Distinguished delegates, ladies, and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to address you for the opening of your seventh Biennial Caribbean Ombudsman Association Conference here on Sint Maarten. I extend a special welcome to our guests from abroad and in particular to the president of CAROA Mr. Valton Bend. Sint Maarten is honoured to host this CAROA-conference and I invite you all to enjoy the warm hospitality of our friendly island.
As I deliberated on the topics of the program for this conference and the objectives of CAROA it became increasingly apparent that this conference is a celebration of our continued quest for freedom from injustice through the promotion of democracy and the rule of law. Namely, freedom from injustice is fundamentally what it is all about when speaking about promoting good governance to protect the rights of the people.
Our continued quest for freedom from injustice has deep roots in the history of mankind. Justice is not and has never been automatic. Major developments in history going back to the bible, the 400 years enslavement of Africans, the prosecution of the Jews in the second World War and countless other wars including several ongoing conflicts, are testimony to the threats to our freedoms and rights.
As you know following the devastation of the Second World War a new world order was established with the creation of the United Nations and regional international organizations like the Council of Europe, which placed the promotion of human rights and good governance high on the global agenda. The International Treaty on Civil and Political Rights, the International Treaty of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the European Convention for the protection of human rights are important results of this development.
On a national level, in most countries around the world and in the Caribbean, institutions have been created that play a role, in establishing checks and balances and good governance, and in the promotion of democracy and the rule of law. Institutions that support and help in the perfecting of the principles of freedom, equality, solidarity, accountability, transparency and justice. Principles upon which our young Sint Maarten nation was founded, as anchored in our constitution. According to Abraham Lincoln, I quote: "The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves—in their separate, and individual capacities." . Unquote. Abraham Lincoln's statement depicts the fundamental role of government in society and by extension underscores the importance of "good governance" in any community. From experience we know that the practice of good governance is not without challenges.
It is therefore essential to establish checks and balances through institutions that help to foster properness, effectiveness and adherence to human rights in and by government. One of these institutions is the Ombudsman. Although the Ombudsman is a very old institution that was founded in Sweden in the 19th Century, the rest of the world has only come to know this phenomenon more recently. I am therefore looking forward to the presentation of the keynote speaker Mrs. Marianne von der Esch, the international representative of the Ombudsman of Sweden, who will speak on the topic "The Evolution of the Ombudsman concept as started in Sweden and its worldwide status today.
In Sint Maarten the Ombudsman only exists just over two and a half years. The Ombudsman can and investigates the behavior of government towards the people to assess the degree of properness of government actions. Here in Sint Maarten the decisions of the Ombudsman are not legally binding and time will tell as to what extent, advices will be followed by Government. Because of that it is expected that the effectiveness of the work of the Ombudsman will more so depend on the quality as well as on the weight and confidence the public places in the Ombudsman as guardian of the public cause. Establishing and securing a solid place for the Ombudsman as a relevant actor in the promotion and realization of good governance is thus essential. I say this because every injustice that remains unresolved is a threat to our collective freedoms and rights.
It is therefore imperative for all Ombudsmen to participate in international frameworks like the CAROA to continue to strengthen and promote the development of Ombudsman institutions throughout the region and the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In closing, I hope you find some time, during your discussions regarding the noble quest for freedom from injustice, to enjoy our friendly island and I wish you all success in your deliberations.
And with that I now declare the seventh Biennial Conference of the Caribbean Ombudsman Association open.