Assistance provided by the Isle of Man is dramatically improving lives in Sierra Leone.
The Chairman of the International Development Committee recently travelled to the West African country to assist the Fisheries Ministry’s fight against illegal fishing.
Phil Gawne MHK witnessed first-hand the significant impact that support from the Isle of Man Government is having on the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.
His visit marked the first anniversary of the official handover of the fisheries protection vessel ‘Isle of Man’ to the Sierra Leone Government. It also served to strengthen the long-term development partnership between the two countries, with Mr Gawne reaffirming the Isle of Man’s commitment to provide up to £250,000 a year for the next three years to enhance Sierra Leone’s fishing sector.
The funding agreement is in line with the International Development Committee’s (IDC) focus on supporting capacity building programmes to help those in poverty become more self-sufficient and to improve their lives through trade rather than depend on foreign aid.
The Chief Minister has underlined the positive contribution made by the IDC towards enhancing the Isle of Man’s international reputation.
In his statement to Tynwald last Tuesday, Mr Bell said the three-year commitment to Sierra Leone ‘supports a fisheries management and sustainability project, providing funding and technical assistance aligned to World Bank initiatives in the region. I would like to thank Mr Gawne, as Chairman of the Committee, for his hard work in driving forward this project.’
The success of the relationship between the Isle of Man and Sierra Leone will be highlighted on the world stage next month when Mr Gawne and Captain Alieu Momodu Pat-Sowe, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources in Sierra Leone, jointly deliver a keynote presentation at an Interpol Conference in Nairobi.
Mr Gawne said: ‘The conference is a tremendous opportunity to showcase to the international community the responsible and mature approach the Isle of Man is taking in tackling significant global issues such as food security.’
Mr Gawne described his recent visit to Sierra Leone as ‘very productive’ and said it was encouraging to see the Isle of Man patrol vessel being ‘well looked after by an excellent crew.’
He commented: ‘The vessel is playing a pivotal role in the successful policing of Sierra Leone’s waters and has been involved in many arrests for illegal fishing, with fines imposed in the last 12 months amounting to several hundred thousand dollars. It is clear that our partnership with Sierra Leone is having a significant impact on the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people who rely on the country’s fisheries.’
So far this year, the Isle of Man has assisted the installation and operation of a new satellite monitoring system and provided training, advice and guidance to Sierra Leone’s Fisheries Ministry. Further training will be delivered in January 2014 by officers from the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture.
Mr Gawne said: ‘I am pleased with the progress that has been achieved in just 12 months. Changing attitudes and cultures in our own highly developed fisheries sector, and indeed our own Fisheries Department, can be a slow process. In Sierra Leone the fisheries sector until quite recently could be described as the equivalent of the Wild West and the public sector, while much improved, is still emerging from the position of a fragile state. As one of the longest serving fisheries ministers in Europe I am pleased to be able to offer advice and support to my counterpart in Sierra Leone.’
Mr Gawne added that the IDC’s new three-year partnership with Sierra Leone reflects a desire to ensure that humanitarian aid provided by the Isle of Man has the greatest possible impact. It also strengthens the Island’s economic links with Africa, which is forecast to take over as the largest economy in the world by 2020.
He said: ‘Previously this money would have been handed over to charities to spend as they thought best. This new approach allows us to better focus our funding on strategically important areas and also ensures greater transparency.’
During his visit, Mr Gawne also held discussions with the Sierra Leone Finance Minister and representatives of the Environmental Justice Foundation, and was able to visit an orphanage funded by Manx woman Amanda Dixon with the support of the IDC.