The policy regarding relief efforts for St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba after Hurricane Irma will be reviewed, State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops stated in a letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Monday, September 21.
The review is aimed at providing as broad a picture as possible of the effectiveness and efficiency of expenditures already made for the reconstruction of the Windward Islands. It is also deemed necessary to outline the effectiveness and efficiency of the implementation structure set up for the reconstruction of St. Maarten, in theory and practice.
After Irma struck the islands in September 2017, 55 million euros was made available for acute humanitarian relief. The Dutch government made 550 million euros available for the reconstruction of St. Maarten – 80 million euros in direct support and 470 million euros via the Trust Fund managed by the World Bank. For Statia and Saba 67 million euros were available for reconstruction efforts, which were transferred to the various ministries in The Hague.
The reconstruction of the Windward islands, which started at the end of 2017, will run until December 31, 2021, for Saba and Statia and until December 31, 2025, for St. Maarten.
Most of the reconstruction activities in St. Maarten formally started with the activation of the Trust Fund on April 16, 2018. As a result, it is not yet possible to conduct a full policy evaluation, as many activities have not yet been completed. “This policy review can, therefore, be seen as an intermediate step in which learning and identifying points for improvement are central,” Knops explained in the letter.
The evaluation also includes accountability for the choices made for activities and expenditures already incurred. A final evaluation of the policies related to the reconstruction of St. Maarten, Saba and Statia will take place after the completion of the reconstruction activities on December 31, 2025.
‘Building Back Better’
The general theory behind this policy concerns alleviating the first needs after a (natural) disaster. The acute emergency response consists of medical care, food, drinking water and temporary shelter, followed by the “early-recovery” phase, in which the most essential social and economic amenities are restored.
These two phases are followed by the reconstruction phase in which the situation before the disaster is restored. In this third phase, it is also considered whether and to what extent the restoration of facilities should lead to the better functioning of these facilities, also in possible future disaster situations. That is the “building back better” approach.
“An important aspect of successful relief efforts is the need for proper planning and effective implementation of these three phases,” said Knops.
Dutch Guiding Principles
The so-called Dutch Guiding Principles provide guidelines for the use of the Trust Fund’s resources by the World Bank and third parties. The core of the principles is that the Dutch resources must contribute to the recovery and reconstruction of St. Maarten where necessary.
In addition, the guiding principles have a number of starting points such as necessity, supplementary, suitability, effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy. Finally, specific policy goals have also been formulated. For example, the implementation of sustainable waste processing and water purification, the accessibility of St. Maarten must be guaranteed, and there must be a focus on good governance. “These goals are highly desirable, but not binding,” said Knops.
In Saba and St. Eustatius, the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations assists in repairing and hurricane-proofing of homes. Work started in Statia in 2018 to stabilise the eroding cliff on which Fort Oranje stands.
The research into the relief and reconstruction of Statia and Saba will be outsourced to an external research firm with experience in evaluating crisis management, acute relief and rehabilitation after natural disasters. This expertise is insufficiently available in the reconstruction core team of the Directorate-General for Kingdom Relations, which is responsible for the policy review.
The research, the results of which will be made public, is aimed at learning lessons about effective action in future crisis situations and at accountability about the effective use of resources.
The reconstruction of St. Maarten will be evaluated by a hired external independent evaluator, who will be supported by the core team, which has the World Bank’s trust and that of the stakeholders in St. Maarten. The research questions will be investigated by means of a desk study and interviews.
The Dutch government has appointed Ted Kliest as evaluator. He has more than 25 years of experience in setting up and conducting evaluations and policy reviews. He led, among other things, the screening of Dutch aid after the earthquake in Haiti. He was also involved in evaluations with regard to the former Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. Since his retirement in 2014, Kliest works as an independent quality advisor.
A supervisory committee chaired by Sjef IJzermans monitors the quality and progress of the audit. The committee consists of representatives of the relevant ministries. IJzermans has been ambassador in Bangladesh and has worked as an economic attaché to the World Bank at the Dutch Embassy in Washington DC. He also has extensive experience as chairman of various advisory committees for the Ministry of BZK.
It is the intention to present the research report to the Second Chamber between October and December 2021.
The Daily Herald.