Statement
26 February 2015 - 10:00am

Keynote Address By Chairman Of The Overseas Countries And Territories (OCTA) And Premier And Minister Of Finance
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Dr. The Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE
On The Occasion Of The Opening Ceremony Of The OCTA Ministerial Conference
Eileene L. Parson Auditorium

 

Excellencies, Heads of Government, Honourable Ministers, Heads of Delegations, Distinguished Delegates, ladies and gentlemen, Good evening.

As Chairman of the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTA), and on behalf of the Government and people of the British Virgin Islands, I extend a warm welcome to all participants and delegates to the British Virgin Islands.

This is indeed a historic occasion for this Territory!

I am especially pleased to welcome my counterpart ministers and other heads of delegations to the OCTA Ministerial Conference as we continue to collaborate in this forum to advance our mutual interests. 

I am pleased that BVI is hosting this landmark event that builds upon previous efforts to strengthen the OCTs’ relationships with the EU and other partners, and among the OCTs themselves. I know many of you have travelled from quite far, and some from the other side of the world. This demonstrates your commitment to advancing the OCT agenda. 

Our task is to work together to find creative ways collectively, individually and regionally, to unlock the value of the OCTs. This, in turn, will lead to a better and more sustainable future for generations to come. 

I want to especially thank President Artano and Prime Minister Asjes for their earlier remarks and their generous words about the hospitality of the British Virgin Islands and about the level of our discourse which speaks to our collective commitment to cooperation.  

Indeed, your words hold particular value at this critical juncture where we must develop a new strategy of engagement with the European Union (EU) and other international partners, even as political and economic conditions reshape our world.

To achieve the progress we all desire as OCTs, we must strive to uphold the principle of equality, while taking into account the unique circumstances of each OCT, particularly those classified as isolated.

We have attempted to symbolically capture this principle by flying the flags of the OCTs in the heart of Road Town our capital.  It is also a good geography lesson for school children as I discovered when my grandson said that his class was going on a field trip on Friday. When I asked him why the roundabout he told me to recognise the flags from around the world

The OCTA Ministerial Conference is the highest forum of dialogue between ourselves as non independent territories and member states of the European Union. For the people and Government of the British Virgin Islands, it is a great a privilege to host this meeting in our Territory.

For years we have been looking forward to sharing our experience in development with you. We are proud of our accomplishments as a territory of 30,000 people. 

Your presence here is renewed confirmation that there is great value in us experiencing each others' societies, which can bring mutual insights that we may have never imagined.

Our diversity should indeed be a strength. We are at different levels of development and our cultures and peoples vary. This gives us a richness of experience to draw from in solving problems.

We are proud that we each have a comparative advantage: while some OCTs have advanced in areas such as renewable energy and infrastructure, others have made real gains in the conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainable fisheries.

Yet still, others have become prolific in services based industries such as tourism and financial services.

By sharing these experiences and best practices with each other, we strengthen our respective economies. Of course there is the important characteristic of all OCTs being islands, whether located in the Caribbean Sea; Atlantic, Pacific or Indian Oceans.

In fact, being islands makes us natural partners as we face many of the same marine coastal challenges that come with development; and must all adapt to the negative impacts of climate change.

Beyond all of this, we share a special bond by our mutual association with the European Union (EU) via our constitutional links with Britain, France, Netherlands and Denmark.

We are a part of the European family scattered across the globe. In fact, this is the initial reason why we originally came together to form OCTA: to give us a common platform with which to engage the EU.

OCTA has continued to evolve and cooperation with the European Union and between us as OCTs has become even more important.

This year's Ministerial Conference theme is "Unlocking the Value of the OCTs".

I firmly believe that it is only by realising the full potential of each of our societies that we can achieve the sustainable development we desire.

We have already identified the pillars of this process as 'green' growth, competitiveness and innovation. We must ensure that in the implementation of the Overseas Association (OAD) that these pillars are present. In real terms, this means developing centres of excellence in our societies and establishing ourselves as regional hubs of economic and other types of activity.

I might add that we should also strive to establish ourselves as global hubs. Our rich experience in international financial services has shown that this is within our reach.

Distinguished Heads of delegations and delegates, the OCTA Ministerial Conference will remain a pillar of OCT cooperation through which we can address our common interests and concerns.

We have many important decisions to make tomorrow to position ourselves for future success.

I encourage you to bring your best ideas so that together we can build a better and more sustainable future for our peoples.

I would like to thank all of our local, regional and international guests for joining us this evening on this most important occasion.

To the delegates, welcome you again to the BVI and I invite you to join me for a Reception at the close of this programme.

I thank you.

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