Between Tuesday 16 November and Wednesday 17 November the annual Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) was held at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London.
The JMC is the forum which brings together political leaders from the Overseas Territories family and UK ministers. It meets once a year and provides an opportunity to discuss and assess the shared challenges the Overseas Territories face. This year’s meeting was hosted by Amanda Milling, the UK Government Minister for the Overseas Territories and was attended by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and a number of other UK ministers throughout the various sessions. This included an opening address by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Councillor Alan Nicholls attended on behalf of the Island Council, representing Ascension during discussions.
During JMC the delegates discussed a wide variety of topics with UK ministers. These included economic resilience, environment and oceans, the COVID-19 pandemic and broader public health issues, security and law enforcement challenges, and the UK government and Overseas Territories relationship, amongst others.
At the conclusion of the meeting the delegates published a communiqué which detailed the discussions that took place and the commitments made by the Overseas Territories and the UK government that resulted from these. The communiqué can be found online.
A closing reception was held on Wednesday 18 November attended by HRH The Duke of Cambridge. Prince William spoke with delegates from the Overseas Territories as well as with a number of youth representatives from the territories who were invited to attend. He reiterated his support for the Overseas Territories family and noted that many will be facing a number of challenges in the future as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst continuing to be on the front line of protecting the environment and tackling the effects of climate change.
Councillor Nicholls also met personally with Minister Milling on Thursday 18 November. During this meeting he raised the need for UK assistance in terms of supporting the ongoing costs associated with monitoring and managing Ascension’s Marine Protected Area, again requested that the UK give consideration to providing financial assistance for the construction of a modern facility to replace Georgetown Hospital, and spoke about the ongoing discussions in the UK regarding the future operating model of Ascension. Minister Milling agreed to take these points away and consider them in more detail.
Following his attendance at the meeting, Councillor Nicholls said:
“I am very proud to have represented Ascension, and my fellow Councillors, at this year’s Joint Ministerial Council meeting in London. The JMC plays a crucial role in the relationship between the Overseas Territories and the UK, providing the Territories with the opportunity to discuss a number of issues of importance to them with the UK government. I am grateful to the UK for hosting this meeting and for their commitment to continue to work with the Overseas Territories in a number of important areas that were discussed. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated what can be achieved when the UK works with the Territories, and we all hope that this can be used as the basis for future collaborative working on areas of mutual interest.”
Speaking at the opening of the JMC earlier this week, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
"I’m proud that Britain has been able help with vaccines and vital medical supplies, and as part of one big British family we will continue to put our arms around the Overseas Territories throughout this crisis for however long it takes.
As we face the greatest challenge of our lifetime, I’m acutely aware of the precious biodiversity at risk and as the delegations at COP26 made so clear, while your contribution to climate change is negligible, it is vulnerable island homes like yours that stands to feel the full force of the devastating effects of rising temperatures. We will spare no effort in this great struggle, and I want to commend the Overseas Territories for everything they are doing to protect precious marine environments, including more than 4 million square kilometres of the world’s ocean through the Blue Belt programme."
Liz Truss, the UK Foreign Secretary said:
"I am proud of the UK and the British family, and the real value the Overseas Territories bring to our family. As Foreign Secretary, I believe we have a positive proactive role to play in the world – promoting freedom, free enterprise, democracy and the rule of law. I want to ensure the Overseas Territories are an integral part of Global Britain and benefit from a confident UK, with an active presence across the globe.
I want the Overseas Territories to know they can rely on the UK, just as we have shown during the pandemic. So let’s strengthen our partnership for the years ahead."