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Remarks by the Honourable Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and NevisDr. Terrance DrewUnited Nations Friends of Vision Summit Breakfast 

Thank you Ambassador Webson.

Prime Minister Dahal, the work your government is doing to improve eye health in Nepal serves as an inspiring example.

And Prime Minister Browne, thank you for your governments’ steadfast leadership on this issue. In founding the Friends of Vision group here at the UN, you, along with the governments of Bangladesh and Ireland have led the way as we work to ensure that vision is firmly placed within the SDG Agenda, as it should be.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Prime Minister Browne pointed out, the world faces many complex and difficult challenges. Small Island Developing States are often on the front lines. Vulnerable groups such as the blind and other differently abled, disproportionately bear the impacts of our collective failure to invest in frameworks and projects that would provide them with the skills to lead an independent life and to go even beyond that, to develop and advance their education to the professional level. 

Saint Kitts and Nevis, as part of its vision to become a Sustainable Island State and its commitment to Leaving No One Behind, intends, under the auspices of the Disability Services Unit put in place by the new Ministry of the Elderly and Disabled, will raise the profile of people living with these types of disabilities.

We welcome partnerships that would allow for the teaching of Braille as part of our Special Education curriculum, which would allow our blind to develop professional careers and to aspire to positions such as becoming a Permanent Representative to the United Nations!

Ambassador Webson, you are truly an inspiration to us all!

Eye health is one of the world’s most cross-cutting issues.

Many Small Island Developing States are disproportionally impacted due to distinct challenges that make distribution and readily available access to eye health care services difficult for all, especially for women, and girls.

As a result, these communities are prevented from escaping extreme poverty, accessing quality education, and obtaining decent and safe work.

The real value of eye health is as a human development opportunity.

Yet the SDG’s do not address it. An opportunity missed, but easily corrected.

That is why Saint Kitts and Nevis have been active participants in the Friends of Vision group from the start.

We do not have the luxury of letting issues with such obvious development potential go underutilized.

This is also why we enthusiastically supported the first-ever UN resolution on vision, “Vision for Everyone”.

The vision resolution lays out the actions that we all need to take, including member states, civil society, and the private sector, in order to achieve the overarching goal of ensuring inclusive access to eye care services for everyone.

These include implementing people-centred services, addressing the needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups, and service expansion, both in terms of technological resources but also human resources, and eye-specific health workforces.
But for this to happen, we need strong partnerships and strong leadership. Many countries need access to financing and technologies. We can no longer afford to treat eye health as a niche issue.

This is where advocacy and partnerships are key….and why we have joined more than 75 Member States in calling for the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy on Vision.

An Envoy can support governments in their efforts to implement the GA resolution. They can help us identify and bridge gaps, ensuring that partnerships can be established, and solutions identified. An Envoy for the Secretary-General can bring visibility to the issue of vision!

The world faces many public health challenges, but avoidable sight loss is one that is realistically within our grasp to solve by 2030.

I look forward to today’s discussions and hope we can leave here with a renewed spirit of cooperation and commitment.

Let’s work together to ensure vision for everyone, everywhere.

Thank you.


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