As the territory struggles to recover from Hurricane Irma and to navigate an increasingly tense relationship with the United Kingdom, Premier Andrew Fahie has turned to the United Nations for extra help.

During a June 27 session of the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonisation at UN Headquarters in New York, VI Special Envoy Benito Wheatley asked the committee to dispatch a mission to visit the territory.

“The impact of the September 2017 hurricanes and ongoing challenges in the territory’s relationship with the UK have changed the society’s political, economic and social landscape,” said Mr. Wheatley, who attended on behalf of Mr. Fahie. “We believe it is important for this committee to not only listen to an update by a government representative here in New York, but to also see for yourselves what the conditions are on the ground and hear the views of the people themselves on various matters.”

He added that the last such mission to the VI came in 1976, but that the UK recently agreed to one in Montserrat.

In recent weeks, he told the committee, the UN has been “tremendously helpful” to the VI, sending a mission led by Didier Trebucq, UN resident coordinator for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern
Caribbean States.

“Our meetings were very fruitful and we are following up on a proposal for a comprehensive partnership agreement between the UN and the British Virgin Islands,” Mr. Wheatley said. “The partnership agreement will continue UN support for our recovery across sectors and provide technical assistance in the development of sectorial strategies for a national development plan, among other things.”

He added that the territory looks forward to a visit soon from Magdy Martinez-Soliman, the newly appointed UN Development Programme resident representative for Barbados and the OECS.

“We are particularly interested in UNDP technical assistance in the development of a blue economy strategy,” Mr. Wheatley explained.

UK tensions

The special envoy also reviewed some of the territory’s recent tensions with the UK, including the UK’s plan to require OTs to implement public company registers, which the VI and other OTs have vigorously opposed.

Additionally, he applauded the UK government’s refusal to adopt certain recommendations in a recent report by the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which included imposing same-sex marriage and abolishing belongership systems in OTs.

“These developments pave the way for the UK and overseas territories to reset the relationship once a new UK prime minister and government are in place in July,” Mr. Wheatley said. “It is in the interest of both the UK and British Virgin Islands that the UK and overseas territories renew their modern partnership that was predicated on mutual respect and responsibility. The opportunity should not be missed.”