18 March 2009

St. Kitts-Nevis To Host Major United Nations Conference

Caribbean Venue of Decolonisation Talks

By Carlos Lopez de Otero
Reprinted from Overseas Territories Report

The island Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis will be the focus of international attention as the venue for the 2009 annual United Nations Caribbean Regional Seminar on the political, economic and constitutional developments in the non self-governing territories worldwide. The decision was taken last February at the organisational session of the Special Committee on Decolonisation which formally accepted the offer of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member State to host the session scheduled for this May.

The event will bring together ambassadors from United Nations member states, ministerial level representation from dependent territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, several decolonisation experts and non-governmental organisation representatives from the region to address the present state of the decolonisation process.

The 2009 seminar will be the final session held in the Caribbean pursuant to the international Plan of Action of the United Nations Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism which ends in 2010. As such, the recommendations of the Caribbean Seminar will be fundamental to the development of future international actions to be taken to further the self-determination process in the remaining dependent territories, most of which are small island territories in the Caribbean and Pacific regions.

The Caribbean territories are Bermuda, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla administered by the British; and Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands administered by the United States. The associated countries of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, and the integrated departments of Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana, are not within the political scope of the United Nations decolonisation efforts.

The importance of regional involvement in the self-determination process for the small island territories was articulated in a 2008 article written for Overseas Territories Journal by International Advisor on Governance Dr.Carlyle Corbin who noted that “the Caribbean territories are integral components of the social and economic fabric of the region” with three of the British-administered territories enjoying “membership or associate membership in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), one as a full member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), with five other dependencies enjoying associate membership in CARICOM.”

Corbin, who is the former US Virgin Islands Minister of State for External Affairs, also pointed out that many of the British-administered territories were also borrowing members of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), and most of them along with the US - administered territories, were associate members of the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC), a subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Corbin, who was an advisor to several previous Caribbean Chairs of the Decolonisation Committee, observed that “since the beginning of the 1990s, Caribbean delegations sought a more active role in the work of the Special Committee (on Decolonisation) in recognition that developments in the Caribbean territories could have certain impacts on the wider region, given the level of integration of these territories in the economic and social life of the Caribbean.”

To this end, he recalled that “the Caribbean has played an historic role in the process of United Nations review through the hosting of these regional seminars in past years to examine the evolving economic, social and political situation in the territories, beginning in Barbados (1990), Grenada (1992), Trinidad and Tobago (1995), Antigua and Barbuda (1997), St. Lucia (1999), Cuba (2001), Anguilla (2003) St. Vincent and the Grenadines (2005) and Grenada (2007)."

Corbin went further to note that “in recent years, the Eastern Caribbean, in particular, has expanded its role in the U.N. review of the neighboring territories, with all six OECS States - Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica and Grenada serving as members of the strategic UN Special Committee on Decolonisation.”

He also emphasized the significance of the dependent territories of Anguilla and Montserrat using the Eastern Caribbean dollar as their official currency along with the neighboring OECS independent countries.

All indications are that the role of the Caribbean region is critical in promoting the self-determination process leading to the decolonisation of the remaining small island territories. In this regard, Caribbean states have been urged to place the issue of contemporary self-determination on the permanent CARICOM agenda given that further delay in the decolonisation process of the remaining dependent territories could affect the integration movement.

The convening of the St. Kitts-Nevis seminar in May could mark a defining moment in furthering the development process for the dependent territories of the Caribbean region, with the potential to make a significant contribution to the overall Caribbean integration movement.