By Orville Williams
One of the main reasons for establishing the United Nations common premises here in Antigua is to improve the agency’s ability to execute projects and respond to emergencies more effectively.
This revelation came yesterday from Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr Aubrey Webson, during an appearance on Observer AM yesterday.
“It’s something that the government really felt was [necessary]. [With] the presence of the UN, we know that it can meet the needs of Antigua and Barbuda, and that it can react in a timely and rapid manner in the event of a disaster,” he said.
“Antigua will now have a direct voice in the system on the ground because you can do whatever you want remotely abroad; having someone or reps on the ground makes a difference to make sure you get projects and ensure that the projects are carried out [properly] etc
“So I believe [the UN Common Premises] will make a difference in the kind of value we get for our representation and for our participation in the work of the international community and the United Nations,” the Ambassador explained.
The premises – located on Independence Drive in St John’s – were officially opened last week and are the first of their kind to be established in the Eastern Caribbean.
It currently houses the offices of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Dr Webson also revealed that other UN agencies may be incorporated in the future.
Prior to its opening, Antigua and Barbuda was primarily served by United Nations Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Cluster Office (MCO), as well as countries such as Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis , Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
According to Dr. Webson, it is financially more prudent for operations to be decentralized.
“Economically, it’s better for the UN to have these offices close at hand, so you don’t always have to travel [from site to site]. The Barbados office serves approximately 10 islands, and this is the most in any part of the world.
“So having the head office in Barbados or Port of Spain [in Trinidad] makes sense, but having satellite offices in the other islands makes great sense if we want to reduce costs and respond to island needs quickly and efficiently,” he said.
The ambassador also answered questions about the potential longevity of the local office, saying it is likely to become a permanent staple in the UN framework, despite any leadership changes at the top.
“Once we get the budget from the UN system to make this happen, which we just did, it will exist forever and hopefully even grow.
“So I’m not really worried about the next general secretary. If he or she has a different point of view, I don’t think that will affect the operations of this [premises]said Dr. Webson.
Dr. Webson also noted that the common premises are the result of the reform that has taken place across the UN, to streamline its plans and actions.