Presenters at the seminar.
PHILIPSBURG–More than sixty persons turned out to University of St. Martin (USM) on Thursday, September 21, to listen to a panel of three speakers debate the topic “Small island sustainable development and agroecology.”
The event was the first in a seminar series to be hosted by the university. “One thing that remains clear is that, based on the information we received this evening, St. Maarten needs to start looking beyond tourism. And even when thinking about tourism, we need to come to terms with how tourism has changed,” USM President Antonio Carmona said during the seminar’s hors d’oeuvres reception, which was sponsored by UNESCO St. Maarten.
University of Amsterdam Ph.D. researcher Arjen Alberts, a panellist at the event, made an argument for rethinking development in St. Maarten. During his talk, he referred to the place of migration and immigrant communities in the reality of small island tourism economies, stating, “We can’t understand our society without knowing that small island tourism is what draws the immigrants.”
Activist, researcher and nature conservationist Tadzio Bervoets of the Nature Foundation referred to the need for stronger and enforced laws, an environmental tax and a national plan for waste management.
Denicio Wyatte, another panellist, recalled that his Research and Development Centre has hosted young guests from the United States and Europe throughout the last couple of years, mostly students and visitors interested in community development and agriculture. “No longer do they necessarily want to stay in big hotels and beaches, they want to come to where the people are living and working, they want to see the communities,” he said.
The three speakers agreed that USM has a role to play in St. Maarten’s post-Irma recovery and future socio-economic development.
The event kicked off the 2018-2019 USM seminar series, which is meant to promote knowledge, science, research and ideas of innovation flourishing in St. Maarten and in the region for the purpose of building a university that caters to the social needs and collective hopes of the country within the framework of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.
Selected for her involvement in community debates and dialogues, Melissa Gumbs hosted the evening by welcoming guests, introducing speakers and leading a structured question-and-answer session following the presentations. Loekie Morales also delivered a motivational introduction to the concept of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) Silveria Jacobs, Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Emil Lee and Jason Fan of the Beijing International Exchange Association’s Committee of Sustainable Development were amongst the dignitaries in attendance.
USM is scheduled to hold a seminar on Health and the Natural Sciences in October.
The seminar series is co-sponsored by the Think&Do Tank of St. Maarten.