.