The Kingdom must unite the Dutch Caribbean Islands, not divide us
ORANJESTAD, ARUBA – February 6th, 2023: Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance chairman, Hellen van der Wal, has expressed her concerns about cooperation in the field of nature management and climate change within the Kingdom. In her view, inequality, such as the recent approach towards the effects of climate change, jeopardizes this cooperation. “By designating Bonaire as a showcase for ‘island states’, the other Dutch Caribbean islands are disadvantaged, since all islands have to deal with the same problems. Such preferential treatment is remarkable given that climate change affects the entire region. Collaboration is crucial, especially in the field of nature and nature management.” On 31 January last month – on the birthday of DCNA patroness HRH Princess Beatrix – Dr. van der Wal asked the Royal Family and State Secretary Van Huffelen to promote the message that the Kingdom does not divide us but connects us.
On January 31st, after an intensive hike, the Royal Family visited Hofi Shoco in the Aruban Arikok National Park, where, among other things, a meeting took place with the chairman of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA). During this meeting, DCNA requested extra attention and collaborative efforts between the islands and the Netherlands when it comes to nature management and dealing with the consequences of climate change.
“We have similar challenges on the islands: not only the effects of climate change, but also, for example, the decrease in biodiversity, waste processing and sewage treatment and our overdependence on tourism. All threaten the well-being of the inhabitants of these beautiful islands and the state of nature. They all require a joint approach and nature-based solutions.”
The alliance, a network of nature organizations, has been demonstrating for many years that cooperation is possible. Passion for nature, and above all, common interests and goals are at the heart of this. That is why the DCNA already offered a Climate Change Action Plan in the Netherlands at the beginning of last year. “In this plan, we state that climate adaptation is the main priority and then we quickly talk about nature management. In addition to the call to action, we strongly insist on the need for a joint approach. This will not only benefit the involvement on the islands, but it will also give better results and ensure that knowledge and experience are better shared.
Undoubtedly due to the fanfare of an international NGO, the Dutch cabinet has chosen to turn Bonaire into a ‘showcase’. At the request of this island, a climate table will now be set up there. The Netherlands should ensure that the other (island) countries are also involved. In March of this year, a large Caribbean climate conference will take place in Aruba. We applaud this, but why shouldn’t a joint climate table still be on the agenda?” says Van der Wal.
“Nature knows no boundaries nor are the consequences and effects of climate change. However, the Kingdom sometimes imposes limits due to the constitutional structure and certain policy choices. The distinction between CAS countries and BES islands is disastrous for a joint approach of shared interests. If only some of the six islands get majority of the resources and opportunities, working with all six becomes difficult. After all, why would an island cooperate with others if you can arrange everything themselves? It is ironic that the Kingdom, which is supposed to connect, divides in this way. Showcasing one or a few islands sends the wrong message. That also affects the sense of community and undermines the interests of the other (island) countries.”
HRH Princess Amalia was presented with a copy of the DCNA Climate Change Action Plan upon departure: “This is about our future, and you are part of our future,” said the DCNA President, who invited the Royal Family to support the efforts of the DCNA for a joint approach and for cooperation and solidarity between all six Dutch Caribbean islands and the European Netherlands.
About the Alliance
The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance is a nonprofit organization created to safeguard nature in the Dutch Caribbean through supporting Protected Area Management Organizations.
DCNA’S NETWORK – The six islands of the Dutch Caribbean
The Dutch Caribbean consists of the Windward Islands of St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius and the Leeward Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The pristine nature of the Dutch Caribbean contains the richest biodiversity in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The diverse ecosystems are a magnet for tourism and at the same time the most important source of income for residents of the Dutch Caribbean. Nature on the islands is unique and important but it is also fragile.
The lack of sustainable funding, policy support and adequate spatial planning pose the most significant threats.