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The goal of achieving the SDGs for small island states is a daunting task, as stated in a blog by the UN Resident Coordinator.
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The goal of achieving the SDGs for small island states is a daunting task, as stated in a blog by the UN Resident Coordinator.

According to Joanna Kazana, the UN Resident Coordinator for Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten.

On September 18th, nations from across the globe will gather in New York for the SDG Summit to evaluate the advancements made towards achieving the goals by 2030.

The SDG agenda is a challenging goal for any country or economy, but it can be an especially daunting task for small island developing States.

2030 is the deadline for achieving a total of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets.

Joanna Kazana, the UN Resident Coordinator for Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten addresses the SDG Roundtable Discussion.

UN Trinidad and Tobago/Faine Richards

Joanna Kazana, the UN Resident Coordinator for the countries of Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, spoke at the SDG Roundtable Discussion.

For Trinidad and Tobago, there is an added layer of complexity; its high per capita income makes the country ineligible for Official Development Assistance (ODA) finance, despite the many structural vulnerabilities it faces, exacerbated by climate change, global shocks, and the illegal trade of weapons and drugs.

For Trinidad and Tobago to secure funding for SDG initiatives and attract new investments, it must primarily depend on its own budgetary resources. While the UN, bilateral donors, and international financial institutions offer grants for significant projects, these opportunities are restricted in size and time frame.

This indicates that significant efforts are necessary to attain sustainable development, which calls for increased use of domestic resources, creative ideas, and non-traditional collaborations.

The SDGs serve as both a common vision and a practical framework to direct this journey.

It may seem like a daunting task to achieve the SDGs with only six years remaining.

However, it is not an unattainable goal and Trinidad and Tobago serves as an example of the determined determination needed to reach the end goal.

Halftime huddle

In the beginning of this month, a meeting was held by the Ministry of Planning and Development in Port of Spain to discuss which Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require increased effort to be achieved by 2030.

The discussions were seamlessly infused with the pride, patriotism, and perseverance that define the 1.3 million individuals who reside on these islands.

Over 100 individuals from various sectors including the public and private sectors, civil society, international financial institutions, community-based organizations, and the global development community gathered at a table that filled the venue.

The data indicates that Trinidad and Tobago has achieved notable advancements towards certain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but there are others that need to be evaluated and expedited. Several SDG targets have experienced a decrease in pace or have come to a standstill.

Although progress is being made in these fields, a boost is necessary to reignite progress.

School children in Tobago learn about the cultivation of bananas.

FAO/Naylan Dwarika

Students in Tobago schools are taught about the process of growing bananas.

Existential questions

The individuals in the room began confronting what seemed like profound inquiries about the country’s future.

How would achieving success by 2030 be defined?

What actions should we take to speed up progress towards achieving the SDGs?

Which three or five SDGs have the potential to serve as a driving force for progress, similar to a rising tide that lifts all 17 Goals?

What narrative do Trinbagonians wish to share with their children and the world regarding the courageous actions and decisions being taken to create a brighter future for Trinidad and Tobago?

The response from the spectators was unanimous regarding several main themes.

Improved data and national statistics: All parties are in consensus that the nation requires stronger resources for making decisions based on data.

As stated briefly by Pennelope Beckles, Minister of Planning and Development, “If it’s not measured, it won’t be accomplished.”

Lack of prompt data collection and organization makes it challenging to monitor the SDGs, making it difficult to determine where to allocate stimulus funding.

The public sector may have varying levels of human resources, skills, and strategic direction needed for efficient data collection, organization, and analysis.

The implementation of digital government services would have immediate advantages in this field. The private sector also has the potential to contribute by sharing pertinent data to enhance the country’s data system and monitoring capabilities.

Poverty reduction

Poverty was repeatedly brought up during the three-hour discussion. A leader in the private sector connected poverty to inadequate education results and a higher likelihood of criminal behavior. A healthcare expert emphasized the connection between poverty and inequality.

A government official discussed the importance of evaluating poverty using a multifaceted approach. This includes considering factors such as lack of resources, health status, and housing in addition to household income.

Quality education

As participants talked about education, the interconnectedness of the 17 Goals became clearer.

A participant noted that the education system has limitations in its ability to support individuals with disabilities. Another mentioned the difficulties faced by college graduates in securing employment related to their field of study. This leads to a loss of skilled workers within the community.

A representative from the private sector proposed a focus on producing individuals who create jobs rather than individuals who seek jobs within the education system.

Another contributor has suggested restructuring the curriculum to better equip students for the changes in the labor market caused by the growing presence of artificial intelligence (AI).

What factors contribute to girls’ academic success? How do the experiences of boys and girls differ in terms of childhood health and adolescence?

Participants agreed that focusing on education can have a positive impact on achieving SDG 8, SDG 5, and SDG 10, which are related to Decent Work and Economic Growth, Gender Equality, and Reduced Inequalities respectively. This can also have a ripple effect on the overall SDG agenda.

Peace and security

Throughout the conversation, both business leaders and civil society advocates emphasized the urgency of addressing violence as a key focus.

Each sector in the room highlighted a distinct effect of crime on society, whether it was discussing young men who engage in delinquent behavior or the financial consequences of insecurity for a company’s profits.

Trinidadian women and Venezuelan migrant women participate in a self-defence safety course supported by IOM.

IOM/ Abraham Diaz

Every year, the Ministry of National Security and other government social protection programs allocate a significant amount of money towards responding to and preventing crime.

Making progress towards other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are connected to issues of inequality, access to education, and poverty could result in considerable advantages in decreasing violence. This would lead to financial savings for the country, which could then be used to invest in the development of its human capital.

I am of the opinion that human safety is a shared benefit. Similar to the availability of water, electricity, communication, and transportation systems, security can be provided and maintained by individuals to create an ideal environment for both citizens and commerce.

Targeted strategy

The country of Trinidad and Tobago, along with all other United Nations member states, has been requested to specify three specific and focused steps it will implement in order to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Trinidad and Tobago will take center stage as they hold the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly, making this declaration a significant event.

However, the advantages of the national forum will be sustained beyond the conclusion of the SDG Summit in New York.

It united a group of cooperative development partners who discovered shared objectives. It provided guidance for the Government’s mid-term strategy review on a renewed plan of action for the Sustainable Development Goals in the upcoming six years.

The resounding victory in the second half further solidified the determination to attain fair advancement and success.

UN Resident Coordinator

  • The UN Resident Coordinator, also known as the RC, serves as the top representative for the UN development system within a country. As part of this series, UN News is inviting RCs to share their thoughts on crucial issues concerning the UN and the country in which they are stationed.

  • Discover more information about the United Nations’ activities in Trinidad and Tobago on this page.

  • Find out more about the UN Development Coordination Office here.

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