Speech by the Minister for Nature and Nitrogen Policy at the international conference at Aruba on the protection of biodiversity in the Caribbean region


Thank you, Minister Arends.

It is an honor to welcome you on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, of which Aruba, Sint Maarten and Curaçao are parts. 

Today’s session is to examine how to implement last year’s agreement. The agreement we made during the UN Biodiversity Summit in Montreal, in order to protect  and restore nature on land and sea. I was there and I witnessed the thrill. Support seemed to grow as the hours and days passed by, and I can still recall that relief we felt in the end. We will do so within the framework of the Cartagena Convention – as this Convention works in support of other global environmental conventions, agreements and commitments. Early next year, we must demonstrate how we will contribute to this agreement through our National Biodiversity Action Plans.

It's not hard to find our daily dose of pessimism when it comes to that. Just follow the media or search for 'nature and biodiversity' or 'climate change'. And discover how climate change leads to the loss of nature and biodiversity worldwide. Consider the world-famous marine ecosystem in the Wider Caribbean Region, the warming of seawater, new diseases affecting coral and sea urchins, more intense hurricanes, unpredictable rainfall. Our ecological footprint, production and consumption, mass tourism, harmful waste, overfishing, or unsustainable land use … they all play a role. Do I make your head spin? The internet can add some other global connections: epidemics, migration, global social inequalities, human rights violations, and displacement.

However, we can choose an angle of confidence. You will naturally discover opportunities then. And know it's possible to reverse this trend. There is a way out. In the Dutch Caribbean there is famous story on a spider experiencing all kind of challenges in life. We could become a bit like this spider Anansi. And weave a world wide web of solutions and shared ambitions.

 A strong nature can help us adapt to climate change. And we can:

  • Utilize nature’s adaptive capacities.
  • Appreciate the beauty that nature provides, its vibe. We can value that, even literally, monetarily.
  • Protect nature strategically, like the marine mammals and sharks in the Yarari Reserve nearby Bonaire, Statia and Saba, which covers all waters of the Caribbean Netherlands, and link this reserve to other reserves in the Caribbean region.
  • Utilize our willingness to collaborate and navigate on our governance structures. Even if they are somewhat complex.

I have had the great fortune to be shown around on the islands these days. I visited places where new forests are being planted. I saw how the mangroves in Bonaire are doing. I thought I knew something about the relationship between nature and the economy, but seeing the opportunities for oneself is incredibly motivating.

That’s also why I'm quite eager to work towards concrete results in this session. So let’s unroll some sleeves and share what we know. And let’s take an eagle's angle, focusing on comprehensiveness.

Speaking of comprehensiveness, the stars are aligned for us. Caribbean  Netherlands already has an integral plan for land and water for the 2020-2030 period. That plan is being implemented. It will contribute to the global and regional biodiversity goals.

Governments cannot reach these goals on their own. It will be key for us to work together and take into account the different interests. For good reasons. The strengthening of nature goes hand in hand with better adaptation to climate change, with improved water quality, and soil health, with sustainable innovations in production, transportation, construction, and consumption. This is how we set the wheel of change in motion.

Dear guests,

How can we, with the National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan in mind, pool our data and knowledge? What is our contribution from the perspective of the Cartagena convention and its protocols? Can we combine what we know and want to know? What are your ideas on a smart and practical mechanism for tracking progress, reporting on it, and being accountable?

Let's have some productive discussions today, avoiding the trap of quick fixes or consensus. Let's combine our doubts and curiosity, find out what truly works, understand nuances, recognize our own limitations, and be pragmatic.  a bit like Anansi.

I am confident we can conclude this session with an Ocean Coordination Mechanism. It will get us one step closer to the Action Plan that will help to achieve the Montréal goals.

Together, we are capable of much more than we often realize.

Thank you.