ARUBA--The Kingdom Conference held in Aruba on Wednesday has yielded several results. An agreement was reached on establishing a taskforce to improve children's rights, to work on more cohesion in the Kingdom and to look into a free trade zone on the islands for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
However, parties could not agree on the dispute arrangement for the Kingdom and this item was moved to the next Kingdom Conference, which will be held in Curaçao in April next year.
The Final Declaration that was signed at the end of the conference stated: "The Conference determines that Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten have not reached an agreement with the Netherlands on the working out of a dispute arrangement for the Kingdom and that this subject will in any case be put on the agenda for the next Conference."
Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten have been clamouring for a dispute arrangement (geschillenregeling) for several years now, because they want to have an independent body in case of disputes between the countries of a legal and constitutional nature. The Netherlands has not been too keen on establishing such a body.
It was agreed during the previous Kingdom Conference in The Hague in December 2011 that a workgroup would look at the practical aspects of giving content to a dispute arrangement. No consensus was reached in this workgroup.
The four countries did agree with Aruba's proposal to work on more cohesion in the Kingdom by developing initiatives and by building a sort of second layer, a social midfield with the input of social and government organisations.
This should be a strong foundation, also in case the relations within the Kingdom are challenged because of political tension between the countries, explained Conference Chairman Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman.
According to the Final Declaration, a workgroup will be installed under the chairmanship of Aruba that will present concrete proposals to the countries on developing new initiatives and strengthening existing initiatives that should result in more cohesion in the Kingdom. This may include twinning between social and government organisations.
The countries reaffirmed their commitment to continue developing their economic cooperation and the islands' potential as hubs and gateways. The countries agreed to exchange knowhow and expertise in multiple economic areas, including foreign trade, tax treaties, aviation and maritime affairs.
There was also good news for the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The countries agreed to look at the possibilities to implement a free trade zone between these three islands and Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten. Curaçao will chair a workgroup that will analyse the pros and cons as well as the conditions of this free trade zone.
Delegations talked about the challenges that small island states face. It was agreed to install a workgroup under the chairmanship of Aruba that will come with recommendations on how to deal with the vulnerabilities associated with the small scale of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
As was expected, countries agreed to get moving on the improvement of children's rights. "The Conference finds that every child in the Kingdom has a right to a good youth as meant in the International Treaty on the Rights of the Child. The Conference considers it essential that all relevant sectors in society are involved in this."
A taskforce will be set up with a rotating chairmanship which will have as task to promote the cooperation in the Kingdom relating to children's rights. An action plan will be drawn up by November this year taking into consideration the recommendations of the United Nations Children Fund UNICEF Nederland report about the Dutch Caribbean. The subject will be placed on the agenda of the next Kingdom Conference.
Curaçao and St. Maarten brought up the anchoring of an end date of the Kingdom Consensus Laws in the areas of Finance and Justice (see related article). In the Final Declaration it was stated that the conference took note of this standpoint. It was agreed that this issue will be "explicitly" addressed in the evaluation of the Kingdom Consensus Laws in 2015.
The countries agreed to work out the proposal of the workgroup on movement of persons and goods within the Kingdom to simplify the use of the disembarkation card for Dutch citizens travelling between the countries of the Kingdom and the travelling with an ID card between Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten and the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.