Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley, above left, meets with officials from the Pan American Health Organisation at the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States this week in Antigua and Barbuda. He is part of a Virgin Islands delegation led by Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley. (Photo: Facebook (Vincent Wheatley))

Can small island developing states like the Virgin Islands meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030?

This question is among the main discussion topics on the agenda this week as Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley and other island leaders from around the world meet in Antigua and Barbuda for the Fourth International Conference on SIDS. Dr. Wheatley — who left Sunday and is due back today — is attending the event along with a delegation that also includes his special envoy Benito Wheatley and Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley.

The conference aims to review SIDS’ sustainable development progress and “propose a new decade of partnerships and solutions” toward achieving resilience with the assistance of the international community, according to government. For the VI and other overseas territories, the event offers a platform to make an important point, the premier explained.

‘Sharp focus’

“The SIDS conference provides an excellent opportunity to bring sharp focus to the plight of the Virgin Islands and other [overseas territories], which have been excluded from development finance based on our overseas territories status,” Dr. Wheatley said.

He added that his delegation will use the opportunity to lobby regional and international partners to help the territory position itself to achieve climate resilience and meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Preliminary meeting

To lay the groundwork for that effort leading up to the conference, the VI hosted a preliminary meeting here in the territory last month.

The VI, Anguilla and Montserrat — which as overseas territories typically don’t qualify for climate financing — were the focus of the April 25 “Policy Dialogue on Improving Access to Development Finance in Eastern Caribbean Overseas Territories.”

The meeting was hosted by the VI government and co-chaired with the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

Health meetings

Also during the conference this week, Mr. Wheatley, the HSD minister, has met with Pan American Health Organisation Deputy Director Mary Lou Valdez and other PAHO officials to discuss technical cooperation activities.

The conference theme this year is “Charting the Course Toward Resilient Prosperity.”

In Dr. Wheatley’s absence, Communications and Works Minister Kye Rymer has been appointed to carry out the duties of premier and finance minister.

Meanwhile, Junior Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Dr. Karl Dawson is acting as health and social development minister from Sunday through tomorrow.