“Ready, Set, Protect!” : Reflection of Children Rights Development on St. Maarten

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Philipsburg –The importance of recognizing Children’s Rights on St. Maarten began as early as 1978.  The now deceased Mrs. Mavis Salomon Brooks and Dr. Linda Banks first started the initiative by writing and producing   a song about children rights for a song festival. Ever since, many individuals in our community volunteered their personal time in promoting the development and empowerment of children through various activities. Radio programs, uniformed groups and performing arts were among the undertakings by loyal persons.

On November 20th, 1989, the United Nations ratified the United Nation Convention for the Rights of the Child, with 140 countries including the Kingdom of the Netherlands adding their signature to this convention.

Consequently, all islands within the Kingdom adopted this treaty and started the work of drafting, establishing and implementing policy and programs in the interest of Children’s Rights.

The first official policy initiative for St. Maarten emerged as the Integrated Youth Policy which was drafted in 2006 under mandate of the former Commissioner of Culture, Youth & Sport, Mr. Louie Laveist.

St. Maarten further developed a campaign strategy by employing a unified approach in bringing awareness regarding children’s rights to the community. In 2006, an inter- governmental agreement was forged between the Island Government of St. Maarten and the then French Commune Saint Martin to jointly organize and host awareness activities for the entire island.  This cooperation resulted in the further inclusion of Saba, St. Eustatius and Anguilla in the annual Rights of the Child calendar of events.

During an Inter- parliamentary Kingdom Conference held on Aruba in April 2014, Kingdom partners determined that a Kingdom Taskforce should be established to synchronize and monitor youth focal areas and share best practices among the islands. This collaboration was anchored into a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in 2018 by the former Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport, Mr. Wycliffe Smith.

Since the passing of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and since the emergence of COVID-19 earlier this year, The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport has intensified its working relations with UNICEF to assist in areas of policy writing, program implementation and collaborations with youth NGO’. This collaboration has resulted in the publication of a quarterly magazine on children’s rights called: “Growing Up Safe”.

In keeping with the child’s right to education amidst the Pandemic, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, drs. Rodolphe Samuel established the ‘Sint Maarten’s Plan for Education Continuity – Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic’ . This comprehensive framework for the continuity of education was established to support schools in developing plans to deliver educational opportunities during the pandemic.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport continues to invest in capacity building programs for its staff and  youth stakeholders, in order to guarantee the quality of services offered and above all, ensure that our youth develops in safe and healthy environments.