REMARKS BY HONOURABLE MARLON A. PENN
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
AT THE LAUNCH OF THE UNITED NATIONS JOINT PROGRAMME
RESILIENT CARIBBEAN: ENGAGING AND TRAINING YOUTH,
STRENGTHENING INTERGRATED SOCIAL PROTECTION SECTOR DELIVERY
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS/VIRTUAL EVENT
4 OCTOBER 2022
UN Resident Coordinator and other UN partners
Head of Human and Social Division, OECS Commission
Permanent Secretaries and other Senior Government Officials
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very pleasant Good Morning to all of you.
I am honoured to extend greetings on behalf of the Government and people of the Virgin Islands, and to express our deep appreciation for the unwavering commitment of the United Nations to supporting Government-led efforts to build a more resilient Caribbean.
On this important occasion, we, too, applaud the UN agencies represented here today. We appreciate your continued efforts to bring essential resources to bear, as we work collectively to expand universal and sustainable social protection systems, and skills development of young people, through this Joint Programme.
We join hands in striving to reduce poverty, vulnerability, and inequality of households, and to help our youth develop the competencies, and skills that are necessary as they prepare for the future development of our respective jurisdictions.
Therefore, I take this opportunity to encourage you to continue this very important work of technical cooperation and institutional strengthening, which are vital to shaping sustainable democratic economies. Additionally, with you being a force for change in promoting human rights and improving living standards for the people of the Caribbean region, this partnership could only serve as a catalyst and positive step forward.
It is no secret that the Virgin Islands is at a critical juncture in its development, being engaged in significant reform initiatives to strengthen our governance systems, while rebuilding from the ravages of Hurricanes Irma and Maria five years on; and rebooting from the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These events have shown us just how devastating shocks can be, how long it can take to recover, and therefore how vital it is to build a resilient society in preparation for the future.
Enhancing social protection mechanisms so that they are increasingly able to prevent, withstand and respond to climatic, public health and economy-related threats should now be considered business as usual, and we welcome the opportunity that this Joint Programme provides in advancing these aims.
For the Virgin Islands in particular, this Joint Programme is very timely given our recently adopted COI Framework Agreement under which a long overdue review and necessary streamlining of Social Assistance Benefits and Grants Administration Systems are taking place.
In addition to this, the Joint Programme has been agile and able to respond to the specific needs of the Virgin Islands; providing tailored support, including the development of a social protection policy and action plan; the development of a digitised Management Information System; as well as the design of mechanisms for workers in the informal economy to better access social security.
These are important strides towards institutional strengthening that will improve our reach to the poorest and most vulnerable, and provide labour market access opportunities as a means to overcome generational poverty. Further investment in workforce development, including the skills and capacities of young people, is a key strategy for ensuring sustainable socio-economic growth and development.
With these goals in mind, our government looks forward to the implementation of these activities under the Joint Programme, and to our continued collaboration with the United Nations and the OECS Commission to enhance economic security for the people of the Virgin Islands.
We also look forward to forging closer ties with counterparts in Anguilla, Grenada, and St. Kitts and Nevis. With the destinies of our Eastern Caribbean islands intertwined, it is certainly to our benefit to work together, learn from each other, and maximise economies of scale, as we continue to invest in human capital development.
In closing, I once again offer warm congratulations to all the governments, UN agencies, and regional partners involved in this Programme, and extend our very best wishes for continued success.