St Helena was represented by Governor Lisa Phillips, Councillors Lawson Henry and Derek Thomas, and SHG’s UK Representative, Kedell Worboys MBE, at the annual Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council Meeting (OT JMC) in London.
The OT JMC gives OTs a chance to review progress on the issues of common interest and seek support for particular issues and initiatives. St Helena Airport made it possible for the St Helena delegation to have strong representation and minimise the time off-Island. This is something which some other OTs take for granted but was a first for St Helena. All OTs congratulated the delegation on the opening of the Airport.
The recent devastating hurricane events dominated much of the discussion, with a further £70million support announced during the JMC itself for hurricane relief and reconstruction in the affected islands. But there were important and useful lessons with regards to preparedness, reconstruction, and resilience to be drawn for all OTs.
There were a series of meetings with the Prime Minister, Secretaries of State and Ministers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Department for International Development (DFID), HM Treasury, Department for Exiting the EU, and Department of Climate Change, as well as Parliamentarians responsible for Foreign Affairs. Bilateral discussions were also held between the St Helena delegation and the DFID and FCO Ministers.
The main points coming out of the OT JMC were as follows:
- The partnership between the UK and the OTs was recognised as a strong one and one that was mutually reinforcing. The UK expressed its commitment to the OTs and was proud to recognise them as part of ‘global Britain’.
- The impact of Britain’s exit from the EU on the OTs was recognised. In the case of St Helena, the Island has seen an increase of 4.4% in the cost of living, and like most other OTs will likely lose access to future EU funding for major infrastructure projects. UK Ministers gave commitments to continue to engage the OTs in their discussions on Brexit going forward. They appreciated the gap in funding which the loss of EDF would bring and committed to exploring alternative eligibility for access to the funds e.g. through associate status.
- Discussions took place on the progress that had been made in child safeguarding and St Helena was highlighted for its good work in legislation, prosecution, and capacity building. Continued support was committed.
- The hurricanes had brought into focus OTs’ vulnerability to external shocks. It was recognised that OTs, including St Helena, could better equip themselves with resilience measures as protection for the future. These included insurance, emergency and contingency plans, and building regulations. Some support from Public Health England was also offered.
- The private sector’s key role in recovery efforts was acknowledged. A Private Sector Task Force was established to develop public/private partnerships on hurricane reconstruction. Effective working with the private sector was encouraged across all OTs.
- Hearing matters from other OTs was important to get a sense of what was happening on the ground and to really appreciate the issues they are facing. Several requests were made to visit St Helena to further the partnership, which were welcomed. These included visits by the St Helena All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and FCO and DFID Ministers.
The full Communiqué from the 2017 OT JMC can be read on the publications page of the SHG Website: http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/publications/.
1 December 2017