Koenders requests UN support for reconstruction of St Maarten

The foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands met on Monday with representatives from the Caribbean islands affected by hurricane Irma, as well as the UN institutions, to discuss the devastation the storm has caused. The parties decided to work together to do everything possible to provide the people on the islands with emergency aid and assist with reconstruction. Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders said on behalf of the four constituent countries of the Kingdom that he hoped the UN would respond quickly and flexibly to the needs of the population. ‘This is no time for red tape,’ he said.

The international meeting about the impact of hurricane Irma was held at UN headquarters in New York. Mr Koenders gave an overview of what is needed on St Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius. He also expressed his thanks for the assistance provided so far and asked that it be continued.

‘Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction,’ the minister said. ‘Many people have lost their homes and there is major damage to the infrastructure. It will be a huge job to restore everything. So I call on the UN to be generous with contributions from its funds and to make expertise available for the reconstruction of St Maarten.’

Many UN organisations are already at work in the affected areas, establishing needs, helping assess the risk of infectious diseases, distributing high-energy biscuits and providing technical assistance. The UN’s development programme has also made $2 million available for the Caribbean islands hit by Irma, while the UN’s emergency relief coordinator is providing $10 million.

Mr Koenders believes the UN should appoint a special envoy for climate and security, who should focus on how climate change affects security. ‘We may well face hurricanes of this strength again,’ he said. ‘Small island states in the Caribbean are extremely vulnerable, and as we’ve seen, can be completely destroyed in a matter of hours. The UN plays a crucial role in developing plans in order to anticipate these risks and respond appropriately. The Kingdom of the Netherlands calls for a UN special envoy who can focus on this.’