Most of the UK Overseas Territories have their own local elected governments, yet the British Monarch is the Head of State and the UK Parliament (and, in practice, UK Government) has the power to over-ride local measures. The mechanisms for this vary for different territories.
Although the UKOTs are responsible for running themselves, the UK Government maintains responsibility for international relations, security and good governance. The precise arrangements differ for different UKOTs. It also has ultimate responsibility for the UKOTs on matters whereby the UK is the signatory to international conventions. This split responsibility for international commitments (UK) and the necessary legislation and implementation (UKOTs) was one reason for UKOTCF suggesting the sort of arrangement which the UK and UKOT governments later implemented as the Environment Charters. UK Government has recognised its shared responsibility for environmental matters in both the 1999 (page 36) and 2012 (page 14 and 43) White Papers. For our part, we are most concerned with matters relating to biodiversity and sustainable development; thus we take an active part in informing UK policy. Measuring the impact of this is difficult, but we attempt to do this periodically.
We are neutral in respect of political parties, and so brief all. It appears that briefing (including while the parties were in opposition) has had some benefits in bringing wider recognition as to the existence and nature of UKOTs to UK governments, as well as parliamentarians more generally.
Crown Dependencies have had domestic autonomy for many centuries and, with the agreement of the UK Government, have been developing their international personalities. On entrustment from the UK, the Crown Dependencies may also negotiate internationally. However, the UK is still ultimately responsible for signing international treaty commitments; e.g. Jersey and Isle of Man have both had the Convention on Biological Diversity extended to them by UK at their request.
By linking the UKOTs and CDs there is much to be gained. They are, for example, of the same geographic scale. Following our early lead, UK Government has tried to include CDs in several initiatives, e.g. JNCC’s former Research and Training group which has seen tools such as Geographic Information Systems integrated into conservation practitioners tool-kit across the UKOTs and CDs.
UK has, for some 40 years, been part of the European Union, so that much of EU law is UK law. This will remain effectively so for some time, whatever arrangements are eventually settled upon. Therefore, we include some aspects of EU matters here.
Much of the work done by the House of Commons and the House of Lords is done by select committees, which examine issues in detail, from government policy to proposed new laws. The Committees which have taken an in-depth look at UK Overseas Territories are mainly the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee.Read more
There has been a widespread view amongst participants at our conferences that they should strive to reach clear conclusions and recommendations on topics addressed. At the 2015 conference, these were grouped into recommendations including to UK Government. As a way of assisting the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) leading, each of the recommendations directed towards them were divided into short, medium and long term gains.Read more
Influencing policy-makers at a European Union level has been important for promoting conservation and sound environmental management in the UKOTs. Our work in this area has included submissions to formal inquiries and consultations, as well as less formal awareness-raising activities and liaison with key contacts. The has been some success in this area with regards to the EU-funded BEST Scheme which has funded a variety of projects in the UKOTs.Read more
Responding to, and making our network aware of, UK Government consultations has been an ongoing role. Here we provide a selection of these. Most recently, was the fifth UK National Report to the Conferences of the Parties (COP) on the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, compiled by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee on behalf of UK Government.Read more
A country nominates World Heritage Sites from a Tentative List. This list includes outstanding natural and cultural sites. At the end of March 2011, Dr Mike Pienkowski sat on the expert panel to update the UK Tentative List. Following the recommendations of the expert panel, DCMS Minister for Tourism and Heritage, John Penrose MP, announced that UK Government was to include three UKOT sites.Read more
Through building contacts with several MPs with an interest in the UKOTs and CDs, we have organised several receptions at the Commonwealth Parliament Association in Westminster Hall, at the invitation of Andrew Rosindell MP, Chair of the APPG on Overseas Territories. These events are an opportunity to engage with MPs and peers on issues in the UKOTs but also to raise the profile of the latter and their global biodiversity importance.Read more
We recognise that that there are limited opportunities for the UKOTs to be represented in UK Parliament, yet many decision are made on their behalf in Westminster. Therefore, we have worked with the APPG for Biodiversity (as well as other APPGs) to provide advice and assistance in the organisation of several meetings including a wider range of stakeholders on issues such as invasive species and marine protected areas in the House of Commons.Read more