Topic 1: Was ZERO Poverty the wellbeing objective of our decolonization process?
Topic 2: The United Nations is already aware of the poverty in this part of the Kingdom!
Topic 1: Was ZERO Poverty the wellbeing objective of the decolonization process?
The discussions by this newly elected parliament, about the finalization of the decolonization process, have concentrated on their dissatisfaction with the degree of self-governance of our people, realized so far within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. A motion to establish a Permanent committee in parliament to address decolonization and constitutional issues was adopted. Reference was made to a full measure of self-governance, as mentioned in the Charter of the United Nations in Article 73b.
Why do we, as Consumers Coalition, applaud this decision of parliament and why does it have our full support? The limitation of sovereignty, by providing a degree of self-governance to the people in the Dutch Caribbean imposed since 1954, was further limited since 10-10-10 by 10 consensus Kingdom laws. This is not a progressive development, but a regressive development, and it is in violation of article 73 of the United Nations Charter. We could read in the same article 73 of the UN Charter, that the following is an obligation of all Member states of the United Nations (and thus of the Netherlands):
1. “to develop at the utmost self-government in the dependent territories under their administration, and
2. to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and
3. to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement.”
That Parliament wants to evaluate our degree of self-governance and achieve a full measure of self-governance, by being transparent with the people and addressing their political aspirations, and progressively developing their political institutions, is very positive. All parliamentarians are in favor of this.
However, there are some other aspects that are equally important. These aspects did not get the same attention in the discussions in parliament! These aspects are also obligations for the Member states, who are administering dependent territories! What are these aspects that this parliament did not discuss yet? These aspects can be found in article 73 of the United Nations Charter:
1. “The principle that the interests of the inhabitants of the dependent territories are paramount and
2. the obligation to promote to the utmost, (…), the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories!
Poverty is not in the interest of the people, and is against their wellbeing! The interest of the more than 13.000 poor and needy households (94%) in St Maarten is not paramount! In the Netherlands, 92% of households do not live in poverty! Why didn’t parliament discuss this unequal wellbeing in the Kingdom? Why haven’t Parliament nor our government questioned or addressed the Netherlands, on their discriminatory conditions imposed on Curacao, Aruba, and ST Maarten? These conditions do not improve the well-being of the workers and their poor and needy households!
This also had to be considered when article 73 of the United Nations Charter was presented in the parliamentary discussions. Article 73a stipulates that:
“With due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses must be promoted.”
Why didn’t the parliamentarians discuss this aspect in art 73 of the UN Charter?
We do not blame the newly elected parliamentarians and the newly appointed governing coalition for the fact, that 94% of the households of St Maarten live in poor and needy conditions. According to article 73a, it was the member state, the Netherlands, who had the obligation to respect the social advancement of our households, and who did not respect their social development. Neither did the Netherlands guarantee an equal treatment of all citizens in the Kingdom, which would have been just treatment! The Netherlands, who has this obligation for 75 years already, has not guaranteed equal protection of the poor and needy ST Maarten households against this abuse of their human right to an adequate standard of living.
Who are abusing these workers and their families?
• The employers in St Maarten who are paying non-livable wages?
• The Antillean parliament and the St Maarten parliament who did not legislate livable minimum wages, but poverty wages?
• Or the Dutch member state that did not guarantee an equal social protection floor throughout the Kingdom?
We quote art 73d of the UN Charter:
“constructive measures of development, (…) and cooperation with one another must be promoted and, when and where appropriate, with specialized international bodies with a view to the practical achievement of the social, economic, and scientific purposes set forth in this Article”.
How do we explain that the result of 75 years of development cooperation with the Netherlands, has resulted in more than 13.000 households in ST Maarten living in poverty and are still without an equal social protection level, such as is guaranteed to the people in the Netherlands?
Again, the obligation according to Art 73 was with the member state, the Netherlands, to promote the wellbeing of the people and eradicate the poverty.
Therefore, we conclude that poverty in St Maarten should have been ZERO after 75 years of the decolonization process! We want our elected parliamentarians and the new appointed governing coalition to stand up for the wellbeing of the 94% of the households of St Maarten, living in poor and needy conditions. We want them to demand constructive measures from the Netherlands, instead of the regressive measures imposed on us, to get liquidity support.
Topic 2: The United Nations is already aware of the poverty in this part of the Kingdom!
The United Nation’s Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights has addressed the member state of the Netherlands, on more than one occasion, with its concerns regarding the non-compliance with the economic social and cultural rights of the people in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands! The following is a brief synopsis of some of those moments.
1. 22 years ago in June 1998
The United Nation’s Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights recommended the Kingdom government to apply all provisions of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in all parts of the Kingdom.
The treaty was ratified by the Kingdom government in 1979, and the question today is, after 41 years, have all provisions in the International Covenant on economic social and cultural rights been applied in all parts of the Kingdom? With more than 13.000 households in structural poverty in St Maarten, we can conclude: NO, at least one fundamental social right to an adequate standard of living in article 11 of the treaty is still violated!
2. 9 years later, 13 years ago in May 2007 in its next report.
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under the heading D. Principal subjects of concern, expressed its concern again about this non-direct applicability of the rights in the Covenant:
“8. The Committee notes with concern that the various authorities of the Netherlands Antilles are not fully aware of the importance of the international obligations arising from the Covenant.
9. The Committee regrets that little progress has been made in regard to the direct applicability of the rights set out in the Covenant. It takes note of the information that these rights may only be applied directly by the national courts to the extent that the courts deem such an application to be possible. The Committee is concerned that the State party thus considers that most economic, social, and cultural rights are not directly applicable.”
What did the committee say about the poverty and the social protection rights of the people?
About the right to social security (Article 9 in the Covenant) to prevent poverty and to still realize the right to an adequate standard of living (as stipulated in Art 11 of the Covenant), we quote the comments of the committee in paragraph 15-16 and recommendation in paragraph 34-35:
“15. The Committee regrets that it has not received disaggregated data (by sex and age) on the various categories of workers covered by the social security system or information on the measures taken to extend this protection to those excluded from it. It is concerned by reports that the percentage of the population covered by social security is very low.
16. The Committee is concerned that social security benefits are insufficient to enable the recipients to combat poverty. The Committee is also concerned about reports that social assistance is not provided to all those who need it so as to ensure an adequate standard of living
34. The Committee recommends that the State party take all necessary steps to guarantee the right of everyone to social security. The State party should conduct a thorough study on persons excluded from the social security system, indicating the reasons for their exclusion and the results of steps taken to address this situation, and include the study in the next periodic report.
35. The Committee encourages the State party to provide social assistance to all those who need it, in particular the most disadvantaged persons and groups, so that they may attain an adequate standard of living.
In other words, the UN Committee also concluded that social allowances, social pensions, and minimum wages are too low to combat poverty and that not everybody in need is covered by an adequate social protection floor!
As this was observed by the UN Committee in 2007 thus 13 years ago, what is the situation today? We have stated in former press releases, that the social allowances, social pensions, and minimum wages in the Kingdom, are still not equal and are keeping more than 13.000 (94%) households in Sint Maarten in poverty!
The UN Committee wrote concerning Freedom from Want or Eradication of poverty 13 years ago in their report in paragraph 22:
“22. The Committee notes with concern that, despite assurances by the authorities of the Netherlands Antilles that combating poverty is one of their priorities, an official poverty line showing the extent of poverty in the Netherlands Antilles has not yet been established. The Committee is further concerned that economic, social, and cultural rights have not yet been incorporated into the poverty reduction programs of the Netherlands Antilles.”
Transparency International in its 2015 Integrity Report about Sint Maarten concluded 8 years later, that Sint Maarten still does not have a poverty line!
The UD-SMCP had a study mentioned in their governing program to determine poverty. But this NA-UP governing program has nothing about the eradication of poverty. Not even a study to establish “minimum reference budgets not to be in poverty” as proposed by the USM and the Sint Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform is mentioned in this 4 year governing program!
We hereby publicly appeal to the government and parliament to include this minimum reference budget study in the governing program 2020-2024 and budget the money for this study in the 2021 budget!
SINT MAARTEN ANTI-POVERTY PLATFORM / SINT MAARTEN CONSUMERS COALITION