by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis presented its first Voluntary National Review (VNR) at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in New York on July 18.
A Voluntary National Review (VNR) assesses and presents a country’s national progress and challenges encountered in implementing the UN’s 2030 Agenda, including achieving its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
Minister of Energy, Hon. Konris Maynard, presented work the Federation has been doing to fully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a plan of action to improve five main pillars: People, Prosperity, Planet, Peace and Partnership.
During the meeting, Minister Maynard, in a ten-minute presentation, focused on the progress and challenges of SDGs 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and 17 (partnership for the Goals).
“Our country continues to grapple with increasing saltwater contamination of groundwater supplies due to sea level rise and decreasing aquifer recharge. Desalination is identified as a long-term solution, and work has commenced towards the installation of our first publicly owned desalination plant donated by the United Arab Emirates… Groundwater exploration continues with the new well drilling to supply an additional 500,000 to 800,000 gallons per day to underserved communities in the near term. On Nevis, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has sponsored a USD 11 million water enhancement project resulting in substantially enhanced water storage and distribution capacity…Manufacturing has declined over the last ten years due to high energy costs, intense market competition with low-cost producing countries and the severe impact of COVID-19. Consequently, we are introducing a revised manufacturing strategy which targets the establishment of, among others, a factory to build solar panels to facilitate low-cost energy-saving options while providing employment for those displaced from the manufacturing sector in recent years.”
Minister Maynard continued, “Climate change poses an existential threat to St. Kitts and Nevis being the smallest independent state in the Western Hemisphere. As a small, vulnerable, open-economy island state, we are identified among the world’s top 60 countries exposed to risk of mortality from two or more hazards, with an estimated 40% of the population considered at risk. Additionally, St. Kitts and Nevis is among the top 40 countries with significant economic risks from two or more hazards, with a GDP risk estimated at 65%. The reality is that many urban dwellings are not yet resilient to hazards, and there are still citizens who cannot afford proper housing. [The] government is therefore focused on making housing more accessible by specifically creating access to affordable housing for public servants in addition to the over 2,300 social and low-income housing units that have been distributed across both islands. In addition to duty-free concessions for first-time homeowners, a developer has been approved to finance and deliver 2,400 affordable smart homes over the next four years.”
Following the presentation, the floor was open for questions to the St. Kitts and Nevis Delegation. Representatives from St. Lucia, Morocco, Switzerland and the Major Group for Children and Youth asked for specific clarification on the goals and initiatives of St. Kitts and Nevis in achieving the 2030 Agenda.
St Lucia asked for insights into how St. Kitts and Nevis will achieve the integration of the SDGs in medium-term planning.
“In developing the plan, we placed a strategic focus on our vulnerabilities, gaps and risk, especially those relating to external shocks and climatic phenomena, as well as the shortcomings in SDG implementation that were identified in our VNR. The targets to be achieved under the plan have therefore been synergised with the targets of the 2030 Agenda in order to achieve acceleration. In addition, we continue to work with line ministries, civil society and the private sector to promote alignment of their strategic plans, programs and budgets with the SDGs. The unavailability of SDG specific statistics has presented a challenge in monitoring the SDGs and conducting analyses and data mining for effective decision making and therefore can present a roadblock to acceleration.” – Auren Manners, Director of the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).
Morocco asked about strategies to strengthen social protection systems and reduce poverty.
“We have adopted all of society approach to address poverty and inequality with active participation and collaboration with the private sector and civil society. Key interventions to date include MEND, Rise, Poverty Alleviation Program – which all assist poor and low-income households with cash support – investments in health and education and access to social services. Another key intervention in our Federation in breaking the cycle of poverty is the provision of adequate housing, of which an estimated 2,300 households are benefited. That’s approximately 20% of the households, according to our last census over the last two decades. Our recent project, we coined ELEVATE, targets the unemployed and at-risk youth with mentoring, entrepreneurship and skills training to enable them to become empowered citizens who can contribute to our decent work and prosperity agenda. And we welcome partnerships with our regional and international partners in the form of technical assistance, advisory and financing so we can effectively implement our recent social protection policy and action plan.” – Kevin Hope, National Consultant for the VNR.
Switzerland asked for key recommendations on how promoting renewable energy can enable a just transition from fossil fuels.
“Energy transition for us is not just for better electricity tariffs, but for sovereign energy security and economic prosperity in light of the current global situation. Therefore, our country is looking at how we transition to energy as a sector where we get in the business of selling affordable energy to attract new energy-intensive businesses. At present, our electrical tariffs are prohibitive for industrial growth and inhibitive to socio-economic development. Thus, given the abundance of solar energy in St. Kitts and Nevis, and if you haven’t visited, I invite you to see for yourself, it is the recommendation to our citizens and investors to solarise.” – Minister of Energy, Hon. Konris Maynard.
Additionally, the Minister shared the efforts by institutions, SCASPA and ECCB, in the installation of solar farms and existing exemptions on duty to import solar technology to encourage more people to transition to renewable energy.
The representative from the Major Group for Children and Youth asked how St. Kitts and Nevis plans to address challenges of quality digital education, employment and to secure the status of a secure island state.
“As youth leaders, we have advocated for an increased focus on addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable groups; we emphasise the importance of active participation and engagement with government representatives and policymakers in the design and implementation of SDG-related interventions. We believe by including youth voices in these processes; we can ensure that the concerns of marginalised groups at effectively addressed. While both youth and the government agree that more can be done to engage our youth, there is also the [recognition] of the significance of structured youth involvement at the national level, for example, the National Sustainable Development Coordination Committee. We believe that such structured involvement ensures that youth perspectives are considered and integrated into the decision-making [processes]. The government [has] been making significant attempts to address digitisation and prioritise [educating] and promoting more women in IT, the improvement of the youth, as we have the Robotics Association and providing more opportunities for creatives and the revamping of the STEM to STEAM for our youth. Also, having me here as a youth representative and a member of the UN Youth Advisory Group, these strategies are aimed at rectifying historical inequalities and empowering marginalised groups in shaping the sustainable development agenda of St. Kitts and Nevis.” – Nekirah Nicholls, the Federation’s representative to the UN Youth Advisory Council.
The Major Group for Children, in their remarks, also recommended youth engagement and leadership in the Federation’s national sustainable development coordinating committee.
The delegation also included Sherilita Shez Dore-Tyson, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Denaula Laplace, Communications and Research Officer in the Ministry of Sustainable Development et al.
Listen to the full presentation and Q&A here: