Categorized | Columns, De Ole Dawg

De Ole Dawg – Part 15:The UN Factor

Why is the UN Charter relevant to Montserrat and to our making progress? 
(And, why does it trump Brexit concerns?)

BRADES, Montserrat, December 10, 2018 –  Those are very good questions. Questions,that go to the heart of gaps in our understanding of how we can best move forward on “catalytic” development projects. Questions, that are therefore relevant to our “people’s college” focus here at TMR. Especially, when we can see the following from the key DfID 2012 Business case for MDC:

The economy of Montserrat has never recovered from the volcanic eruptions of 1995 and subsequent years . . . .  the base of local business comprises 150-200firms, mostly micro-enterprises servicing the small local market, all now located in the remaining northern third of the island. Foreign direct investment has dried up completely and there are only a handful of local firms capable of trading in export markets. The tourism sector has also declined by over 50% since the mid-90s . . . . The principal barrier to economic growth and development on the island is poor physical access. This is particularly the case for sea access . . . . Without the development of Little Bay and Carr’s Bay, improved access, and reduced costs of doing business, Montserrat will remain uncompetitive in attracting FDI. Without this investment, the local business base will remain unable to design and produce exportable products and services or to substitute for expensive imports on a competitive and sustainable basis.” [Key points emphasised.]

Now, too, Montserrat has been under the British flag since 1632 and when the French briefly captured our island 150 years later, the UK negotiated to get us back. For nearly 400 years, we have been British; at first as a Colony and now as an Overseas Territory. So, contrary to ill-advised notions in recent UK tabloid hit pieces, we are not “foreign.” As one result, as a rule we are not eligible for assistance by international development agencies (apart from a few bodies like the European Union or CDB).

This is because, under the UN Charter, Article 73, we are a non self-governing territory and the UK is obligated to provide for our “reasonable assistance needs” (which includes our development needs).So when aid is given to regional groups such as Caricom there are often lists of territories such as Montserrat that cannot receive funding. 

Also, because of our lack of access and infrastructure due to the volcano disaster, we are generally unattractive to foreign investors and local investor confidence will tend to be low. Moreover,we have been rated as having governance, financial management and corruption challenges and have repeatedly been hit hard in the UK media. A recent DfID study found that it is hard to set up a business here, and indeed a potential investor actually recently publicly complained of this.

These factors easily explain why – in a world where huge sums of money move in investment markets every day – our economy struggles to grow and relies on annual UK grants.

Our Government, DfID and the FCO have therefore long since agreed that only UK-funded “catalytic” investments on key“catalytic” infrastructure such as the sea- and air- ports, geothermal energy and fibre optic cable could credibly help to spark local and foreign investor confidence. In turn, it is that confidence that will lead to private sector investment in the economic sectors opened up by those “catalytic” investments. Investments would then gradually lead to growth and prosperity. 

These, we have all known for twenty-three years.

So, if we are to move forward, we have to soundly rebuild our development relationship with the UK. Which instantly raises the question:what do we have to hand that can give us leverage in restructuring  our development partnership so that we move beyond the snail’s pace, stop, go, stop pattern of the past twenty-three years?

In one word, Law.

Specifically, International Law.

United Nation Logo

For, on October 24th 1945 (less than three months after two atom bombs incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, bringing World War II to an end) the United Nations Charter went into force.  Its preamble is sobering:

“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom . . .”

That is already obviously relevant to us here in Montserrat. For one, the fact that our 2010 Constitution Order starts from a bill of rights directly echoes what was bought at the awful price of perhaps eighty millions dead in two world wars. For two, the UN Charter clearly starts from the fact of failure of the old order for international relationships and power politics. So, a fresh start had to be made for international law and relationships, on principles of peace, justice, human dignity (thus rights), freedom, thriving community, prosperity and progress.  Including a commitment “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom . . .”

So, our start-point is that the UN Charter is the cornerstone of modern international law.

This is why in the 2012 White Paper on Overseas Territories, the UK’s FCO acknowledged that its primary responsibility to ensure the security and good governance of such OT’s “flows from international law including the Charter of the United Nations.” [p. 13] In short, FCO understands that the UN Charter has legal force regarding how it promotes “the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories.” (See Article 73 of the UN Charter. The Charter’s wording actually requires the UK to “ensure . . . advancement.”)

This then grounds a familiar longstanding UK policy statement: “The reasonable assistance needs of the Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget.”

(And yes, those who have so often scoffed at this UK policy commitment despite being corrected have shown a disqualifying, stubborn ignorance. An ignorance that has undermined a strong-point for Montserrat’s negotiations with the UK on development aid. Similarly, given the FCO’s priority on good governance,  we also need to put good governance reform guided by a Charter of Good Governance on the font burner. Unless governance – including financial and project/ programme management – is put in good order the UK for cause will have little confidence in proposed development projects. And yes, that must include capacity building, reforms, improved procurement and project management and better financial management. Those who imagine that as “big boys” they can get special business concessions from our Government while failing to be tax compliant or that they can corruptly exploit political influence, are sadly mistaken and do harm to us all.)

But how does any of this relate to Brexit?

Simple: the legal force of the UN Charter trumps Brexit.

For, whatever the terms on which the UK actually exits the EU, the UN Charter obligations remain. Where, too, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the UK has a particular obligation to enforce the UN Charter and its principles.

Even more interestingly, in October 1945, the British Empire held the largest number of colonies in the world. So, when Article 73 speaks to legal obligations of states that hold colonies, the UK is obviously  the main state being addressed. This sets a far stronger basis for discussions, negotiations and development planning going forward.

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Why is the UN Charter relevant to Montserrat and to our making progress? 
(And, why does it trump Brexit concerns?)

BRADES, Montserrat, December 10, 2018 –  Those are very good questions. Questions,that go to the heart of gaps in our understanding of how we can best move forward on “catalytic” development projects. Questions, that are therefore relevant to our “people’s college” focus here at TMR. Especially, when we can see the following from the key DfID 2012 Business case for MDC:

The economy of Montserrat has never recovered from the volcanic eruptions of 1995 and subsequent years . . . .  the base of local business comprises 150-200firms, mostly micro-enterprises servicing the small local market, all now located in the remaining northern third of the island. Foreign direct investment has dried up completely and there are only a handful of local firms capable of trading in export markets. The tourism sector has also declined by over 50% since the mid-90s . . . . The principal barrier to economic growth and development on the island is poor physical access. This is particularly the case for sea access . . . . Without the development of Little Bay and Carr’s Bay, improved access, and reduced costs of doing business, Montserrat will remain uncompetitive in attracting FDI. Without this investment, the local business base will remain unable to design and produce exportable products and services or to substitute for expensive imports on a competitive and sustainable basis.” [Key points emphasised.]

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Now, too, Montserrat has been under the British flag since 1632 and when the French briefly captured our island 150 years later, the UK negotiated to get us back. For nearly 400 years, we have been British; at first as a Colony and now as an Overseas Territory. So, contrary to ill-advised notions in recent UK tabloid hit pieces, we are not “foreign.” As one result, as a rule we are not eligible for assistance by international development agencies (apart from a few bodies like the European Union or CDB).

This is because, under the UN Charter, Article 73, we are a non self-governing territory and the UK is obligated to provide for our “reasonable assistance needs” (which includes our development needs).So when aid is given to regional groups such as Caricom there are often lists of territories such as Montserrat that cannot receive funding. 

Also, because of our lack of access and infrastructure due to the volcano disaster, we are generally unattractive to foreign investors and local investor confidence will tend to be low. Moreover,we have been rated as having governance, financial management and corruption challenges and have repeatedly been hit hard in the UK media. A recent DfID study found that it is hard to set up a business here, and indeed a potential investor actually recently publicly complained of this.

These factors easily explain why – in a world where huge sums of money move in investment markets every day – our economy struggles to grow and relies on annual UK grants.

Our Government, DfID and the FCO have therefore long since agreed that only UK-funded “catalytic” investments on key“catalytic” infrastructure such as the sea- and air- ports, geothermal energy and fibre optic cable could credibly help to spark local and foreign investor confidence. In turn, it is that confidence that will lead to private sector investment in the economic sectors opened up by those “catalytic” investments. Investments would then gradually lead to growth and prosperity. 

These, we have all known for twenty-three years.

So, if we are to move forward, we have to soundly rebuild our development relationship with the UK. Which instantly raises the question:what do we have to hand that can give us leverage in restructuring  our development partnership so that we move beyond the snail’s pace, stop, go, stop pattern of the past twenty-three years?

In one word, Law.

Specifically, International Law.

United Nation Logo

For, on October 24th 1945 (less than three months after two atom bombs incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, bringing World War II to an end) the United Nations Charter went into force.  Its preamble is sobering:

“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED

That is already obviously relevant to us here in Montserrat. For one, the fact that our 2010 Constitution Order starts from a bill of rights directly echoes what was bought at the awful price of perhaps eighty millions dead in two world wars. For two, the UN Charter clearly starts from the fact of failure of the old order for international relationships and power politics. So, a fresh start had to be made for international law and relationships, on principles of peace, justice, human dignity (thus rights), freedom, thriving community, prosperity and progress.  Including a commitment “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom . . .”

So, our start-point is that the UN Charter is the cornerstone of modern international law.

This is why in the 2012 White Paper on Overseas Territories, the UK’s FCO acknowledged that its primary responsibility to ensure the security and good governance of such OT’s “flows from international law including the Charter of the United Nations.” [p. 13] In short, FCO understands that the UN Charter has legal force regarding how it promotes “the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories.” (See Article 73 of the UN Charter. The Charter’s wording actually requires the UK to “ensure . . . advancement.”)

This then grounds a familiar longstanding UK policy statement: “The reasonable assistance needs of the Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget.”

(And yes, those who have so often scoffed at this UK policy commitment despite being corrected have shown a disqualifying, stubborn ignorance. An ignorance that has undermined a strong-point for Montserrat’s negotiations with the UK on development aid. Similarly, given the FCO’s priority on good governance,  we also need to put good governance reform guided by a Charter of Good Governance on the font burner. Unless governance – including financial and project/ programme management – is put in good order the UK for cause will have little confidence in proposed development projects. And yes, that must include capacity building, reforms, improved procurement and project management and better financial management. Those who imagine that as “big boys” they can get special business concessions from our Government while failing to be tax compliant or that they can corruptly exploit political influence, are sadly mistaken and do harm to us all.)

But how does any of this relate to Brexit?

Simple: the legal force of the UN Charter trumps Brexit.

For, whatever the terms on which the UK actually exits the EU, the UN Charter obligations remain. Where, too, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the UK has a particular obligation to enforce the UN Charter and its principles.

Even more interestingly, in October 1945, the British Empire held the largest number of colonies in the world. So, when Article 73 speaks to legal obligations of states that hold colonies, the UK is obviously  the main state being addressed. This sets a far stronger basis for discussions, negotiations and development planning going forward.