As our work is concerned only with the UKOTs and CDs, we can dedicate all our resources to them. However, this does mean that we are do not have other work and related income-streams which can buffer hard times
The ability to form long-term relationships is key to being able to react to conservation challenges, especially as we are working with small communities.
Many of our partners in the UKOTs have held positions in NGOs and Government for many years and so know to reach out to us when assistance is required.
The personnel policies of the UK Government Departments dealing with UKOTs and CDs tend to lead to rapid turnover of personnel, normally within 2 or 3 years. We do our best to help corporate memory for these bodies, but undoubtedly officials in these departments are presented with a challenge. Some other organisations tend to be involved with a particular UKOT/CD only while they have a current project there. We try to maintain long-term relationships – although this certainly a challenge to resource.
Lack of continuity in other organisations often means that important information is lost. We try to fill this gap and are willing to provide information and briefings whenever we are requested to do so.
Developing and maintaining relationships is therefore an important part of our work. One of the ways in which we try to stay informed bout what is happening cross the UKOTs is by the regular publication of a newsletter Forum News.
Our website has been in existence for over 20 years (with major updating in 2018) and was initially (and still) is a service to conservation practitioners.
Working groups are a way for our members/ associates and partners to discuss current topics and issues. Sharing experiences has often led to joint partnerships, funding bids and projects- see impact. As a way of ensuring sharing of information between the (mostly) quarterly meetings, the working groups produce newsletters.
We have organised various seminars & workshops, when these have been topical or requested by our partners- see seminar section.
Collation of views of the territories for UK, European and international bodies has enabled us to provide evidence to several UK Parliament inquiries.
Providing advice to partners in the UKOTs, when requested, is also considered by many as a fundamental part of our work.
A significant part of our relationships building has come from our organised conferences, which until 2009 took place every 3 years. We strive to fund one NGO and Government person from each UKOT; this makes conferences quite expensive, but they are vital to forming key relationships and getting critical masses of co-workers together, paving the way for effective partnerships and conservation actions.
One of our founding practices was that territory partners should take the highest profile of the credit for any project work in territory. However, this means that it was easy to overlook our own efforts when often they were so crucial in instigating the work and getting it off the ground, as well as co-managing it in many cases. Also, with the passage of time, it is becomes easy to forget matters and say that we had no involvement at all – and we have heard that from some partner organisations in UK and the territories, expressed with genuine sincerity, simply because current personnel of those bodies were never told of the full story. We strive to give equal credit in all materials as having been between NGOs, Government Departments in partnership with ourselves.
At both the London conference in 1999 and the first Gibraltar one in 2000, senior governmental personnel from some territories welcomed the chance and encouragement to meet their opposite numbers from other territories, noting that such facilitation had not happened before – even for neighbouring territories.
Bermuda conference feedback:
I would say that I don’t do things differently as a result of the conference – I do things which I could not do at all before – e.g. the cat control project. Before Jersey, I did not know how to do this, so I did not do it – at Jersey, I networked to find someone who could help. With low capacity, things which I cannot do I tend not to do at all, rather than try to do them badly. As such the conference helps me do more rather than do better
Most participants who had attended conferences previously reported that, through the meetings, they have established international partners and they offer an opportunity to meet and discuss future activities and develop proposals.
A selection of other comments by participants:
[The conference] was very useful for a non-specialist to get to know professional colleagues from around the UK as well as UKOTs. [I have a] deeper understanding of the challenges facing the UKOTs and the quality of local personnel wrestling with them.
[The conference has helped aid own work] as seeing how other countries approach problems. I will follow up various things to do with Red Data Books and biodiversity strategies. I find these conferences useful in meeting people from small islands, many of whom face similar problems to [mine] even though the political set-up is different. Individual pieces of work I have found out about at the conferences, often not on the programme, have influenced the way I work.
The knowledge and new contacts will be helpful especially as I work on my own. [I] suspect many of the benefits will become evident over the next few months. [I have a] greater awareness of [the] need for all to work together.
[I have made several links in previous conferences] to aid in technical support for projects and funding to attend workshops which provide new ideas and contacts to enhance and strengthen programmes.
[Important links were made] through information sharing. I will argue strongly for an increased educational role of our department. [I will also] develop and formalise contacts with other NGOs and Government departments. [The conference] was invigorating and inspiring. It can be quite isolating working in conservation in small islands and it has been great to realise that there is actually a network of people in similar situations.
[I have made] Too many [links] to list. The face-to-face with UKOTs personnel is invaluable, especially as many of the territories are so remote and still lack good communication.
This is my second conference of this type, and I found it very interesting and useful this time. It has helped not only in direct contacts for work, but also in further understanding the UK’s role in the UKOTs with regards to environment, and has generated several ideas on how to implement some of the work required in our territory with collaboration from UK groups.
[I made] contacts with direct participants in our Darwin project and their government partners will help to inform the design. [The] commitment and advice from organisations which will be part of our Steering Committee [was] also very valuable.
The networking at these conferences is just as important as the conference themselves.