A status report of nature policy development and implementation in the Dutch Caribbean

The National Nature Policy Plan 2001-2005 (NPP-5) and its current status of implementation was assessed as a first step towards a new Nature Policy Plan for the Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustatius). The purpose of this exercise is to determine which action points of NPP-5 are still relevant, and to identify key new developments to be aware of when setting goals and strategies for the new Nature Policy Plan for the Caribbean Netherlands. The NPP-5 was the first formal nature policy plan of the Netherlands Antilles. It lists a total of 47 policy goals and projects in the text for the period 2001-2005. Based on these, 61 action points were listed in an Action Matrix for the period 2001-2005. Of these 31 were achieved to a high degree of completion between 2001 and 2010, notwithstanding the serious and chronic lack of both funds and manpower (NEPP-7). Based on this assessment, a total of 40 action points may be brought forward based on the NPP-5. These not only include most “one-time” action points not yet achieved but also several action points that were achieved but which are of an on-going nature.

While much has been achieved in terms of policy development and legal frameworks over the last 10 years, climate change implies that future nature management will be confronted with an increasingly rapid succession of major ecological problems such as coral bleaching, hurricane impacts, and invading species.

Our quick-scan assessment showed that policy development over the last 10 years has suffered significantly from challenges in terms of both capacity and funding, as well as in decision-making in reaching its goals. Controversial topics regarding “rules and regulations”, “cooperation”, and “financial instruments” largely failed to be achieved due to problems in the decision making process, whereas less controversial action points such as “reporting”, drawing up “plans”, doing “research” and “education”, especially suffered from a lack of capacity and funding.

Several main topics are identified that will need attention in the new nature management plan. The new nature policy will have to meet standard and basic policy needs, information and management needs, and also have to accommodate the latest conceptual developments and the pressing realities of global climate change and alien species invasions. Notable is that a large number of new and serious threats have come to the forefront since the NPP-5 was set 10 years ago.

Because the diverse, colourful and unique natural ecosystems of the Caribbean Netherlands also represent the single most important local economic resource on which to build long-term prosperity of the inhabitants of these islands, the nature policy plan needs to be recognized as much more than simply a way to protect nature and avert ecological crisis. It is in fact a key policy tool by which to actively safeguard and create economic well-being and opportunity for these islands.

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