Fighting poverty and protecting fundamental rights were the two primary topics on the agenda of the Ombudsmen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands annual meeting.
The Kingdom is made up of four countries: Sint Maarten, Curaçao, Aruba and the Netherlands consisting of the European and the Caribbean (Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (BES) part. Although there are advanced plans to do so, an Ombudsman institution has not yet been established on Aruba.
Annually the Ombudsman meet to discuss developments within the Kingdom and share best practices. This time the meeting took place on Saba, a small island which is part of the Dutch Caribbean.
In the Netherlands there has been a lot of discussion about a report that revealed that two out of five families in the Dutch Caribbean are living in poverty. This situation is not unique to the Dutch Caribbean, but applies to the entire Kingdom. The Ombudsmen have discussed what might be possible for them to do. The National Ombudsman of the Netherlands has started an investigation into the circumstances under which people in the Kingdom live. The Ombudsman of Sint Maarten is also expected to start with a similar investigation at the conclusion of a District Outreach Program, which is scheduled to start later this year.
A connection was made with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) as established by the United Nations, specifically SDG 10: reduced inequalities, in combination with SDG 17: partnerships for the goals. For the Ombudsmen it was clear that the difference in living standards within the Kingdom is unacceptable. They will start drafting an action plan on what they can do to improve the living condition of the citizens within the entire Kingdom.
The flow of refugees from Venezuela is increasing rapidly. This topic plays mainly in Curaçao and Aruba, but is certainly not unknown on Bonaire and Sint Maarten. Curaçao does not acknowledge being bound by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees nor its 1967 protocol, furthermore the country does not have legislation governing refugee protection or asylum procedures. The shelters are of very low standard and the policy is to send everyone back.
Because there is still no structural improvement for the reception of refugees in the Kingdom, the Ombudsmen will look into the possibility of undertaking joint action about the situation, with the intention of mapping out what is going on and give the Ombudsman’s perspective on the situation.
These and other actions were agreed upon and in their continued cooperation, the Ombudsmen aim to improve good governance within the Kingdom.
Source: International Ombudsman Institute