OTCC agrees on rights and good governance
(CNS): A need to address human rights, a commitment to the principles of good governance and the requirement to meet international obligations were just some of the issues on which the UK was seeking agreement from the political leaders of its overseas territories including Kurt Tibbetts, Leader of Government Business, at a recent territories meeting.
From gender discrimination and the issue of sexual orientation to financial services and money laundering, the areas of reported agreement are extensive and diverse. Speaking after hosting her first Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) in London the new, Overseas Territories Minister Gillian Merron said that even though she was meeting the OT Leaders for the first a lot of ground was covered. “Our discussions have been open and frank and have given me an invaluable insight into the issues of concern that we share with the Overseas Territories,” she said.
“The Overseas Territories are important to Britain. We greatly value our partnership with them and want to work together towards their future security and prosperity. I have been very interested to hear the views of the Overseas Territories leaders on issues that matter to them and their people and have been struck by the unique nature and varying needs of each of the Territories.”
Merron noted one of the highlights, for the UK government in particular, was the signing of a Tax Information Exchange Agreement between the UK and the British Virgin Islands with the islands’ premier Ralph T O’Neal. “This is a good example of the partnership and co-operation that exists between the UK and the Overseas Territories,” she added.
Michael Foster, Stephen Timms and Huw Irranca-Davies were also at the OTCC speaking on issues such as good governance, financial regulation, combating international corruption and environmental protection. Merron said that over the three days aside from the recommitment to the principles of good governance agreed in 2006, the Overseas Territories Consultative Council in 2009 should include a forum to discuss the 1999 White Paper ten years on.
The meeting also came to agreement on the UK supporting the territories in meeting their international obligations. They also set target dates of October 2009 for extension to all the populated Territories of ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women and to consider the options available to meet international obligations on sexual orientation.
Merron also said the OTCC agreed on 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. 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 was also agreed Merron said.
The UK has also agreed to keep the territories informed of progress on EU and other international agreements relating to financial services and improve close dialogue between the territories and the UK on the relationship with the EU.
Climate change was also on the agenda and the OTCC members said that they would work together to address the potential impact of climate change and to promote sustainable environmental policies in the territories with additional support from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
They also confirmed the need to encourage and support regional initiatives and co-operation between the Territories in areas such as disaster management, the environment and criminal justice. Finally agreement was made to co-ordinate an approach to the EU/OCT Forum meeting, which is scheduled to be held here in the Cayman Islands this month.
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