[PHILIPSBURG] St. Maarten is the Regional Authorising Officer (RAO) for the 11th EDF Regional Program. The announcement was made at the Annual Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) Ministerial Conference and the 13th Annual OCTA/EU Forum from February 25 to 27 in Tortola. Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs signed the ratification document formalising this status.
This is the result of a nomination proposed by Montserrat in 2014 and ratified by the remaining 11 Caribbean OCTs in a vote by consensus. In this function St. Maarten will be responsible for the coordination, cooperation, programming, implementation and closing of the projects selected within the area of Sustainable Energy and Marine Biodiversity that will benefit all Caribbean OCTs as well as the wider Caribbean region.
A delegation from St. Maarten attended a series of events at the conference, namely, the Regional Conference for Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories, Trilateral Consultations, OCTA Ministerial Conference and the OCT-EU Forum. These meetings are a yearly requirement for the Overseas Countries and Territories.
The St. Maarten Delegation comprised of five (5) persons namely Prime Minister Gumbs who is also the and Territorial Authorising Officer (TAO) of Sint Maarten, he was accompanied by Mr. Marc Arnold, Deputy Territorial Authorizing Officer and Department Head Interior and Kingdom Relations, Ms. Khalilah Peters, Department Head of Foreign Relations, Ms. Olivia Lake, Policy Advisor Donor Coordination and EU Relations and Ms. Carol Voges, St. Maarten Representative in the Netherlands for EU Relations/OCTA Treasurer.
The Regional Conference
The European Commission, in cooperation with the Chairman of the Association of Overseas Countries and Territories (ОСТА) and Premier of British Virgin Islands hosted the Regional Conference for Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories, on February 23 and 24, 2015.
The outcome of the meeting delivered the topics for the 11th EDF OCT Regional Program which were Sustainable Energy and Marine Biodiversity. The regional program will mobilize a grant envelope of € 40 million over the coming six years.
Each OCT, also attended their required Trilateral Consultation with the European Commission, the member state, in this case the Netherlands and the OCT i.e. Sint Maarten. These dialogues are required at the minimum of four (4) times per year. The consultations concerned mainly the the aspects that relate to the European financial partnerships such as the recently completed 9th EDF, ongoing 10th EDF and future 11th EDF Programmes but also the French Dutch Cooperation program, OP-ETC and the upcoming RAO function that Sint Maarten will represent during the 11th EDF Regional Programme.
Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories Council Meeting
The core objective of this Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories Council is to promote wider regional cooperation within the OCTs. It is presently a political platform to discuss on areas of regional cooperation.
During the meeting, a presentation was given by the Regional Council of Martinique to present the upcoming Caribbean Consultative meeting in preparation for the COP21 meeting to be held in Paris in December 2015. The regional council of Martinique also made use of this opportunity to propose the organization of a forum to allow OCTs and ORs concerns to be better channelled to international organizations.
Further to this, the new Chair, Secretary and Vice Chair were elected. The British Virgin Islands will be the Chair of the COCTC Council as well as Secretary and the Vice Chair is Saba for the period 2015 and thus incoming Chair for 2016.
During this meeting, formal ratification of St. Maarten as the RAO was done through the signing of the ratification document by the heads of the countries represented in the council. This document was later presented to the European Commission.
The Ministerial Conference held on February 26th, 2015 is OCTA’s highest body, composed of representatives of each member government in the persons of the heads of government or designated members of the governments of OCTs accompanied by their delegations. The objective of the conference is to define policies, approve budgets and elects the chair of the ministerial conference as well as members and the president of the executive committee. The ministerial conference has all powers necessary to fulfil the association’s objectives.
During the Ministerial Conference in BVI, the most noteworthy aspects of the conference included the election of the new OCTA Chair, Prime Minister of Curacao, the Honourable Ivar Asjes, and the OCTA Vice Chair, Prime Minister of Aruba, the Honourable Mike Eman.
The Ministerial Conference also initiated the process of formulating an OCTA strategy for the 2016-2020 period to be adopted at the next OCTA Ministerial Conference. The Executive Committee will consolidate the main conclusions of these discussions and finalize the OCTA strategy by the end of May 2015.
The core objective of the OCT-EU Forum is to bring together the OCT Authorities with the Member State, members from the EU Commission, members from the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank (EIB), and when appropriate as in this case, member of the Outermost Regions for dialogue. It is an annual requirement as described in the legal basis for OCT-EU partnership, the Overseas Association Decision.
A part of the forum included two round table events with the topics Regional Cooperation: unlocking the potential of OCTs and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources: Thematic Cooperation in the Context of the 11th EDF for OCTs.
The outcome of the meeting delivered the final topics for the 11th EDF OCT Thematic Program, proposed during the OCTA Ministerial Conference which were Sustainable Energy and Climate Change with Focus on Disaster Risk Reduction. The RAO for the Thematic Programme was also elected and will be executed by OCTA due to the global nature of the programme i.e. all of the world’s OCTs will be engaged in this programme.
During the forum, the draft Political Declaration and Administrative Resolution proposed during the OCTA Ministerial were approved and signed by each Delegation present. Finally, the draft conclusions of the plenary sessions held during the Ministerial were also finalized and distributed.
More information on to http://www.sintmaartengov.org