Overseas Territories Consultative Council. This year's OTCC in London has come to an end. Anguilla's representatives will shortly be flying back home. What did they accomplish? Quite a lot, as we can see from an FCO press release dated yesterday:
The UK and the Overseas Territories represented at the Consultative Council agreed the following:
• Recommitment to the principles of good governance agreed in 2006. [See below for the Good Governance paper from the 2006 OTCC]
• The Overseas Territories Consultative Council in 2009 should include a forum to discuss the 1999 White Paper ten years on. The Forum would include key stakeholders, would examine progress and what remained to be done, and would agree how to take forward the White Paper agenda.
• The UK would, where appropriate, support the Territories to meet their international obligations.
• Target dates of October 2009 for extension to all the populated Territories of ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women. To consider the options available to meet international obligations on sexual orientation.
• The importance of maintaining effective regulatory and law enforcement systems in order to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and to tackle corruption and bribery in line with international standards. In this regard, to work together to deliver the Financial Services Strategy and to implement agreed Action Plans.
• The importance of engagement with international initiatives in the area of transparency and the need for early progress on the signature of Tax Information Exchange Agreements with the UK and other OECD states.
• The UK would assist the Territories to keep them informed of progress on EU and other international agreements relating to financial services.
• To maintain and improve close dialogue between the Territories and the UK on the relationship with the European Union. To co-ordinate an approach to the EU/OCT Forum meeting in the Cayman Islands in November 2008.
• To work together to address the potential impact of climate change in the Overseas Territories and to promote sustainable environmental policies in the Territories with additional support from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
• That regional initiatives and co-operation between the Territories in areas such as disaster management, the environment and criminal justice should be encouraged and supported.
And, just in case we have forgotten what the paper on the principles of good governance referred to in the first paragraph above was, let us remind ourselves:
GOOD GOVERNANCE: A paper issued by the FCO at the 2006 OTCC
1. Although it is a phrase that has gained currency in recent years, the concept of governance has been with us as long as there have been systems within societies which determine the process of decision making; and the process by which decisions are, or are not, implemented. Good governance is simply doing this well.
2. Good governance is part of the partnership between the UK and its Overseas Territories set out in the 1999 White Paper, which highlighted the importance of providing governance of a high quality. It is essential that the UK and its Territories subscribe to high standards of human rights, openness and good government. Good governance builds trust amongst citizens of a society in its institutions and assists social cohesion. It encourages domestic investment; promotes higher rates of growth; and enables a society’s development to be shared equitably amongst its citizens. And it also promotes greater confidence amongst potential external investors. Moreover, good governance is a key element in ensuring sustainable development, another important area highlighted by the White Paper. For without good governance, the potential for sustainable development is severely undermined.
3. This paper seeks to set out what is good governance. The best way to do this is to identify what are some of the most important elements. Perhaps the key element of good governance is the rule of law. Good governance requires legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. This means the full protection of human rights, and particularly those of people belonging to minorities. Impartial enforcement of laws requires an independent judiciary immune from any external influence; and a police force which treats all individuals equally, without fear or favour. It also requires a public service free from political interference in its appointments, discipline and dismissals, which implements policy in accordance with the rule of law and internationally accepted standards. This provides the certainty, and sense of security, which are both essential for economic prosperity and social stability.
4. This leads on to the second element, which is transparency. This means that decisions by both the executive and legislature should be taken (and be seen to be taken) and implemented in line with defined rules and regulations. It also means that (subject to limited exceptions) information must be freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their implementation. It also requires the provision of an appropriate level of information, in an easily understandable form, by government and the public service to the public, and media.
5. The third key area is accountability. Not only Government institutions and the legislature, but also the private sector and civil society organisations, must be accountable to the public and, where appropriate, to their institutional stakeholders. Each organisation or institution should also be accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. This means that institutions should be subject to checks and balances, including scrutiny by the legislatures, committees of legislators, and other appropriate bodies. This also involves a well-developed civil society, with strong independent media free from political interference; and representative NGOs to defend the rights of individual interest groups. Institutions should in general be accessible, and open to the public and the media, so that confidence can be built up within society that these organs are functioning properly and in the general interest.
6. Crucially, these three issues are interlinked. For accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.
7. A further key element is the responsiveness of institutions. Good governance requires that institutional processes should serve all stakeholders within a reasonable time frame. And they should do so according to defined and acceptable standards. Another guiding factor is equity and inclusiveness. It is important that all those in a society feel that they have a stake in it, and that they do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society, or access to Government and services. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable, to have the opportunity to maintain and/or improve their well being. But most importantly, it is about ensuring that there is equality of opportunity for all in society; and that services and benefits are made available on this basis, without either politicians or public servants giving preferential treatment because of family ties, friendship or political allegiance.
8. Another significant factor in good governance is effectiveness and efficiency. It is important that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society, while making the best use of resources at their disposal. This is particularly relevant in ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment. Political decisions need to be taken with the long-term interests of society in mind, to ensure sustainability. And it involves ensuring sound financial management. Good governance may mean taking on entrenched interests, and judging how strongly to lead from the front. And finally, good governance means participation, including an organised civil society; and ways to ensure that the views of the most vulnerable are taken into consideration in decision-making.
9. Good governance is important, therefore, because it is the basic foundation for a successful, prosperous, well-ordered and sustainable society. It is about ensuring that the resources of a society are used to the best and most durable effect; and to the benefit of the greatest number of the population. These are aims to which both the UK and the territories aspire. The FCO makes available finance from its OT Programme Fund to help promote activities to this end.
10. Achieving good governance poses a series of challenges for all involved. What has been described is a counsel of perfection. No country, including the UK, completely meets all the criteria. But it is something the UK and the Territories must strive to achieve. The White Paper makes clear the importance which the UK attaches to meeting its commitments, including the implementation of its international responsibilities; protecting itself against contingent liabilities; and ensuring good governance. Therefore, the UK Government will work with Territory Governments on these issues. Both the Overseas Territories and the UK Government recognise that Governors have a key role to play in this process. The UK is sure that, for the reasons outlined, Territory governments share the UK’s concern that these objectives and standards are achieved, and will work with the UK to achieve them.
There is a lot to chew on there. How serious are our representatives in making any of this come to a reality in Anguilla? Only time will tell. We have only until the next elections due in early 2010 for the present administration to prove to us that they ever meant to introduce any measures at all to ensure good governance in Anguilla. Up to now, and for the past eight years, they have done nothing to convince any of us that they are interested in openness, good government, trust amongst the citizens of this society in its institutions, or to enable society’s development to be shared equitably amongst its citizens.
Let us listen to what they have to say when they return. More important, let us see what they will do. Then, we can make up our own minds. If they continue to fail us, people may begin to suggest that it will be time for a change.