April 4, 2023 -PHILIPSBURG/COPENHAGEN–Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and Acting Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Jens Wandel signed the Host Country Agreement, which is a treaty that establishes the cooperation framework for the implementation of projects headed by UNOPS in St. Maarten.
Also present at the signing were Justice Minister Anna Richardson, and Deputy Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Denmark Arne Brandsma.
As a result of this agreement, UNOPS will establish an office in Philipsburg, St. Maarten, to coordinate all necessary cooperation with the country and in the region. The establishment of UNOPS on St. Maarten marks an important milestone for the organization in terms of providing support to Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean region in line with the objectives of social development recognised in the SAMOA Pathway.
On December 7, 2022, the government of St. Maarten, UNOPS, and the government of the Netherlands signed the project proposal, the project agreement, and the letter of agreement for the St. Maarten Rule of Law Facilities, also referred to as the new prison project. The St. Maarten Rule of Law Facilities will define a new model of prison infrastructure that will benefit both the prison population and its staff, ensuring full compliance of human rights and the consideration of social, gender and environmental components in its design.
The first phase of development for the project will be the design of Rule of Law Facilities, funded by the cooperation framework existing between the government of the Netherlands and the government of St. Maarten with a budget of approximately US $4 million.
Other potential areas that have been identified for cooperation with UNOPS are future project development that can help prepare the country for the impacts of climate change and the threat it poses to St. Maarten’s development. The presence of UNOPS on the island makes it a valuable ally for promoting and developing sustainable and resilient infrastructure practices.
“The opening of the UNOPS office reflects the government of St. Maarten’s commitment to expanding foreign relations, building capacity and strengthening international partnerships. I’d like to thank the technical advisors of the UNOPS Legal Team and the Directorate of Foreign Relations for negotiating and drafting of the Host Country Agreement. The agreement will facilitate the presence of UNOPS on St. Maarten and the realization of the prison project that is currently being led by the Department of Judicial Affairs and the Cabinet of the Minister of Justice,” said Jacobs.
“I am elated as the government of St. Maarten continues to strengthen its relationship with UNOPS. Since working with UNOPS, they have made two work visits to St. Maarten; in May 2022, for their first mission, meeting with the Council of Ministers to discuss the new prison project, and in January 2023 for their second mission, to engage with key stakeholders for the planning and design phase of the new prison project. Building upon this fruitful relationship, the Ministry of Justice remains committed to finalizing the process for the completion of the project’s first phase,” said Richardson.
Partnerships with UNOPS and other international organisations will help support the sustainable growth, expertise, and capacity of St. Maarten. Hosting international organizations on the island can also increase opportunities for St. Maarteners living abroad to return home. These initiatives can broaden the horizons for St. Maarteners and in turn combat the brain drain effect and increase our institutional capacity.
When executing projects on St. Maarten it is beneficial to have close engagement with and physical presence of international organisations to help facilitate execution of projects, leading to higher quality and speedier implementation of projects. In pursuing an active diversification policy and foreign relations policy, we look forward to welcoming and hosting the UNOPS team, and in the future other international organizations on St. Maarten.
In closing, Jacobs stated that she looks forward to working with UNOPS on this critical new prison project and on future projects, with the shared goal of promoting sustainable development, building resilience, and creating a brighter future for the people of St. Maarten. With UNOPS on board, we can be assured of a strong partnership to help us navigate our challenges and build a better future for our people, it was stated in a press release.