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De Ole Dawg – Part 27 2017: JMC ‘17: A development/aid policy breakthrough?

Contribution – Part 27/2017

JMC ‘17: A development/aid policy breakthrough?

 How can acknowledging UN Charter legal obligations make a difference with UK OT disaster relief, aid and development projects?

BRADES, Montserrat,  – It was not business as usual on November 28th and 29th 2017, when UK and Overseas Territories Ministers met at Lancaster House in London for the annual Joint Ministerial Council  (JMC) Meeting.[1] 

A year ago, Montserrat was the only Overseas Territory facing a long-term disaster recovery, rebuilding and development challenge. But, this year, after a horrific string of Category 5 hurricanes,  four out of five UK Caribbean OT’s are now disaster-struck: Montserrat, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands. The fifth, Cayman Islands, has all-too-vivid memories of the impact of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.  Several other Caribbean islands such as Barbuda, Dominica, St Maarten and even Puerto Rico have also been hard-hit and were splashed across global news. And, the next hurricane season is just seven months away now.

Where also, earthquakes and tsunamis (“tidal waves”) can strike us with little or no notice, we face volcanoes and we are prone to floods and droughts.

All of this made a big difference.

This time, Brexit was not the only major issue in the headlines.

So, when Montserrat’s Premier Donaldson Romeo spoke yet again about the development-choking impact of twenty and more years of dragged out recovery, rebuilding and redevelopment efforts, it was suddenly utterly, all-too-vividly relevant. Unsurprisingly, the Overseas Territories came together as one and the old 2009 St Helena Airport Project consultancy report, Annex H,[2] took on a new lease of life:

“[T]he UK is also responsible for ensuring compliance with international obligations of the UK which have been extended to its Overseas Territories. To meet these legal responsibilities, it has been the settled policy of Governments that the development needs of Territories are a first call on the aid programme.”

Indeed, as Annex H reminds us, as far back as a 1997 DfID White Paper (yes, right at DfID’s founding) we can see that:

“The Government reaffirms its responsibilities for Britain’s 13 remaining Dependent Territories . . . The reasonable assistance needs of the Dependent Territories are a first call on the development programme.” (para 2.28)  [This led to three key goals:]

[1] to maximise economic growth and self-sufficiency through sensible economic and financial management leading to graduation from such support, where this objective is feasible

[2] to ensure in the meantime that basic needs are met, including the provision of essential infrastructure

[3] to support the good governance of the territories, including the proper management of contingent liabilities . . .”

In the FCO 2012 White Paper on OT’s,[3] we see that HMG understands that:

“The UK Government’s fundamental responsibility and objective is to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories and their peoples. This responsibility flows from international law including the Charter of the United Nations. It also flows from our shared history and political commitment to the wellbeing of all British nationals. This requires us, among other things, to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories, to ensure their just treatment and their protection against abuses, and to develop self-government and free political institutions in the Territories. The reasonable assistance needs of the Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget.” [p.13, cf. UN Charter, Article 73.[4]]

Under this legally binding mandate, DfID’s role is to work “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.]

These principles, legal obligations and commitments are in fact the reason why from year to year some 60% of our recurrent budget and up to 80 – 90+% of our development budget come to us as grants from HMG, courtesy the UK taxpayer. So, despite problems that crop up from time to time, and despite ill-advised political punditry that dismisses the significance of this commitment, it is unavoidably the start point for serious resilience and transformation development planning for Montserrat and the other three disaster-struck OT’s. (NB: That’s why other donors will often tell us that the UK must take the lead to help OT’s, precisely because of the same UN Charter Article 73 obligations. Even potential investors may be tempted to tell us, if your main aid/development partner, the UK, is persistently unwilling to give you a vote of confidence and put in place key development-sparking infrastructure, why shouldn’t we simply follow their lead?)

Given that history and those factors, it is unsurprising to see a renewed, key commitment that actually uses the language of the UN Charter Article 73 (a) in the new JMC 2017 Communique, [5]point 17:

“The UK and the Overseas Territories commit to ensure the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories and their just treatment and protection from abuses.”

Notice, “ENSURE . . . ADVANCEMENT,” where Article 73 (d) adds the commitment to “PROMOTE constructive measures of development.” This gives focus to the communique’s point 16 on good governance reforms:

“We reiterated our commitment to high standards in public life supporting and developing open and transparent institutions for democracy, including Codes of Conduct, human rights institutions, sound public financial management, and a strong, effective and diverse public service. We reiterated our commitment to progress the development and implementation of clear Codes of Conduct for Ministers, elected officials and civil servants, where these do not already exist.”

This brings back to a focus the need for a charter[6] of good governance[7] and for a development partnership memorandum of understanding[8] that has come up more than once or twice in this series for TMR, and now not just for Montserrat. For these two initiatives would work together to lay out a comprehensive, legal framework- backed foundation for the key reform and capacity-building commitments and principles, as well as a viable programme based project cycle management agreement and timeline for agreed key resiliency and transformation projects.  These should be backed by an economic growth strategy study[9] that gives the crucial economic and broader sound development rationale for what is to be done. As a part of that study, of course, feelers should be put out to potential major investment partners so that it is a working document not just yet another consultancy study gathering dust on our shelves.

We paid an awful price for this policy breakthrough. So now, let us come together to turn it into a transformational breakout that helps us build a sound future. 

[1] See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/british-pm-meets-with-leaders-of-british-overseas-territories/

[2]   See http://www.sainthelenaaccess.com/application/documents/Consultation/02-Airport-Consultation-Annex.pdf

[3] See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/14929/ot-wp-0612.pdf

[4] See: http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-xi/index.html

[5] See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/663983/Joint_Ministerial_Council_2017_-_Communique.pdf 

[6] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-6-2016-a-framework-for-good-governance/

[7] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-4-contribution/

[8] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-7-2016-catalytic-development-projects/

[9] See: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-14-2017-economic-transformation/

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Contribution – Part 27/2017

JMC ‘17: A development/aid policy breakthrough?

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 How can acknowledging UN Charter legal obligations make a difference with UK OT disaster relief, aid and development projects?

BRADES, Montserrat,  – It was not business as usual on November 28th and 29th 2017, when UK and Overseas Territories Ministers met at Lancaster House in London for the annual Joint Ministerial Council  (JMC) Meeting.[1] 

A year ago, Montserrat was the only Overseas Territory facing a long-term disaster recovery, rebuilding and development challenge. But, this year, after a horrific string of Category 5 hurricanes,  four out of five UK Caribbean OT’s are now disaster-struck: Montserrat, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands. The fifth, Cayman Islands, has all-too-vivid memories of the impact of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.  Several other Caribbean islands such as Barbuda, Dominica, St Maarten and even Puerto Rico have also been hard-hit and were splashed across global news. And, the next hurricane season is just seven months away now.

Where also, earthquakes and tsunamis (“tidal waves”) can strike us with little or no notice, we face volcanoes and we are prone to floods and droughts.

All of this made a big difference.

This time, Brexit was not the only major issue in the headlines.

So, when Montserrat’s Premier Donaldson Romeo spoke yet again about the development-choking impact of twenty and more years of dragged out recovery, rebuilding and redevelopment efforts, it was suddenly utterly, all-too-vividly relevant. Unsurprisingly, the Overseas Territories came together as one and the old 2009 St Helena Airport Project consultancy report, Annex H,[2] took on a new lease of life:

“[T]he UK is also responsible for ensuring compliance with international obligations of the UK which have been extended to its Overseas Territories. To meet these legal responsibilities, it has been the settled policy of Governments that the development needs of Territories are a first call on the aid programme.”

Indeed, as Annex H reminds us, as far back as a 1997 DfID White Paper (yes, right at DfID’s founding) we can see that:

“The Government reaffirms its responsibilities for Britain’s 13 remaining Dependent Territories . . . The reasonable assistance needs of the Dependent Territories are a first call on the development programme.” (para 2.28)  [This led to three key goals:]

[1] to maximise economic growth and self-sufficiency through sensible economic and financial management leading to graduation from such support, where this objective is feasible

[2] to ensure in the meantime that basic needs are met, including the provision of essential infrastructure

[3] to support the good governance of the territories, including the proper management of contingent liabilities . . .”

In the FCO 2012 White Paper on OT’s,[3] we see that HMG understands that:

“The UK Government’s fundamental responsibility and objective is to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories and their peoples. This responsibility flows from international law including the Charter of the United Nations. It also flows from our shared history and political commitment to the wellbeing of all British nationals. This requires us, among other things, to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories, to ensure their just treatment and their protection against abuses, and to develop self-government and free political institutions in the Territories. The reasonable assistance needs of the Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget.” [p.13, cf. UN Charter, Article 73.[4]]

Under this legally binding mandate, DfID’s role is to work “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.]

These principles, legal obligations and commitments are in fact the reason why from year to year some 60% of our recurrent budget and up to 80 – 90+% of our development budget come to us as grants from HMG, courtesy the UK taxpayer. So, despite problems that crop up from time to time, and despite ill-advised political punditry that dismisses the significance of this commitment, it is unavoidably the start point for serious resilience and transformation development planning for Montserrat and the other three disaster-struck OT’s. (NB: That’s why other donors will often tell us that the UK must take the lead to help OT’s, precisely because of the same UN Charter Article 73 obligations. Even potential investors may be tempted to tell us, if your main aid/development partner, the UK, is persistently unwilling to give you a vote of confidence and put in place key development-sparking infrastructure, why shouldn’t we simply follow their lead?)

Given that history and those factors, it is unsurprising to see a renewed, key commitment that actually uses the language of the UN Charter Article 73 (a) in the new JMC 2017 Communique, [5]point 17:

“The UK and the Overseas Territories commit to ensure the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories and their just treatment and protection from abuses.”

Notice, “ENSURE . . . ADVANCEMENT,” where Article 73 (d) adds the commitment to “PROMOTE constructive measures of development.” This gives focus to the communique’s point 16 on good governance reforms:

“We reiterated our commitment to high standards in public life supporting and developing open and transparent institutions for democracy, including Codes of Conduct, human rights institutions, sound public financial management, and a strong, effective and diverse public service. We reiterated our commitment to progress the development and implementation of clear Codes of Conduct for Ministers, elected officials and civil servants, where these do not already exist.”

This brings back to a focus the need for a charter[6] of good governance[7] and for a development partnership memorandum of understanding[8] that has come up more than once or twice in this series for TMR, and now not just for Montserrat. For these two initiatives would work together to lay out a comprehensive, legal framework- backed foundation for the key reform and capacity-building commitments and principles, as well as a viable programme based project cycle management agreement and timeline for agreed key resiliency and transformation projects.  These should be backed by an economic growth strategy study[9] that gives the crucial economic and broader sound development rationale for what is to be done. As a part of that study, of course, feelers should be put out to potential major investment partners so that it is a working document not just yet another consultancy study gathering dust on our shelves.

We paid an awful price for this policy breakthrough. So now, let us come together to turn it into a transformational breakout that helps us build a sound future. 

[1] See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/british-pm-meets-with-leaders-of-british-overseas-territories/

[2]   See http://www.sainthelenaaccess.com/application/documents/Consultation/02-Airport-Consultation-Annex.pdf

[3] See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/14929/ot-wp-0612.pdf

[4] See: http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-xi/index.html

[5] See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/663983/Joint_Ministerial_Council_2017_-_Communique.pdf 

[6] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-6-2016-a-framework-for-good-governance/

[7] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-4-contribution/

[8] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-7-2016-catalytic-development-projects/

[9] See: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-14-2017-economic-transformation/