On Thursday, September 21, 2023, the Hon. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, engaged in a productive bilateral meeting with His Excellency Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York. The discussions encompassed the significant investment in the Five Islands Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the shared commitment to addressing climate change, among other topics.
Strengthening Educational Standards Through Investment in Antigua and Barbuda
One of the focal points of the meeting was the expression of gratitude by Prime Minister Browne towards the Saudi Foreign Minister for Saudi Arabia’s substantial investment of US$80 million in the expansion of the Five Islands Campus of UWI. This generous contribution signifies a strong commitment to enhancing the educational standards in Antigua and Barbuda, which will play a vital role in the nation’s future economic growth.
Prime Minister Browne emphasized that this investment marks a significant step forward in strengthening the relationship between the two countries, fostering collaboration, and promoting educational advancement in the region. The Five Islands Campus expansion not only addresses the immediate educational needs but also paves the way for long-term economic prosperity in Antigua and Barbuda.
Addressing Climate Change Challenge
With climate change being a paramount concern for Antigua and Barbuda due to its vulnerability as a small island nation, Prime Minister Browne sought Saudi Arabia’s support in formulating a balanced approach to achieving economic growth and development while simultaneously bolstering resilience against the adverse effects of climate change. The Prime Minister emphasized the urgency of global cooperation to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis, particularly on countries with fragile economies like Antigua and Barbuda.
In response, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud voiced his full support for Prime Minister Browne’s position. Recognizing the dire consequences that climate change poses to small states like Antigua and Barbuda, the Saudi Foreign Minister underscored the importance of international collaboration in reducing the impact of the climate crisis and building a sustainable future.
Commitment to the SIDS4 Conference and Centre of Excellence
Prime Minister Browne secured the commitment of Saudi Arabia to provide support to Antigua and Barbuda as it prepares to host the SIDS4 Conference in May 2024. This event is expected to be one of the largest gatherings of island nations in the past decade, focusing on addressing issues that are critical to their long-term survival and prosperity.
During the meeting, Prince Faisal also expressed considerable interest in the upcoming launch of the Centre of Excellence, which will coincide with the SIDS4 Conference. This Center will house a data hub designed to bridge significant data-related challenges faced by island nations, facilitating better-informed decision-making and sustainable development.
Exploring Economic Opportunities and Diplomatic Ties
Prime Minister Browne used the bilateral engagement to discuss various matters related to the economic development of Antigua and Barbuda. These included exploring possibilities for investment in artificial intelligence (AI) and a proposal to open a Saudi Arabian embassy in Antigua and Barbuda.
The delegation accompanying Prime Minister Browne included senior cabinet colleagues, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Hon. EP Chet Greene, and the Minister for Health and the Environment, Sir Molwyn Joseph. Also present were Antigua and Barbuda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Walton Aubrey Webson, Deputy Permanent Representative Mr. Tumasie Blair, and Mr. Claxton Duberry, First Secretary.
In conclusion, the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud underscored the commitment of both nations to strengthening their partnership, fostering educational growth, addressing climate change, and working together to overcome shared challenges. The discussions were marked by a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, setting a positive tone for future engagements between Antigua and Barbuda and Saudi Arabia.