The Dutch Caribbean Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba) have a long history of (threats to) submitting complaints against The Netherlands to the United Nations (UN) regarding internal constitutional matters. The first one was filed in 1948 on behalf of all six islands claiming that The Netherlands was blocking constitutional changes. During the years we have seen delegations from Aruba, Saba and Curaçao knock on the UN doors to denounce ‘Dutch intransigence and disrespect to the constitutional relationship with its overseas territories’. So it should be no surprise that St. Eustatius -now that The Netherlands took over the governing of the island amid rule of law concerns- will also try its luck at the UN.
Ever wondered why the UN has never given any meaningful follow up to these ‘complaints’? As an ex UN Officer in Nicaragua I may shed some light. In 1997 we received a formal complaint from one of the two Nicaraguan autonomous regions, Región Autónoma de la Costa Caribe Sur (RACCS) vowing that its black and native populations were not being fairly treated by the ‘Españoles’ as they called the majority Nicaraguan Spanish speaking mestizos and whites. I was assigned to meet with the RACCS’ delegation. I got the following instructions from my bosses: lend a compassionate ear, state that the UN counterpart is the Central Government and not the autonomous administrations, and tell them that the UN doesn’t meddle in internal constitutional matters. After the meeting I wrote a report for headquarters and as far as UN-Nicaragua was concerned, that was the end of it.
St. Eustatius needs to understand that the Dutch take-over of the island’s government on 7 February 2018 is an internal and legal action. This island should be reminded that its representatives voluntarily accepted to become a special municipality of The Netherlands on 10 October 2010. I can understand however that the Statian leaders are not happy with the current situation, but they are barking up the wrong tree if they think going to the UN will solve their problems with The Hague. These leaders should clear up this constitutional structure row with The Netherlands. But as I’ve said before, collective well-being is not as dependent on the constitutional structure as it is on the quality of the people who manage the structure. The Statian leaders at this moment are better off addressing the issues of lawlessness, corruption and mismanagement that impoverish the very people they represent.