Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 25:2017 -DFID, MNI and the “golden elephants next” effect

De Ole Dawg – Part 25:2017 -DFID, MNI and the “golden elephants next” effect

Are we still suffering from the “golden elephants next” problem

BRADES, Montserrat, Oct 30, 2017 – It bears saying again that we must continue to express thanks to the people and government of the UK for support since 1995 – 98. However, given the persistent plight of Montserrat, there is clearly still room for speaking to concerns on what has been going wrong and how we may work together to fix the key problems.

Perhaps, a point from a recently published book on disaster management by Stan and Paul Cox[1] can help us:

“Montserrat’s shelters were viewed as unlivable by the evacuees who were stuck in them. [Yvonne] Weekes provided graphic descriptions, and Don Romeo took many hours of video footage to document the conditions and shelter residents’ stories. In a report to the governor, he wrote of “poor ventilation, unhygienic and inadequate cooking facilities, minimal toilet facilities, lack of storage space, washing in buckets, health risk,” . . . lack of privacy.  The temporary hospital was being run out of an elementary school, without much of the necessary medical equipment—the crucial items that had been abandoned back in Plymouth’s brand-new yet soon-to-be-buried hospital.” [How the World Breaks (NY: The New Press, 2016), p 270.]

Yes, twenty years and 400 millions of aid later, some of that has changed, but the hundreds still living in temporary houses that are not strong enough to face a hurricane, and the lingering continuation of the temporary hospital (plus much more) speak volumes on how much further yet we have to go. That’s why the next page deserves our full attention:

“Claire Short assumed her job as the international development secretary in the spring of 1997, as the volcanic crisis was tightening its grip. A Labour Party member, Short had announced that her department would focus its efforts and funds on eliminating poverty around the world, and she was not going to let the desperate pleas of one small colony‘s residents divert her from that global mission. She said at one point, “It would be weak politics if I said, ‘They are making a noise and a row. Oh dear, give them more money.’ ” Short pushed back against requests for decent housing, a hospital and infrastructure improvements, quipping that a “wish list” for Montserrat would include “golden elephants next.” With that comment, she invited and received a battering in the media. She apologized, but didn’t open the floodgates to aid.” [p. 271.]

Whatever we may say about the Coxes’ interpretation (or on their views on “resilience”), these remarks reflect the background debate over where aid to Montserrat and other OT’s should be administered.  A context, in which fourteen named individuals died needlessly and with contributory responsibility found to rest at the doors of both GoM and HMG due to negligence in respect of the urgent needs of those displaced by the volcano. 

Indeed, as the Coxes went on to note, one of the key Rhys-Burris findings was:  “Montserrat has many needs consequent upon the volcanic crisis but none is more pressing than that for many acres of land to be acquired in the north for permanent housing and for houses to be built on that land,” but “the British Government response has been unimaginative, grudging and tardy.” [p. 271.] In less elegant words, “golden elephants next.”

Now, as we saw last time, in UK Parliament discussions held in 1997 – 98 both the International Development Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee went on record that perhaps Montserrat and other OT’s should fall under a different Department than DfID. But, DfID is where development aid expertise and funding are concentrated. So – despite the obvious clash with its prevailing vision, it would be hard to sail against those brute facts. 

It is thus unsurprising that in 2002, when the UK Parliament passed the UK International Development Act to govern DfID, it stipulated in Sections 1 and 2 that:

“1(1) The Secretary of State may provide any person or body with development assistance if he is satisfied that the provision of the assistance is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty . . . .

2 The Secretary of State may also provide any person or body with development assistance in a case where the requirement of section 1(1) is not met, if the assistance is provided in relation to one or more of the . . . (British overseas territories).”

There we have it, DfID’s prime mandate of poverty reduction (now joined in (1A) by gender equality), and the prime exception, the OT’s.  That exception is there because the UK acknowledges the legally binding force of the UN Charter, Article 73; which mandates that the UK must “ensure” the political, economic, educational and social advancement of OT’s, and that it must “promote” constructive measures of development. This is also the reason why there is a longstanding series of UK policy declarations that the “reasonable assistance (or, sometimes: “development”) needs” of OT’s have “a first call” on the UK development aid budget.  It is why, in the FCO 2012 White Paper on OT’s, the FCO stated that “DFID works in partnership with those Territories that need support to provide assistance with the aim of helping them achieve sustainable, inclusive growth and reducing their financial dependence on the UK wherever this is possible. [p. 17.]

Given that Montserrat moved to self-sufficiency for its recurrent budget from the 1960’s – 80’s, there is every good reason to see that this is “possible” again, despite the havoc caused by the volcano disaster.  As examples, we can list: tourism, Fibre Optic Cable delivered digital services, geothermal electrical and thermal energy, back office and financial services taking advantage of our native English speakers and longitude between Europe and the Americas, and more. There would be plenty of economic potential in Montserrat, once the long agreed list of “catalytic” infrastructure projects is put in place.

We must look elsewhere to explain the lack of advancement here since the early 2000’s.

A chilling clue lies in the UK Government’s About Web Page for DfID, as we will look through that page[2] in vain to find a single direct mention of the OT’s.  The only promising hint, is the statement that DfID is “responsible” for “honouring the UK’s international commitments” which must clearly include the UN Charter, Article 73. As fair comment, poverty reduction, gender inequity and climate change etc. are all openly there but the legacies of Britain’s sometimes embarrassing colonial past are strikingly absent, despite what section 2 of the 2002 Development Act declares. Yes, there is an Overseas Territories Department, and in a subsidiary page on the Caribbean,[3] we see that since 2015 the UK has committed £400 million to “fund major new infrastructure projects in eight countries plus Monserrat [sic.] to boost economic growth and trade,” but it seems to be fair comment to infer that the OTD is in key part a problem child department.

That has to change, decisively. For over twenty years, Montserrat has languished, devastated by a volcano and subjected to an aid programme that has too often been just as the Rhys-Burris report described: “unimaginative, grudging and tardy.”  Now, due to the impacts of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the list of disaster-ravaged Caribbean OT’s and countries has considerably lengthened. We simply cannot afford another twenty years of the “unimaginative, grudging and tardy.” 

Instead, we must now move to a dynamic and world-class development aid programme that “ensures” advancement and “promotes” constructive measures of development in Montserrat and the other OT’s.  For, we are at a moment of truth. END

[1]               See, here at Amazon.

[2]           See https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-development/about

[3]           See https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/dfid-caribbean

Leave a Reply

Newsletter

The Montserrat Reporter - August 18, 2017

https://indd.adobe.com/view/fefbe432-457e-4ac8-8976-c4a380014263

Archives

Are we still suffering from the “golden elephants next” problem

BRADES, Montserrat, Oct 30, 2017 – It bears saying again that we must continue to express thanks to the people and government of the UK for support since 1995 – 98. However, given the persistent plight of Montserrat, there is clearly still room for speaking to concerns on what has been going wrong and how we may work together to fix the key problems.

Perhaps, a point from a recently published book on disaster management by Stan and Paul Cox[1] can help us:

Insert Ads Here

“Montserrat’s shelters were viewed as unlivable by the evacuees who were stuck in them. [Yvonne] Weekes provided graphic descriptions, and Don Romeo took many hours of video footage to document the conditions and shelter residents’ stories. In a report to the governor, he wrote of “poor ventilation, unhygienic and inadequate cooking facilities, minimal toilet facilities, lack of storage space, washing in buckets, health risk,” . . . lack of privacy.  The temporary hospital was being run out of an elementary school, without much of the necessary medical equipment—the crucial items that had been abandoned back in Plymouth’s brand-new yet soon-to-be-buried hospital.” [How the World Breaks (NY: The New Press, 2016), p 270.]

Yes, twenty years and 400 millions of aid later, some of that has changed, but the hundreds still living in temporary houses that are not strong enough to face a hurricane, and the lingering continuation of the temporary hospital (plus much more) speak volumes on how much further yet we have to go. That’s why the next page deserves our full attention:

“Claire Short assumed her job as the international development secretary in the spring of 1997, as the volcanic crisis was tightening its grip. A Labour Party member, Short had announced that her department would focus its efforts and funds on eliminating poverty around the world, and she was not going to let the desperate pleas of one small colony‘s residents divert her from that global mission. She said at one point, “It would be weak politics if I said, ‘They are making a noise and a row. Oh dear, give them more money.’ ” Short pushed back against requests for decent housing, a hospital and infrastructure improvements, quipping that a “wish list” for Montserrat would include “golden elephants next.” With that comment, she invited and received a battering in the media. She apologized, but didn’t open the floodgates to aid.” [p. 271.]

Whatever we may say about the Coxes’ interpretation (or on their views on “resilience”), these remarks reflect the background debate over where aid to Montserrat and other OT’s should be administered.  A context, in which fourteen named individuals died needlessly and with contributory responsibility found to rest at the doors of both GoM and HMG due to negligence in respect of the urgent needs of those displaced by the volcano. 

Indeed, as the Coxes went on to note, one of the key Rhys-Burris findings was:  “Montserrat has many needs consequent upon the volcanic crisis but none is more pressing than that for many acres of land to be acquired in the north for permanent housing and for houses to be built on that land,” but “the British Government response has been unimaginative, grudging and tardy.” [p. 271.] In less elegant words, “golden elephants next.”

Now, as we saw last time, in UK Parliament discussions held in 1997 – 98 both the International Development Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee went on record that perhaps Montserrat and other OT’s should fall under a different Department than DfID. But, DfID is where development aid expertise and funding are concentrated. So – despite the obvious clash with its prevailing vision, it would be hard to sail against those brute facts. 

It is thus unsurprising that in 2002, when the UK Parliament passed the UK International Development Act to govern DfID, it stipulated in Sections 1 and 2 that:

“1(1) The Secretary of State may provide any person or body with development assistance if he is satisfied that the provision of the assistance is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty . . . .

2 The Secretary of State may also provide any person or body with development assistance in a case where the requirement of section 1(1) is not met, if the assistance is provided in relation to one or more of the . . . (British overseas territories).”

There we have it, DfID’s prime mandate of poverty reduction (now joined in (1A) by gender equality), and the prime exception, the OT’s.  That exception is there because the UK acknowledges the legally binding force of the UN Charter, Article 73; which mandates that the UK must “ensure” the political, economic, educational and social advancement of OT’s, and that it must “promote” constructive measures of development. This is also the reason why there is a longstanding series of UK policy declarations that the “reasonable assistance (or, sometimes: “development”) needs” of OT’s have “a first call” on the UK development aid budget.  It is why, in the FCO 2012 White Paper on OT’s, the FCO stated that “DFID works in partnership with those Territories that need support to provide assistance with the aim of helping them achieve sustainable, inclusive growth and reducing their financial dependence on the UK wherever this is possible. [p. 17.]

Given that Montserrat moved to self-sufficiency for its recurrent budget from the 1960’s – 80’s, there is every good reason to see that this is “possible” again, despite the havoc caused by the volcano disaster.  As examples, we can list: tourism, Fibre Optic Cable delivered digital services, geothermal electrical and thermal energy, back office and financial services taking advantage of our native English speakers and longitude between Europe and the Americas, and more. There would be plenty of economic potential in Montserrat, once the long agreed list of “catalytic” infrastructure projects is put in place.

We must look elsewhere to explain the lack of advancement here since the early 2000’s.

A chilling clue lies in the UK Government’s About Web Page for DfID, as we will look through that page[2] in vain to find a single direct mention of the OT’s.  The only promising hint, is the statement that DfID is “responsible” for “honouring the UK’s international commitments” which must clearly include the UN Charter, Article 73. As fair comment, poverty reduction, gender inequity and climate change etc. are all openly there but the legacies of Britain’s sometimes embarrassing colonial past are strikingly absent, despite what section 2 of the 2002 Development Act declares. Yes, there is an Overseas Territories Department, and in a subsidiary page on the Caribbean,[3] we see that since 2015 the UK has committed £400 million to “fund major new infrastructure projects in eight countries plus Monserrat [sic.] to boost economic growth and trade,” but it seems to be fair comment to infer that the OTD is in key part a problem child department.

That has to change, decisively. For over twenty years, Montserrat has languished, devastated by a volcano and subjected to an aid programme that has too often been just as the Rhys-Burris report described: “unimaginative, grudging and tardy.”  Now, due to the impacts of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the list of disaster-ravaged Caribbean OT’s and countries has considerably lengthened. We simply cannot afford another twenty years of the “unimaginative, grudging and tardy.” 

Instead, we must now move to a dynamic and world-class development aid programme that “ensures” advancement and “promotes” constructive measures of development in Montserrat and the other OT’s.  For, we are at a moment of truth. END

[1]               See, here at Amazon.

[2]           See https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-development/about

[3]           See https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/dfid-caribbean