22 October, 2007

Environmental Charter

The Environmental Charter. In August of this year a team from the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum came to Anguilla. They interviewed all the major players in environmental protection on the island. They asked questions. They did their research. They have now published their report [link here]. We shall have a look at some of their findings on our progress on implementing our Environmental Charter. My reading is that Anguilla did not fare well. In some cases we came out very badly compared to other British Overseas Territories. Over the next few days, we are going to look at some of the findings. It will be interesting to learn from the experts in Anguilla whether the consultants got it correct. Did they misunderstand anything?

We should start the exercise by reminding ourselves what this is all about. On 26 September 2001, acting on behalf of itself and the people of Anguilla, the government of Anguilla signed up with the British government to an Environmental Charter [link here] which contained certain guiding principles. We promised then:

  1. To recognise that all people need a healthy environment for their well-being and livelihoods and that all can help to conserve and sustain it.
  2. To use our natural resources wisely, being fair to present and future generations.
  3. To identify environmental opportunities, costs and risks in all policies and strategies.
  4. To seek expert advice and consult openly with interested parties on decisions affecting the environment.
  5. To aim for solutions which benefit both the environment and development.
  6. To contribute towards the protection and improvement of the global environment.
  7. To safeguard and restore native species, habitats and landscape features, and control or eradicate invasive species.
  8. To encourage activities and technologies that benefit the environment.
  9. To control pollution, with the polluter paying for prevention or remedies.
  10. To study and celebrate our environmental heritage as a treasure to share with our children.

The Charter contains some explanatory notes. Each of the above promises was elaborated and developed to show the types of actions that government would take to honour its commitment.

This Charter amounted to a series of promises made by our government to the people of Anguilla. It created what the lawyers call a “legitimate expectation” that government would honour the various promises. Any development project on Anguilla that is permitted by the Land Development Board to go ahead without the requisite Environmental Impact Assessment, and the requisite follow-up public discussion, might be a breach of the promises made in paragraph 4 of the Charter.

We shall look at some of these details in the next post.


  1. While I agree that the approval of major projects without requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment may be in direct violation of Anguilla's Environmental Charter, It may be unfair to blame the Land Development Control Committee. The Executive Council has the right to veto whatever the LDDC does. If a developer goes to the Chief Minister and he approves their proposal, he effectively takes the LDDC completely out of the picture, and the project goes ahead with no environment review, terms or conditions. I believe that is essentially what happened with both Viceroy and Flag.

    The people have been excluded from the process that was promised us. No one seems to have bothered to even invent some excuse for betraying our trust in them and the fine words of their Manifesto. If government is operated with arrogance and secrecy, Ministers should not be surprised that some will ascribe their own reasons and interpretations to such procedures.

  2. I do blame the COmmitte because if government does something they dispprove of they should resign from being on the COmmittee. By staying on all these Boards and allowing the politicians to do what they want in these critical areas is not helping us.

    Also they should put their views in writing and make those documents available to the public. There is no law that prohibits that the Land Control COmmittee rulings should be private.

    The problem we have in Anguilla, is very few people know how to express their views in a professional manner without making it personal.

    Lets take a stand, Anguillians.

  3. Well if they are doing such underhanded things why are we still re elceting them to office.Its been some 20 years that these socalled incompetents have been running our country.Hello? When are we going to stop playing the blaming game and point the finger where it truly needs to be pointed,ie,us.We continually re elect them then accuse them of foul play.THis is utter nonsense.Change is needed and necessary but as is very obvious we,Anguillians are afraid to effect the necessary cahnge so what do we do ?Yes, you guessed it .Weplay it safe by re electing those incompetents back in office and the vicious cycle repeats itself once again.Why cry and lament about oyur own mess and expect others to hear your cry?You all have to wake up.
    It is quite clear that Gov't makes its own rules as far as whats right for Anguilla irrespective of whatever promises or agreements.They are rogue operators who act first and think last.To them the means justify the end whatever the outcome.To unilaterally make such decisions is and insult to all Anguillians everywhere.What is the purpose of the charter if the recommendations are not considered or implemented?Are we so arrogant that we just totally dismiss studies done by experts in this field?Wow, they have out done themselves once again.I hope its not too late to correct the damage already done by these careless and blundering idiots.

  4. The Environmental Charter is not a list of "recommendations." It is an agreement, signed by the present Chief Minister, between the Government of Anguilla and the people of Anguilla.

  5. Who are these officials who believe that they are untouchable?Agreements are made to be upheld but it seems as if signing of a signature is of no consequence.Our ecosystem is a very small one and quite fragile thus it is in our interest to br prudent and vigorously proctect what natural resourc`es we have.It is disheartening see how our Gov't is disregarding the wisdom of experts in environmental matter to make a dollar.Is it really worth it ?In the long run their careless behaviour and reckless decisions will only harm us and our environment.Conservation and protection is the key to maintaining and sustaining our growth and unique appeal.If we neglect what the experts have to say then we will surely reap what we sow.-a worhtles useless damaged country.One where erosion of our coastline and the build up trash ,sewage will be the ugly end result of our vanity and arrogance.It is imperative to act now and employ people who are capable and willing to implement legislation ,and carry out the imposed punishments without fear or favour.

  6. Penalties for violation of our Environmental Charter are not imposed on those who violate its provisions, but upon those who come after us.

    As Olasee Davis pointed out, "Because we don't think about the future they will never forget us."

  7. Justice Mitchell

    You may find this article in the Barbados Nation interesting. You may want analyse it from an Anguilla perspective. Our politician behave the way they behave because may be better than us they appreciate and understand the psychic of Caribbean people. May be the average voter in the Caribbean is selfish and inherently corrupt and would therefore like a corrupt politician in power as he/she sees it as a way for them to personally benefit. A scholarship for my child, a job promotion, a house out of public funds, a paved road to my door step, a break from paying a water bill, a break from paying a medical bill, a guaranteed overseas medical care at the public expense, a work permit, a few loads of marl from the public quarry, inequitable exchange of crown land, preferential treatment with respect to public contracts, overriding of the Land Control Committee and Physical Planning.

    The size of our populations makes the politics extremely personable. That is probably why the people of the remaining British territories in the Caribbean or hoping in vain that the British FCO institutions will act as the line in the sand that the politicians will not cross.

    Nation News

    I have also copied the article below.

    Making of a political leader
    Published on: 10/21/07.

    IN THE POLITICAL consulting business it is not unusual for one to encounter a situation in which one of the contenders for the post of Prime Minister appears not to have the "right stuff", while the other contender seems to be the quintessential definition of that "stuff".

    This makes for a potentially uncomfortable situation where one individual is destined to monopolise that post for an indefinite period, which can be a good or bad thing depending on which side of the fence one sits.

    I have always expressed consistent views on the issue of leadership and support the imposition of limits on the length of time that any one individual could hold the office of prime minister.

    Several critics have interpreted this position as an attempt to create opportunities for people who would otherwise not win competitive elections to such posts; however, this perspective arises from a genuine desire to see the Caribbean develop mature political institutions that can exist without the assistance of popular personalities who have a defined life span.

    Change unlikely
    Notwithstanding, one appreciates the fact that the Caribbean reality is not likely to change and this will mean that we will need to try to understand the type of leader that Caribbean people desire so that political parties seeking success could either identify leaders with such qualities, or seek to change the personality type of their leaders in the tradition of the "gingerbread man".

    This is not a simple task by any stretch of the imagination, especially since the type of leader that people in Barbados want will be different to the type that will be successful in Trinidad and in both instances the characteristics of the popular leader will change from time to time.

    The more recent NATION/CADRES Poll attempted such an assessment using basic characteristics that appear to define the personality of most politicians in the Caribbean. This list includes competence, pleasantness, honesty and integrity, experience, political savvy and, finally, morality or spirituality.

    This approach is similar to that employed in other Caribbean countries and it is interesting to note that in almost every instance the incumbent popular leader appears to perform well in relation to some characteristics, while the less successful leader outperforms that incumbent regarding an entirely different set of characteristics.

    Incumbent and successful leaders tend to be regarded as more competent, more experienced and are deemed to have more political savvy than their less successful opponents. Conversely, the contenders are usually considered more pleasant, more honest and are seen to have higher moral and spiritual values than their incumbent opponents.

    This often seems like an odd scenario where we appear to be condoning unpleasantness, immorality and dishonesty in public office which conflicts heavily with our public expression as Christian societies and moreover our express wish for honesty and integrity in public office.

    The reality, however, is that there is a fundamental difference between our desire for morality in public office and a realisation that there are other characteristics which are perhaps more critical to take our countries forward such as competence.

    Ideal elusive
    If, therefore, we were to find a leader who combines both of these characteristics, we would readily elect such a person, but since it appears that the perfect leader is elusive, we settle for one that presents the qualities that we believe are more important to the task at hand.

    Ironically, this is much like selecting a life partner as there is a realisation that a potential mate will possess several good characteristics along with less desirable ones. Since we know within ourselves that will not find the perfect person, we settle for the one we can live with and it would appear that we do the same with our national leaders as well.

    Moreover, we increasingly seem happy to make long-term commitments to a leader that we "settle" for, since we are unwilling to risk our economies and national development in the hands of persons who don't appear to have the right "stuff".

    In colloquial terms, the phrase "horses for courses" is frequently used to communicate our belief that there are some personality characteristics that are appropriate for some tasks and not others. To be sure, the Bible refers to "talents" that each of us has. However, we seldom interpret this in teaching to mean that some of us will never have the personality type appropriate to running a country.

    Nonetheless, Caribbean and indeed international history is replete with characters who fail at politics but have other talents.

    Most recently, former United States presidential hopeful Al Gore won an Oscar and a Nobel Prize, but decided not to run for president since he realises that he is unlikely to win this time either.

    Closer to home, popular entertainers like Gabby and Gypsy have been hugely successful in their musical careers, while faltering in their political careers.

    Throughout the region, we have often been comfortable being led by people whose morality is questionable, to say the least, or who manifest dictatorial tendencies in their leadership roles.

    This is perhaps a reflection of our cynical assessment of politics as being a messy business that is not for the "faint of heart".

    And, while we wish this were not the case, we accept that it is unlikely to change and would, therefore, wish to ensure that those who are in command of our political affairs seem to be the type of person who can best manage this environment.

    The less fortunate challengers who have found themselves on the wrong side of this personality assessment can take comfort in the more recent history of Caribbean politics which saw one typical "nice guy" in Antigua triumph over one of the more notorious Caribbean "rough and tumble" politicians.

    It was not that Antiguans changed their perception of what was necessary to run the country, but they believed the time had come for a change. This presented the challenger with an opening and time will tell if he is able to retain that image, or if the rigours of politics will also turn him into the "rough and tumble" type of politician that we like in the Caribbean.

  8. Having been at the centre of the negotiation of the environment charters (within Whitehall and with overseas territories governments during 2000-01), it may be helpful to provide some background observations.

    A) The intention to develop environment charters agreed with the overseas territories was set out in paragraph 8.15 of the 1999 White Paper: "Partnership for Progress and Prosperity - Britain and the Overseas Territories"

    B) Each environment charter contains a commitment by the government of that territory to "Ensure that environmental impact assessments are undertaken before approving major projects..." That phrase "major projects" was a deliberate qualification, recognizing concerns that it would be inappropriate to insist on full EIAs for development projects expected to have only minor environmental impacts. No definition of "major project" was attempted for the good reason that any controversy about whether a project is or is not "major" is part of the normal process of political debate in each territory. As a political rather than a legal document (signed by ministers, not voted for by legislatures), it was not part of each charter in order to forestall such debate. But the charters were designed as a reminder of fundamental principles and related commitments to which the UK and overseas territory governments subscribed.

    C) EIAs were not plucked out of thin air as a topic for inclusion in the environment charters. They were taken from the principles of the Rio Declaration, approved on 16 June 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit. Principle 17 is:

    "Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority."

    The environment charters all end with a commitment by both the UK and overseas territory governments to: "Abide by the principles set out in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and work towards meeting International Development Targets on the environment." The latter are now known as the Millennium Development Goals (the 8 MDGs) of which the one on the environment - as formulated in 2001 when the charters were agreed - is "There should be a current national strategy for sustainable development in the process of implementation, in every country by 2005, so as to ensure that current trends in the loss of environmental resources are effectively reversed at both global and national levels by 2015."

    D) There is, however, a widespread misunderstanding about EIAs. Major projects are often developed only after there has been a satisfactory initial feasibility study. If there are economic, social, environmental or technical factors which might make the project impossible or undesirable, these need to be addressed first. However, it is not uncommon for some major projects, especially when driven by powerful political or economic forces, to develop considerable momentum without a proper feasibility study having been undertaken. (A "proper" feasibility study may be lacking when none has been done or not done to an adequate standard or with sufficient detail to be a reliable basis for informed public debate.) In such circumstances, an EIA may be in the uncomfortable position of serving two purposes. First, to provide retrospective evidence that there is no fundamental environmental problem with the project. Second, to guide the detailed planning in order to minimise environmental damage and maximise environmental benefits from the project. These are fundamentally different tasks and pretending that an EIA is part of a feasibility study (or vice versa) does not serve the interests of governments, developers or the public.

    E) EIAs should be completed before major projects are approved because there are often ways in which modifying the design parameters at the start (including precise location and conditions that the developer is required to meet in carrying the project out) can avoid mistakes and improve the long-term value of the project. It is long before discussing the detailed planning and implementation of major projects that any fundamental negative environmental, social, technical or other factors need to be identified and addressed.

    A final observation: EIAs work best when they are regarded as an aid to detailed planning rather than as unwelcome and expensive hurdles that the developer has to negotiate (or avoid). They were included in the charters precisely to encourage this approach.

    Iain Orr

    PS To navigate to the texts of all the environment charters on the FCO website, start at http://www.fco.gov.uk/ and then choose, from menus on the left: International Priorities, UK Overseas Territories, Environment and Conservation; and then on the right Overseas Territories Environment Charters. Although it is long, this link may be a useful shortcut:

    IAIN ORR, BioDiplomacy, 12 Otto Close, London SE26 4NA
    Tel 020 8693 3584- if no reply,ring TEMPORARY MOBILE 07918-634-146
    (Regular M: 07939-301-055 under repair)


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