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7th Summit of the Heads of State and/or Government of the Association of Caribbean Sates.

acssummitcuba06062016HAVANA CUBA:--- Honourable President Raoul Castro Ruz, Honourable Chairman, Heads of State and Government, Ministers, Distinguished delegations, Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Government and the people of Sint Maarten I would like to acknowledge what an honor it is to be able to address you today.
This Summit comes at an undeniably pivotal point in the geopolitical and economic landscape of our region. Following the 2008 financial crisis, Caribbean countries have to some extent been able to reprioritize and rebuild their economies, a true testament to our resilience. Despite its negative associations, the financial crisis gave impetus for our realization of strength in numbers. This collective strength and resiliency is arguably more necessary today given the increasingly transnational nature of the challenges being faced by the countries in our region. As many of you know, Sint Maarten shares a 37-square mile island with Saint-Martin, a French Overseas Collectivity, and who yesterday I was so happy to help welcome into our ACS family.

On our island, we have an age old adage: The gale does not stop at the frontier. Simply said, that which divides us politically is no match, for what can harm us collectively. This is true throughout our region and in a number of areas ranging from climate change to narco-crime.

As small-island developing states, effectively addressing these areas is often times challenging given our limited financial resources and human capacity. The combination of these innate denominators makes cooperation the most effective way to bring about sustained economic and social development for the people of our region as a whole and Sint Maarten especially. Therefore, we welcome wholeheartedly the continued role of the Association of Caribbean States in this regard.

Tourism, one of the focus areas of this association, remains beyond measure the single most important, and in some cases, only economic pillar for many in our unique region. As a successful veteran, Sint Maarten has watched as the industry has transformed and redefined itself over time. We praise the Association’s role in catalyzing innovative approaches to not only keep relevant our destinations, but give more ownership to local stakeholders through its promotion of Multi-Destination Tourism. Sint Maarten welcomes opportunities to work with the countries in our region building on our common history.

This commonality is rooted in our region’s history as a cultural crossroads. Many people throughout our history have come at their own will, seeking better opportunities, adventure, and riches. What we must acknowledge are those whose will it was not. Slavery is an undeniable part of the historical and economic origins of the modern and proud countries that make up our region today.

In light of the International Decade for People of African Descent I am happy that we have acknowledged this history, paying homage to those whose sacrifices have built this: our Caribbean. Rooted in this common history and looking forward and embracing what makes each country special, Sint Maarten believes that together we can create a unique tourism product in our region.

Our ability to make such an initiative successful, lies in our ability to sustainably manage our natural resources, taking into consideration our rich biodiversity and the associated effects of climate change. To that end, efforts to ensure cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy are not only prudent environmentally but financially as well.

Again to effectively address this thematic area, the countries in our region cannot do this alone. In this regard, Sint Maarten praises the important work done by the Association in the field of natural disaster mitigation, taking into account the principles of the Sendai declaration. Having said this, I would like to express my great appreciation to this Association and the Government of Mexico for the highly valued work done with respect to the UN Geospatial Information Management programme.

It would be amiss of me to not salute Ambassador Alfonso Munera Cavadia, and of course the Secretariat, who during his tenure as Secretary General revitalized and made relevant this organization. During your tenure Ambassador you encouraged the participation of associate members in the organization and welcomed Sint Maarten into the ACS family in 2014 at the last Summit in Merida.

Your role in increasing the substantial value of this organization and your consolidation of this region is one that will be well noted in the history and minds of our people.

I would like to underscore the relationship between our two countries. In the late 19th century so many of our regional countrymen were welcomed by Cuba to work in the sugar industry. Today President Castro, you, the Government, and the people of Cuba have again welcomed us with such genuine warmth and hospitality.

I would like to express my elation at being here during these historical socio-political changes in your country. The lifting of the embargo on Cuba, is one that I call upon my Caribbean brothers and sisters to see not as a threat to our tourism products, but as a chance at new opportunities and increased regional cooperation and integration.

I would like to express again my sincerest gratitude to you President Castro and the Government and people of Cuba for hosting such a meaningful and constructive summit in an effort to advance the principles of the Association of Caribbean States. May what we agree here bear the fruits necessary for enhanced regional cooperation and a more prosperous Caribbean for all our people.
I thank you.

William Marlin
Prime Minister of St. Maarten.

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