De Ole Dawg – Part 9: 2018 –Montserrat and DE-colonialisation (not RE-colonialisation!)

De Ole Dawg – Part 9: 2018 –Montserrat and DE-colonialisation (not RE-colonialisation!)

Why did so many people across the region find it so difficult to make sense of Montserrat’s recent request to remain on the UN Decolonialisation list?

BRADES, Montserrat – It is astonishing to see how a recent request by Premier Donaldson Romeo to the UN Decolonisation Committee to withdraw a request by an earlier Premier to be removed from the list of seventeen remaining Non Self-Governing Territories was widely misunderstood across the region. Much of our local discussion was also sadly misinformed. It is as though the UN Committee that was meeting in Grenada with the territories on the list were instead a “RE-colonialisation” Committee. But, obviously, it is a DE-colonialisation Committee. One, that acts under Article 73 of the UN Charter and linked General Assembly resolutions, especially 1514 and 1541 of December 14 & 15, 1960.

The UN Charter, of course, is the cornerstone of modern International Law; as, after two ruinous world wars in 1914 – 18 and 1939 – 45 devastated continents and left up to eighty millions dead it was felt that relations between the nations had to be re-founded on principles of peace. As a part of that re-founding, it was recognised that seventy-two territories were under rule by other territories and that such rule was too often oppressive, abusive and unjust.  There is a reason why “Colonialism” is a dirty word.

So, in Article 73 of the Charter, principles were laid down, starting with these words:

“Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories . . . ”

This is why the UK has an acknowledged legal obligation to ensure . . .  political, economic, social, and educational advancement . . . just treatment, and . . . protection against abuses” for Montserrat and other Overseas Territories, as well as to promote constructive measures of development.”  The UK is even supposed to “co-operate” with other countries and international bodies to such ends.  In that context, the UK is also bound to “transmit regularly to the Secretary-General . . . statistical and other information . . . relating to economic, social, and educational conditions.”

Under this Article, the UN Decolonialisation Committee of twenty-four receives and addresses the annual reports on Montserrat and other Territories on the list of seventeen. And yes, Premier Romeo was quite correct: Montserrat was never actually taken off the list, although the request for de-listing is put in annual reports on Montserrat. [1]

Now, UN General Assembly Resolution 1541 in 1960, Principle VI, lays out three alternative solutions to the non-self-governing territory challenge:

“A Non-Self-Governing Territory can be said to have reached a full measure of self-government by:

(a) Emergence as a sovereign independent State [→ e.g. Antigua];

(b) Free association with an independent State [ → e.g. Puerto Rico]; or

(c) Integration with an independent State [ → e.g. Martinique or Guadeloupe].”

The UK has apparently taken the view – after its experience with Antigua and other EC states from 1967 on, that “Associated State” status[2] should be tied to a definite date for independence. However, as the annual reports also point out, in 2015, the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) communicated the view that remaining UK OT’s enjoy constitutional democratic governments and a “modern relationship” with the UK.[3] (Fair comment: this seems to be a name for a weak form of Associated State!)  Also, the recent passing of an Act by the UK House of Commons mandating public beneficial ownership registers in OT’s has raised serious questions in many minds here and in the other OT’s.  The decolonisation issue, obviously, is not settled.

Premier Romeo, has long said that one of his main goals is for Montserrat to “stand up on its own two feet” economically. Clearly, economic self-sufficiency is a key step to self-government: he who pays the piper calls the tune. So it is no mystery why the theme of the 2018/19 Budget is “Advancing our Journey to Self-Sustainability through Strategic Investments.”  In this budget, Mr Romeo has therefore announced five “breakthrough” initiatives as key steps towards self-sufficiency[4]: 1] the sea port breakwater, 2] subsea fibre optic cable, 3] geothermal energy development, 4] EC$ 60 millions from the European Union (to go with EC$ 54 millions from the UK for the port) and 5] the ten-year Economic Growth Strategy.[5] The Premier also intends to speak before the UN and to invite a visit by the Committee, obviously to request much-needed development assistance.

Now, too, the UN has a publication, “What the UN Can Do To Assist Non-Self Governing Territories.”[6] Montserrat is listed in it as an associate member of UN ECLAC and UNESCO, the UNICEF EC office has Montserrat on its beat, UNDP (acting through CARTAC) has helped us, we can apply to UNEP through its Panama City office, FAO has an office in Barbados, we routinely work with PAHO/WHO. ILO (International Labour Organisation) services are available to us, and doubtless UNIDO[7] (the UN Industrial Development Organisation) will be equally willing. The IEA[8] (International Energy Agency) though technically not part of the UN may be helpful too. Some years ago we received a technical mission from the IMF.  Beyond the UN, regional agencies such as OECS, ECCB, CARICOM, UWI, CDB and more are quite willing to work with us. Obviously, the JMC of the other OT’s and the UK is another key contact and through it we may find ways to work with other UKG Departments, not just DfID and FCO.

 History gives a yardstick: it took twenty years from the 1960’s to 1980’s to modernise our economy sufficiently for us to fund our recurrent budget. (We were still heavily dependent on the UK for development aid.) But, the volcano struck and we lost 2/3 of our people, lost access to 2/3 of our land, lost much of our key infrastructure and housing, etc. Our power station went out of use. Our refurbished and upgraded hospital was lost, as was our brand new Government Headquarters. A project to greatly expand the W H Bramble Airport was killed by the eruption and the just completed replacement jetty for the one lost to Hugo in 1989 was rendered largely useless.  Our economy is half what it was in 1994 in “real” terms, investor confidence is low and with many key initiatives delayed for twenty years, DfID has not given us a vote of confidence as a good development prospect.

So, we have a much more difficult development challenge today than back in the 1960’s – 90’s.

Clearly, the UN can help us meet the challenge, and the legal force of the UN Charter Article 73 provides urgently needed balance to the bureaucrats in DfID and FCO. Yes, better infrastructure and a supportive climate will attract catalytic foreign investments, too. But in the end it is we of Montserrat who must work together with one heart and mind, to create economic self-sufficiency over the next ten to twenty years.

[1]           See the 2017 report: https://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/GetFile?Open&DS=A/72/456&Lang=E&Type=DOC

[2]           See Wikipedia for a useful, accessible “101”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Associated_state

[3]           See the 2010 Constitution Order: http://agc.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Montserrat-Constitution-Order-2010-SI-2010-No-2474.pdf

[4]           See the 2018/19 Citizen’s Guide: http://finance.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Citizens-Guide-Montserrat-2018-19.pdf

[5]           See TMR, https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-8-2018-budget-breakthroughs-vs-the-naysayers/

[6]           See UN, https://www.un.org/en/decolonization/pdf/English_JUNE%202017.pdf

[7]           See: https://www.unido.org/

[8]           See: https://www.iea.org/

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Why did so many people across the region find it so difficult to make sense of Montserrat’s recent request to remain on the UN Decolonialisation list?

BRADES, Montserrat – It is astonishing to see how a recent request by Premier Donaldson Romeo to the UN Decolonisation Committee to withdraw a request by an earlier Premier to be removed from the list of seventeen remaining Non Self-Governing Territories was widely misunderstood across the region. Much of our local discussion was also sadly misinformed. It is as though the UN Committee that was meeting in Grenada with the territories on the list were instead a “RE-colonialisation” Committee. But, obviously, it is a DE-colonialisation Committee. One, that acts under Article 73 of the UN Charter and linked General Assembly resolutions, especially 1514 and 1541 of December 14 & 15, 1960.

The UN Charter, of course, is the cornerstone of modern International Law; as, after two ruinous world wars in 1914 – 18 and 1939 – 45 devastated continents and left up to eighty millions dead it was felt that relations between the nations had to be re-founded on principles of peace. As a part of that re-founding, it was recognised that seventy-two territories were under rule by other territories and that such rule was too often oppressive, abusive and unjust.  There is a reason why “Colonialism” is a dirty word.

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So, in Article 73 of the Charter, principles were laid down, starting with these words:

“Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories . . . ”

This is why the UK has an acknowledged legal obligation to ensure . . .  political, economic, social, and educational advancement . . . just treatment, and . . . protection against abuses” for Montserrat and other Overseas Territories, as well as to promote constructive measures of development.”  The UK is even supposed to “co-operate” with other countries and international bodies to such ends.  In that context, the UK is also bound to “transmit regularly to the Secretary-General . . . statistical and other information . . . relating to economic, social, and educational conditions.”

Under this Article, the UN Decolonialisation Committee of twenty-four receives and addresses the annual reports on Montserrat and other Territories on the list of seventeen. And yes, Premier Romeo was quite correct: Montserrat was never actually taken off the list, although the request for de-listing is put in annual reports on Montserrat. [1]

Now, UN General Assembly Resolution 1541 in 1960, Principle VI, lays out three alternative solutions to the non-self-governing territory challenge:

“A Non-Self-Governing Territory can be said to have reached a full measure of self-government by:

(a) Emergence as a sovereign independent State [→ e.g. Antigua];

(b) Free association with an independent State [ → e.g. Puerto Rico]; or

(c) Integration with an independent State [ → e.g. Martinique or Guadeloupe].”

The UK has apparently taken the view – after its experience with Antigua and other EC states from 1967 on, that “Associated State” status[2] should be tied to a definite date for independence. However, as the annual reports also point out, in 2015, the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) communicated the view that remaining UK OT’s enjoy constitutional democratic governments and a “modern relationship” with the UK.[3] (Fair comment: this seems to be a name for a weak form of Associated State!)  Also, the recent passing of an Act by the UK House of Commons mandating public beneficial ownership registers in OT’s has raised serious questions in many minds here and in the other OT’s.  The decolonisation issue, obviously, is not settled.

Premier Romeo, has long said that one of his main goals is for Montserrat to “stand up on its own two feet” economically. Clearly, economic self-sufficiency is a key step to self-government: he who pays the piper calls the tune. So it is no mystery why the theme of the 2018/19 Budget is “Advancing our Journey to Self-Sustainability through Strategic Investments.”  In this budget, Mr Romeo has therefore announced five “breakthrough” initiatives as key steps towards self-sufficiency[4]: 1] the sea port breakwater, 2] subsea fibre optic cable, 3] geothermal energy development, 4] EC$ 60 millions from the European Union (to go with EC$ 54 millions from the UK for the port) and 5] the ten-year Economic Growth Strategy.[5] The Premier also intends to speak before the UN and to invite a visit by the Committee, obviously to request much-needed development assistance.

Now, too, the UN has a publication, “What the UN Can Do To Assist Non-Self Governing Territories.”[6] Montserrat is listed in it as an associate member of UN ECLAC and UNESCO, the UNICEF EC office has Montserrat on its beat, UNDP (acting through CARTAC) has helped us, we can apply to UNEP through its Panama City office, FAO has an office in Barbados, we routinely work with PAHO/WHO. ILO (International Labour Organisation) services are available to us, and doubtless UNIDO[7] (the UN Industrial Development Organisation) will be equally willing. The IEA[8] (International Energy Agency) though technically not part of the UN may be helpful too. Some years ago we received a technical mission from the IMF.  Beyond the UN, regional agencies such as OECS, ECCB, CARICOM, UWI, CDB and more are quite willing to work with us. Obviously, the JMC of the other OT’s and the UK is another key contact and through it we may find ways to work with other UKG Departments, not just DfID and FCO.

 History gives a yardstick: it took twenty years from the 1960’s to 1980’s to modernise our economy sufficiently for us to fund our recurrent budget. (We were still heavily dependent on the UK for development aid.) But, the volcano struck and we lost 2/3 of our people, lost access to 2/3 of our land, lost much of our key infrastructure and housing, etc. Our power station went out of use. Our refurbished and upgraded hospital was lost, as was our brand new Government Headquarters. A project to greatly expand the W H Bramble Airport was killed by the eruption and the just completed replacement jetty for the one lost to Hugo in 1989 was rendered largely useless.  Our economy is half what it was in 1994 in “real” terms, investor confidence is low and with many key initiatives delayed for twenty years, DfID has not given us a vote of confidence as a good development prospect.

So, we have a much more difficult development challenge today than back in the 1960’s – 90’s.

Clearly, the UN can help us meet the challenge, and the legal force of the UN Charter Article 73 provides urgently needed balance to the bureaucrats in DfID and FCO. Yes, better infrastructure and a supportive climate will attract catalytic foreign investments, too. But in the end it is we of Montserrat who must work together with one heart and mind, to create economic self-sufficiency over the next ten to twenty years.

[1]           See the 2017 report: https://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/GetFile?Open&DS=A/72/456&Lang=E&Type=DOC

[2]           See Wikipedia for a useful, accessible “101”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Associated_state

[3]           See the 2010 Constitution Order: http://agc.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Montserrat-Constitution-Order-2010-SI-2010-No-2474.pdf

[4]           See the 2018/19 Citizen’s Guide: http://finance.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Citizens-Guide-Montserrat-2018-19.pdf

[5]           See TMR, https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-8-2018-budget-breakthroughs-vs-the-naysayers/

[6]           See UN, https://www.un.org/en/decolonization/pdf/English_JUNE%202017.pdf

[7]           See: https://www.unido.org/

[8]           See: https://www.iea.org/