Thu | Oct 17, 2019

UK presses towards 2025 Caribbean vision - British ambassador unveils strategy for the region

Published:Saturday | September 21, 2019 | 12:10 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad.

Despite being caught up in a Brexit conundrum, Britain will remain steadfast in its diplomatic and financial arrangements with countries of the English-speaking Commonwealth.

That is the word from British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad, who was tasked by the minister with responsibility for the Caribbean in the United Kingdom (UK) Lord Ahmad – no relation – to put the strategy together for Bermuda and the English-speaking Caribbean countries.

The high commissioner said that it would have been misleading to say that because a strategy did not exist, the UK Government has not been doing things regionally or taking an all-of-government approach to the Caribbean.

“But this is the first time that it is articulated in the way it has. It’s been adopted by all front-line ministers in the UK, and it is something that we are internally judging ourselves by,” Ahmad said at a luncheon for journalists at his St Andrew offices on Thursday.

STRATEGY PLANS

The high commissioner said that the strategy has been discussed with the Government, with Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith being the lead contact. Plans are also in the pipeline to meet with Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips and his team, including Shadow Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Lisa Hanna, to discuss the strategy further.

Thursday’s session was the first time that the UK’s strategy for the Caribbean was being disclosed to the public, whether in the UK or the Caribbean.

“This whole-of-government approach informs the UK’s interactions with the governments and institutions of the Overseas Territories,” stated Ahmad.

The strategy includes a vision for the year 2025, which states: “The UK and the Caribbean have a strong partnership based on trust. We are working hand in hand for our shared security and prosperity and to promote our shared values and interests globally. With the UK’s support, the Caribbean is increasingly resilient and better able to manage economic shocks, serious and organised crime, natural disasters, and climate change”.

Ahmad noted that the vision would be all talk unless there is money behind it, so the UK has committed £500 million (J$85 billion) to the Caribbean.

“If you look at it in other ways, we are committed for more difficult reasons. The Windrush Compensation Scheme, for example, the sum total of our Government’s attention and money is far bigger, and these are long-term, hard-wired programmes,” Ahmad said.

The high commissioner said that Britain has committed 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to be given away as overseas assistance.

More than £34 million has been set aside for the Conflict Stability and Security Fund, a cross-government fund that supports and delivers activity to tackle instability and to prevent conflicts that threaten UK interests.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com