The Hon. Minister Shawn Richards captured the sentiments of many small island state ministers at the 40th Session of the UNESCO General Conference when he urged UNESCO to be expedient in deploying its expertise to address the vulnerabilities of SIDS, “plagued by regularly occurring and more intensified natural disasters resulting from environmental degradation and climate change”. He also spoke to issues relating to education and water sustainability.
Attending the biennial General Conference of UNESCO attended by over 190 ministers drawn from its sovereign state members, Minister Richards spoke of the unwavering support the government of St. Kitts & Nevis continues to receive from UNESCO – a specialised UN agency covering policy development in culture, education and science – in contributing its valuable expertise to small islands. UNESCO, he remarked in his speech before the General Conference of ministers, “remains an indisputable partner in our quest to achieve the UN sustainable development goals”.
Referring to UNESCO’s SIDS Action Plan, Minister Richards called for a “reconfigured and more targeted approach to be pursued in identifying SIDS activity priorities”, especially in a resource stretched environment. In some sharply-worded terms, the Minister urged that “attention be given to reducing the complexity of the scope of the Action Plan, to more adequately reflect the unique specifities of SIDS structural vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities include susceptibility to limited economies of scale, geographical remoteness as well limitations on natural, human and technical resource bases and attendant high indebtedness”.
Amongst the areas Minister Richards prioritised for heightened UNESCO attention in terms of SIDS policy development was climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions, education andsustainable water policies.
In relation to climate change, noted the Minister, “we suffer from inadequate data collection tools for assessment of impacts, identifying key vulnerabilities on the ground, and risk management/reduction mechanisms, with timely assessments by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission/Tsunami Warning System”.
Accompanying the Minister was the Federation’s Ambassador to UNESCO, based in Paris, Dr. David P. Doyle, who summed up the narrative by saying “In short, St. Kitts & Nevis looks to UNESCO as a major partner in our efforts to adapt and build resilience to the disastrous effects of climate change”.
Also joining the Minister Richards at the UNESCO General Conference was Ms. Dorothy Warner, the new secretary-general of the SKN National Commission for UNESCO, who stated that “I am honored to be part of the Federation’s delegation for the first time”.