UK to champion disaster aid drive

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The United Kingdom is contributing some 62 million pounds to assist hurricane-hit countries and territories in the Caribbean.
However, the majority of that is likely to go to its Overseas Territories, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos. The disclosure was made on Friday during meetings hosted by the World Bank in Washington D.C.
Speaking to OBSERVER media on Tuesday, Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland said it signalled a positive turn in the tide for disaster recovery aid.
She said the UK assistance was intended for the long-term reconstruction challenge.
“They acknowledged the extreme weather was a fact of life now and that we have to boost resilience, building resilience into their aid programme, and they have identified 100 million pounds in economic development for the Caribbean.”
The Commonwealth official said eight million pounds would go toward building climate resilience while some 15 million pounds is being earmarked for risk insurance.
Further details on the economic aid are still forthcoming.
Aid for countries like Antigua and Barbuda, which has been rated as a high-income country by the World Bank, has been a hot button issue in the wake of the September storms. 
The classification means that the country does not qualify for Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. The aid is reserved for the least developed and lower income countries and territories.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne has dubbed the position an absurdity and has received support from the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. They both called for a re-organisation of financing for states that are classified as too rich for badly-needed aid.
On Tuesday Scotland said concerns about the ODA criteria had arisen since July at the international level, and Philip Hammond, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, had indicated that his country was going to champion the calls for change.
“What he said was that the United Kingdom was going to lead the charge in the international community on the understanding that natural disasters were a great leveller.” Scotland said the UK would seek to build consensus for a time-limited response that would allow countries in Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda’s position to benefit from ODA.
“Now that’s a real turnaround because you’ll know we’ve been knocking on that door for a very long time, and the Commonwealth has been leading that charge for many years now. And it’s so good to know that we are now getting the support from a number of large countries as well,” the secretary-general said.
The Commonwealth represents a third of the world across six regions, including small states and vulnerable states, developed and developing states, and five of the countries making up the Group of 20, namely Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the UK.

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