February 6, 2023: Representatives from 11 UN agencies have identified a suite of potential areas for deeper collaboration with the government and people of Aruba, after a two-day UN Country Team mission to the island.
Heads of Agency and senior technical specialists from UNDP, UNHCR, IOM, UN Women, PAHO/WHO, ILO, ECLAC, UNFPA, UNESCO, UNEP and the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office conducted a needs assessment on February 2nd and 3rd. Consultations were held with government, the public service, civil society, trade unions, journalists, university students and the SDG Commission to explore areas where the UN’s expertise and financial support can bolster Aruba’s efforts to make the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a reality.
The 13-member delegation was led by UN Resident Coordinator a.i. for Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten, Mr. Dennis Zulu.
The mission kicked off on Thursday, February 2 with a meeting with Prime Minister of Aruba, Her Excellency Evelyn Wever-Croes, and her Council of Ministers.
Prime Minister Wever-Croes outlined how robustly Aruba’s tourism economy has rebounded as the country moves out of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the island recording a 98% recovery of pre-pandemic tourism revenue in 2022. This significant achievement came after Aruba’s economy – one of the most tourism-dependent worldwide - was severely distressed by the sharp decline in visitor arrivals during the pandemic.
“As we say in Aruba, we don’t want to ‘bounce back,’ we want to ‘bounce forward,’” Prime Minister Wever-Croes told the delegation.
Prime Minister Wever-Croes emphasised her government’s commitment to pursuing low-impact/high-value tourism, diversification of the economy into the energy sector within the parameters of the Paris Agreement and climate change adaptation.
She also outlined Aruba’s obligations under the 2020 ‘Landspakket’ agreement with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a liquidity support package in the form of loans that aids Aruba in its pandemic recovery. Structural reforms were conditions in the agreement, including improved tax compliance, a reduced wage bill and economic diversification.
Prime Minister Wever-Croes identified areas where the UN can support the island’s thrust to achieve the SDGs by 2030. With the development of a National Statistical System already in progress, the Prime Minister requested additional assistance to improve data collection and analysis across the public service. Better policy coherence, new sources of SDG financing and capacity building to accelerate implementation of the SDGs are among her top priorities.
“Aruba is a Small Island Developing State. We have a plan for development, we have our vision and we have our experts, but at this moment, we need to start implementing. I know the people in this room from the UN are the most knowledgeable experts on sustainable development, and we are happy you have come on this mission,” the prime minister said.
She also noted that under Aruban law, every child has the right to receive an education - regardless of his/her nationality. The prime minister said this access extends to children in the migrant population, which totals an estimated 16,000 people – most of whom are Venezuelan. The UN Resident Coordinator congratulated the government for adopting this inclusive approach.
During consultations with civil society, the media and the public service, the availability of timely data remained a key concern. Social issues such as obesity, childcare options for single parents and access to mental health services also featured during these conversations.
Mr. Zulu said the rich dialogue gave the UN team a holistic understanding of Aruba’s development plans and challenges.
“The UN has long been hard at work in Aruba. For example, after Aruba gained ‘Stauts Aparte,’ UNDP helped Aruba stand on its through country programs. UNDP is now implementing the US $8m STEM faculty expansion project for the University of Aruba with funding from the European Union. UN Women supported the development of a National Gender Equality Policy. ECLAC poured its expertise into the National Statistical System. UNESCO is working to make the Aruba National Park into a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. PAHO/WHO is supporting a survey to gauge the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases among the population. UNHCR and IOM are working with migrants and refugees here, and the ILO is conceptualizing a skills gap analysis of Aruba’s labour force. Now, the findings from this visit will widen the scope of UN engagement with Aruba and lay the groundwork for new ways that more of our agencies can get involved,” Mr. Zulu explained.
Aruba is one of 22 countries in the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean that falls under the rubric of the UN’s Multi-country Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (MSDCF), a regional blueprint for the UN’s work in the region. Issues raised during the two-day mission will help shape the UN’s Country Implementation Plan for the MSDCF in Aruba.
For additional information, please contact the Development Coordination Officer (Programme Communications and Advocacy) at the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office, Ms. Faine Richards, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-868-389-6106.
UN entities involved in this initiative
International Labour Organization
International Organization for Migration
The Pan American Health Organization
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization