Wednesday 16 December 2020
This year Guernsey celebrated 40 Years of Guernsey overseas aid. The Commission's predecessor, the States Overseas Aid Committee, was founded on 27th February 1980. We should be proud of four decades of support for some of the world's poorest communities. With the Commission's ethos of a 'hand up, not a hand out', hundreds of sustainable projects have been funded and have enabled the very poorest communities in the world, with the help of many charities, to improve the provision of basic needs for their people. This includes water, sanitation, healthcare, education and agriculture.
In 2020 alone, the Commission is funding over 60 grant aid projects. It is very easy to forget what basic needs actually mean in practice. In Rwanda over 1,000 people will be provided with access to clean and safe water, as well as to allow the efficient irrigation of their crops. In Uganda 5,000 schoolgirls will be provided with washable sanitary pads to help improve their school attendance. In Sierra Leone 300 child labourers, some of which are involved in stone-breaking for the building industry, will be provided with a school, medical post and toilets. In Bangladesh, 5000 people living on river islands will be provided with access to safe drinking water and sanitation solutions to reduce open defecation and the associated spread of diseases. On completion, many of these 60 projects will have basic signs proudly stating that they are funded by Guernsey, sometimes even with hand drawn Guernsey flags.
Sir, of course one event of 2020 has overshadowed everything else, the COVID-19 Pandemic has spread across the world with no regard to how affluent or impoverished communities are. The Pandemic has also affected the implementation of some of the Commission funded 2020 grant aid projects, although I am pleased to say that they are all still proceeding, albeit sometimes at a slower pace. Charities have changed their working practices to adapt to specific conditions and restrictions on the ground, which like everywhere else continue to be fluid. In Guernsey, the Public Health team has encouraged us to wash our hands with soap and water as often as possible as this is the most effective way to prevent infection and the onward transmission of disease - but what about if you do not have access to soap or even clean water? Many of the communities the Commission helps simply do not have water on tap, leave alone being able to afford soap.
Our Emergency Aid Grants this year have also helped to ease the burden of the Pandemic. This work included a grant to Rohingya Refugee Camps in Bangladesh to provide 20 hand-washing facilities, 1,000 hygiene kits and 100 training sessions for leaders. I am pleased to report that Emergency funds have also been provided to Guernsey based charities working overseas. School Farms Africa distributed food and medical supplies to 200 families living in Kibera - a massive slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, where once limited employment was no longer available due to a strict COVID-19 curfew and movement restrictions. Goal 50 provided 200,000 meals through the 'Mother Soup' initiative to people living in the extremely poor Cape Flats Townships in South Africa where many had been suffering from COVID-19 linked hunger.
Unfortunately one casualty of the Pandemic has been the Commission's new initiative to provide Multi-Year Grant Aid Awards. This programme would have seen the Commission, for the first time, fund or co-fund a small number of projects over three years to make long-term sustainable changes within developing communities. The Commission's proposed reduced budget for next year and the future economic uncertainties created by the Pandemic has meant that this specific funding round, for projects due to commence in 2021, has had to be paused. Nevertheless, the Commission will be looking for its budget to be fully restored in 2022 to enable this initiative to proceed. You may recall that the cancellation of the Multi-Year Grants programme and the temporary suspension of the Single Year Grants programme for 2021 also allowed the Commission to return £1m of its 2020 budget to General Reserve to support the States' COVID-19 response.
Despite the above, 2020 has seen the launch of two new exciting initiatives for the Commission. The first ever Guernsey International Development Network event, and investment of the Overseas Aid & Development Impact Investment Fund by the end of this year.
The Guernsey International Development Network is a way of connecting people in Guernsey who have an interest in improving lives and creating opportunities for people in the poorest parts of our world; whether through charitable work, volunteering, climate action, ethical business, impact investment or Fairtrade. In partnership with the Guernsey Fairtrade Steering Group and Guernsey for Freedom, the first event of the Network was held on 4th March and was entitled 'Good For People, Good for Our Planet: How ethical trade can help us take on the climate crisis and win'. It looked at how sustainable development can lift disadvantaged communities out of poverty and conserve and replenish the world's natural resources. The Commission was very grateful to Professor Kevin Bales, Professor of Contemporary Slavery, for his presentation on modern day slavery and how the world's worst working practices are also linked to climate devastation in many developing countries. It was also very grateful to Albert Tucker, Social Entrepreneur and Chair of the Karma Cola Foundation, whose presentation explored how Fairtrade transforms lives by helping small-scale farmers to succeed in business while offering a model of ethical trade that empowers people to care for, protect and develop their communities and their environment. The Speakers were then joined by Louise Smith from Guernsey based charity, This is Epic, and Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez for a Q&A session on sustainable development, ethical trade and climate justice. The Commission gives its thanks to Deputy de Sausmarez and Louise Smith.
The Overseas Aid & Development Impact Investment Fund was created as part of the debate on the 2019 States' Budget. The States resolved that an Overseas Aid & Development Impact Investment Fund should be established within the General Reserve with an allocation of £1million and to delegate authority to the Policy & Resources Committee to approve investment of this Fund. Since that time the Commission has been working closely with the Committee and its Officers on the investment objectives and areas of priority for the impacts it would like to see. The Commission wishes to thank the Policy & Resources Committee and its Officers for their work in progressing this matter.
I am delighted to announce that by the end of this year the funds will be invested in Partners Group Impact Investments I, which invests in development opportunities where social and environmental impact goes hand-in-hand with market rate financial returns. The Program believes that social enterprises with both a sound business model and the ability to attract institutional capital are best positioned to generate impact at the scale necessary to make a difference. The Program has three impact missions:
1) To attract additional private capital to the impact sector
2) To improve the lives of underserved or disadvantaged people
3) To support growth of social enterprises, small/medium-sized businesses and other impact fund managers.
The Program was established in 2016 and its 2019 Annual Report already shows that it has touched the lives of 3.8 million unserved individuals in 27 Countries. This impact includes providing 1,600 jobs, electrifying half a million households; supporting nearly 1000 smallholder farmers; financing the building of 385 houses, and providing healthcare services to nearly 500,000 low income individuals.
The Commission very much welcomes this opportunity which it views as complementing its established and core work.
In 2021, the Commission will launch its delayed 2021 Single Year Grant Aid award round. It will particularly look to support projects that are helping to tackle the effects of the Pandemic, so principally water, sanitation and healthcare. It will also continue to consider applications for Emergency Aid as the need arises. Community Partnerships will continue - this year we again matched funded the World Aid Walk in its 50th Anniversary Walk. We were pleased to be able to celebrate both anniversaries and highlight just how Guernsey has supported so many of the world's poorest people for half a century. Other community partnerships include joint funding with the Guernsey based Charity, The Eleanor Foundation, to rebuild a storm damaged primary school in Tanzania and the continued co-funding of overseas aid projects under the Framework Agreement for collaboration between the French Department of Ille at Vilaine and the Commission. There will also be further events for the Guernsey International Development Network and the Commission will continue to give its full support to Fairtrade.
Sir, the former Bailiff Sir Richard Collas very kindly held a reception on the exact date of the 40th Anniversary of Guernsey overseas aid and was joined by States Members, past and present Commissioners and charity representatives, amongst others. The past achievements of the Commission are something to be celebrated and I am very grateful to be entrusted with its ongoing work which remains as important as ever. Finally, I would also like to thank the current Commissioners for the welcome they have shown me and their hard work over a number of years.