The Honourable Premier Donaldson Romeo and Hon. Minister and Deputy Premier Delmaude Ryan along with Hon. Ag. Financial Secretary Lindorna Brade and Permanent Secretary to the Premier Camille Gerald, were in the United Kingdom (UK) from Friday, Nov 27 2015.
They were visiting the UK attending primarily for the Joint Ministerial (JMC) Council fourth annual meeting which took place on December 1-2, 2015 and brings together political leaders and representatives of the UK and the Overseas Territories, meeting at Lancaster House in London.
According to the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), the JMC is the principal forum for reviewing and implementing the shared strategy for promoting security, good governance and sustainable development of the Overseas Territories (OTs). Since the 1999 Overseas Territories White Paper following up in 2012, the strategy calls for a whole of government approach to supporting the Overseas Territories and Territory leaders will have discussions with ministers from a range of UK government departments.
It refers as it highlights ‘the partnership’ “… the highest political forum under the 2012 White Paper, bringing together UK Ministers, elected Leaders and Representatives of the Overseas Territories for the purpose of providing leadership and shared vision for the Territories. Its mandate is to monitor and drive forward collective priorities for action in the spirit of partnership.”
The official announcement in the UK of the meeting said that “Issues (to be) discussed this year included: child safeguarding, economic development and setting a vision for the UK and the OTs in 2030. Elected leaders and representatives from the following Territories expected to attend are: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha and Turks and Caicos Islands.
In a communiqué on the JMC meeting issued on December 3, in its preamble it stated that, meeting then as the JMC, “We welcomed the Premier of Bermuda and the newly elected Chief Minister of Anguilla to their first Council and congratulated the Premier of BVI and the Chief Minister of Gibraltar on their recent re-election.”
The communiqué said that they deliberated on the following: Prosperity and Economic Development; Development Assistance and Infrastructure, Tax and Transparency, Beneficial Ownership, Governance, Security, International, Communities, Child Safeguarding, Health, Pensions, Sports, and Environment.
We excerpted from the communiqué some of what the hosts of the meeting reported – On Prosperity and Economic Development,: “We reiterated our shared vision to work together to ensure the Territories reach their full potential as open, dynamic and sustainable economies, delivering growth, prosperity and employment for their citizens, without hindrance from other nations… We affirmed that all Territories are unique and diverse in their economic development…We highlighted the importance of citizens and businesses of the Overseas Territories having access to merchant and correspondent banking services, the lack of which can have a damaging effect on economic growth.”
On Development Assistance and Infrastructure: “We reaffirmed that the reasonable assistance needs of the Overseas Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget. The UK Government committed to expediting infrastructure development in the Territories to facilitate improved transportation, communications, commerce and provision of social and community development within agreed timelines.”
On Tax and Transparency; “We noted that the Overseas Territories were responsible for their own tax rates and generating the revenue necessary for the provision of essential public services. It is not appropriate to refer to British Territories as ‘tax havens’. All Overseas Territories with financial services confirmed their full commitment to international co-operation in tax matters, and to the fight against money laundering, tax evasion, illicit finances and corruption.”
On Governance, they reported: “We reflected on the marking this year of the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta and noted the number of commemorative events that had taken place in the Overseas Territories, recognizing the benefits of democracy and the rule of law as key building blocks for secure and prosperous states.”
“We committed to further joint work to extend the core UN Human Rights Conventions to the Territories, where these have not been extended already. The UK Government undertook to ensure that pending requests from the Territories are taken forward as soon as possible.”
The UK Government went on: “We welcomed the meetings this year of Territory Heads of Public Service, Attorneys General and Directors of Human Resources as furthering our cooperation in the field of good governance, rule of law and public service reform. Recognising the capacity limitations of some Overseas Territories, we committed to work in partnership as appropriate to support capacity building and the development of expertise in the following core areas:
- Public financial management and economic planning: maintaining sound public finances, building economic resilience and ensuring value for money in use of public funds, including through effective use of audit.
- Standards in public life: creating a meaningful culture of ethics, integrity and transparency, including through Codes of Conduct for Ministers and civil servants where these are not already in place.
iii. Public service reform: building capacity and supporting an effective, professional and transparent service that acts in the interests of all the people of the Territories.
- Human rights, democracy and the rule of law: building strong and effective institutions that promote democracy, human rights, the rule of law and deliver access to justice.
- Security and anti-corruption: upholding Territories’ security and enhancing their reputation as sound jurisdictions for business, including through continued support for international efforts against bribery and corruption and fraud.
In respect of the others Child Safeguarding received special attention as it has been a focus with much activities MOUs etc. for 2015.
Child Safeguarding: “We reiterated our commitment to delivering a zero tolerance approach to child abuse in all of its forms, and committed to doing all we can to prevent harm, support victims and bring offenders to justice. We agreed that our governments should lead a national response, demonstrating clear leadership and accountability, to ensure a child – centred and coordinated approach to safeguarding based on multi-agency working, information sharing and robust risk assessment.
We set out a shared intention to strive towards best practice in protecting all children within our jurisdictions and agreed to work together towards a Territory – led road map and memorandum of understanding, proposed by the Falkland Islands.
We stressed our determination to put children’s needs at the heart of the safeguarding system and create environments in which all children have an equal opportunity to flourish. We committed to Child Safeguarding Reviews in all of the inhabited Overseas Territories by the end of 2016, noting that some of these had already been held while others were being planned.
We underlined our shared international human rights obligations and committed to working together to realize the progressive implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. These will be fundamental to meeting the new Sustainable Development Goals.
We have outlined briefly, but are constrained to report any further on this, but hope that the resource necessary could make this possible for the public to benefit from the information on the observations and agreements by UK government ministers to support its Overseas Territories. Article by Bennette Roach