As part of the restructuring in 1995/96, the Forum adopted a Business Plan. This years Annual Report follows its structure, to report progress, and to highlight priorities for the coming year.
Organisational development. The Forum welcomed CAB International as a new member, as well as the rejoining of the National Trust. We continue to seek the support of others who should be involved.
In 1998/99, the Forum needs to complete procedures for the change of name to refer to Overseas Territories. We need to develop the work started on identifying other sources of funding. There is an urgent need to review the load placed on the Co-ordinator; we would like to identify resources allowing some division of duties to make the work humanly possible! The Forum plans to work with its partners in the Overseas Territories and elsewhere to define further the relationship between the Forum and its Associate Members.
Working Groups. During the year, four geographical Working Groups were (re)established. Their reports are given below.
The Forum will give attention to the ways of resourcing their activities, and to the potential for a Europe Working Group.
Relationships and links with Overseas Territories and OT NGOs. The Forum has maintained close working relationships between those based in UK and partners in the Overseas Territories, mainly by telecommunications and of course Forum News, but also as far as possible by a programme of regular visits in both directions. We would like to enhance efficiency further by building on the existing e-mail links. Visitors to the Forum network during the year have come from Pitcairn, the Falkland Islands, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and Montserrat. Forum officers and members have been involved with development programmes and projects with Anguilla National Trust, British Virgin Islands National Parks Trust, National Trust for the Cayman Islands, National Trust for the Turks & Caicos Islands, and Falklands Conservation.
In the last few weeks, many Montserratians have returned to their island, and key players are attempting in their spare time to re-establish the National Trust there. We join all the OT National Trusts in the Caribbean in looking to UK and Montserrat Governments at least to reinstate the previous subvention to this Trust, which has proved its ability to move to self-sufficiency in normal conditions.
In conjunction with OT NGO partners, the Forum has also developed further its relationship with some OT Governments, including Falklands, St Helena, BVI, TCI and the Cayman Islands, and the administrations of British Indian Ocean Territories, Tristan da Cunha, Ascension and the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas. In February, we participated strongly in the London conference of the Dependent Territories Association (of OT governments), and continue to develop links.
The close links with OT NGOs (and in some cases governments) allow for the Forum to provide advice, as well as a voice to represent OT NGO concerns and initiatives to UK Government and others. These proved invaluable in collating OT views on the proposed UK White Paper, on the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), on the special issue of Ecos, and at meetings of CBD and CITES.
In the coming year, the Forum will continue to pursue the conservation priorities in its checklist initiative, published in Ecos (see Box). It will continue to provide links to Forum organisations and their technical expertise, including the preparation for the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention. It would like to develop further production of an annual list of priority conservation projects for circulation to potential sponsors. This, and other projects, depend heavily on securing funding for its database project. Early indications that this would receive UK Government financial support proved misleading, so far at least.
Relationship with UK Government and government agencies. The half-yearly meetings with UK Government and government agencies, jointly organised with Environment, Science and Energy Department of FCO have continued to provide a valuable regular point of contact, complemented when appropriate with direct contact with desk officers of territorial departments, often through Working Groups. A new procedure has been agreed for incoming Governors to be briefed by the Forums Chairman, and this was implemented for the new Governor of Pitcairn (the High Commissioner to New Zealand). Meetings with the new Governor of BVI still need to be arranged, and other new appointments are expected.
As part of its support to UK Government, the Forum has commented and advised on the process and individual funding applications to the Command Programme Budget (CPB, formerly AUSPB); and advised on legislation for OTs, and involvement of OTs in the Ramsar Convention. The Forum, partly under commission from WWF-UK, produced a report highlighting both achievements and gaps in ratification and implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Overlooking Britains Greatest Biodiversity. The Forum, RSPB and the Institute for European Environmental Policy have also produced reports on environmental legislation in the associated territories of European Union states. Application has been made to the European Commission and the British and French Governments for support for further work and dissemination; so far, the French Government has responded favourably.
In the coming months, the Forum looks forward to developing strong collaboration with the new FCO Overseas Territories Department, as well as ESED, and the equivalent sections in the Department for International Development and other appropriate Departments. The Forum would like to work with Government to review how well funding systems are tailored to conservation priorities. It would also like to compile information packs for new Governors and Administrators, as well as improve dissemination of information on conventions/agreements, to meet expressed needs. Some of these aspects will have to await funding of the Forums proposed new linked database and web site. Linked to this may be the identification of means of making UK government funding mechanisms more responsive to the needs of the Forum if it is to deliver further conservation results.
Conservation priorities. Considerable progress has been made in relation to the Ramsar Convention, with the British Government arranging to add British Indian Ocean Territory and Guernsey to its ratification. Forum officers and the Friends of the Chagos have been working with government colleagues to facilitate progress towards Ramsar designations in several OTs in time for the 1999 Conference of the Parties in Costa Rica. The Forum joined the UK national Ramsar group.
The Forum has supported and will continue to support OT NGOs in their efforts to prevent damaging or destructive development activities affecting important sites notably proposed devastation of East Caicos, TCI, by a cruise liner port; destruction of wildlife and habitats on Sombrero island, Anguilla, by a rocket launch site; destructive development at Grand Cayman Central Mangrove Wetland; and risk to Ships Hill Caves, Bermuda, by hotel development.
The Forum has established clear priorities for conservation action (see Box), recently published in Ecos and offered to Government as a key aspect of its White Paper considerations. The Forum has agreed to contribute to conservation planning in the OTs by commenting on the environment part of country plans, and awaits receipt of these from UK Government.
Public awareness and publicity. As a key part of raising the profile of UKs Overseas Territories and their importance to biodiversity, the first 3 display boards of a series were produced with support from WWF-UK. These provided the introductory and background material, and have been used at several meetings. A special issue of Ecos has been prepared, edited, published and widely circulated, as was a review in Journal of Applied Ecology. Initial discussions have been held for a possible TV series.
In 1998/99, the next 3 display boards will be produced, using funding secured for this purpose, from RSPB and the British Ornithologists Union. These will be the first relating to individual OTs, Falklands, St Helena and Ascension. Support for other boards will be explored. We would like to develop the web-site, with briefing sheets/background material on each OT for general and press enquiries; and expand Forum News and its mailing list to include more of target audiences (and increase frequency). All these developments will depend on further funding and management resources.
Information management. The Forum has developed a clear view of information management needs, but has so far been unable to secure the relatively modest funds which would be necessary to implement these. The plan would essentially involve an integrated database and web-site, to make information routinely available with minimal expensive human intervention. This would also ensure that information gathered for one purpose would be available for others, thereby also reducing demands on hard-pressed personnel both at the Forum and in OTs.
Overview. The Forum has had a successful year. It has identified some clear conservation priorities and helped partners move towards these. It has also flagged up major threats in the Overseas Territories and alerted the appropriate or relevant authorities; it will continue to assist responsible action here. The Forum has produced several major analyses during the year, as well as raising the profile of biodiversity in the OTs though various means. Co-ordination and its own internal arrangements have been developed.
What are the most urgent matters? Direct conservation issues have been addressed above. We feel that co-ordination with Government could be improved further. There is so much to do that we ought to be pooling effort, but we still learn about initiatives far too late to be able to contribute effectively. Similarly, a great deal of advice is given by the Forum to Government, but Government remains unable to identify any way of providing financial support to cover this effort. This is particularly critical in that the main limiting factors in the Forums efficiency at present are the lack of an integrated database/web-site and the overload on the Co-ordinator. This is frustrating because, with very limited paid resourcing, the Forum can deploy a great wealth of voluntary skilled effort. It will be a major challenge in the exciting new world of UK Governments new arrangements to solve these problems in the coming year and beyond.
|(Reprinted from Paradise mis-filed by Ecos 19(1): 1- 11, July 1998)
The natural environment is easily damaged and its importance is recognised in international agreements, which UK enters on behalf of itself and, where appropriate and agreed, its Overseas Territories. It is the view of the Forum that the sort of attention given in the Governments review to one basis of the UKOTs economies, financial services, should be given also to another which is of even wider importance, the natural environment.
A first draft check-list for the natural environment in UK Overseas Territories
The Forum and its partners have worked closely with the UK and UKOT governments over the years, and wish to continue to do so. It is in that spirit which I offer a first draft of a check-list on conserving the natural environment. The Forum looks forward to the government adopting this approach so that we can work together on this, which is generally more cost-effective than separate routes.
Each UKOT should have in place, and the UK Government should ensure and assist this:
- the inclusion of the Territory in UKs ratification of appropriate international conservation conventions, including that on Biological Diversity
- appropriate legislation, and mechanisms to implement this, which fully meets these international obligations
- a properly staffed department, headed by a Minister or equivalent, within each UKOT government, with responsibility for ensuring the conservation of biodiversity and the natural heritage
- an environmental NGO, supported and consulted by government, to provide an independent voice on conservation matters
- plans for the conservation of biodiversity throughout the land- and sea-areas of the Territory, and the incorporation of biodiversity conservation in the plans for all sectors of the economy
- clear mechanisms to deliver these conservation plans, and for the provision of adequate funding
- a requirement for independent environmental impact assessment, open to public consultation and scrutiny, for any major development in the Territory, with expert evaluation to ensure that the common faults of such assessments7,8 are avoided
- a system of site-safeguard for the most important areas for biodiversity, with clear management plans developed and implemented in consultation with environmental NGOs
- the development of biodiversity targets, including restoration and recovery of damaged ecosystems and threatened wildlife populations, and action plans to achieve these
- the development of a time-tabled plan to compile existing data, to survey biodiversity and to conduct cross-sectoral reviews of policies that relate to biodiversity use and conservation
- ecological studies necessary to inform plans for sustainable use and conservation
- a system for monitoring and reporting publicly (including in fulfilment of international commitments) of the state of biodiversity and any impacts upon it
- plans for training programmes for key personnel and the integration of biodiversity conservation into education curricula and public awareness programmes.