In a striking development for UK-Dominican relations, Preet Kaur Gill MP is chairing an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Commonwealth of Dominica.
The APPG will highlight Dominica’s climate resilience initiatives, deepen cultural and business ties, and improve awareness of Small Island Developing States.
Daniel Kawczynski MP, Dawn Butler MP and Kate Osamor MP are serving as the APPG’s Vice Chairs. Lord Randall of Uxbridge and Lisa Cameronha MP have also become members.
Notably, Dominica, a major player in the Caribbean, was promoted as a necessary partner to the UK in the APPG’s inaugural meeting on 12 December.
The APPG will facilitate cultural, social, and business engagement between the UK and Dominica, along with giving a political spotlight to the country.
Janet Charles, the Acting High Commissioner for Dominica, expressed her support for the initiative and emphasised the importance of the APPG for drawing attention to Small Island Developing States (SIDs).
“Small islands are often forgotten, despite the disproportionate impact that they feel from climate change. So this initiative will be hugely beneficial and can assist Dominica to be more fiscally and economically resilient,” she said.
“I am grateful for this opportunity for Dominica and look forward to working with UK MPs and Lords to showcase Dominica,” she added.
Gill, the Labour MP for Birmingham, Edgbaston serves as Shadow Minister for Primary Care and Public Health. In her previous role as Shadow Secretary for International Development, she expressed her support for the APPG and her eagerness to work to promote Small Island Developing States, and raised the impact of climate change in those countries.
“The UK’s relationship with Small Island Developing States is fundamentally important for how we confront climate change and other global challenges,” she said.
“As a Commonwealth State, our relationship with Dominica matters. This APPG can continue to strengthen our Commonwealth ties,” she added. “I’m excited to get to work.”
All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs)
APPGs are informal groups consisting of Members of Parliament and the House of Lords which meet to discuss, gain support for and research certain issues.
APPGs must feature MPs or Lords from different political parties in cross-party dialogue. Vice Chair Kawczynski is the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury & Atcham and brings experience chairing or vice chairing several relevant APPGs including the St. Kitts and Nevis APPG and Brazil APPG.
Vice Chair Kate Osamor MP, the Labour MP for Edmonton, formerly served as Shadow Secretary of State for International Development. She brings international affairs experience to the APPG.
Dawn Butler MP, an officer for the Dominica APPG, formerly served as Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities. The Labour MP for Brent Central, Butler brings experience chairing or vice chairing several relevant APPGs including the APPG for Jamaica and the APPG for the Caribbean.
APPGs include Members from diverse and varied ideological backgrounds and include Members from different political parties, to gain the perspective of different politicians regardless of party lines.
The meeting on 12 December served as the APPG’s inaugural meeting, required for the APPG to take effect.
Despite the island’s small size, Dominica punches above its weight in foreign affairs. As a Commonwealth Member and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member, Dominica sits at the intersection of different regional and global partnerships and has deep international connections.
Dominica is also a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), showcasing the country’s engagement with, and leadership in, Caribbean affairs.
The UK’s 2023 Integrated Review, the foremost foreign policy and national security document put out by the UK Government, suggested enhancing and deepening UK–Caribbean relations. Drawing upon the Integrated Review to drive its foreign policy, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office put Dominica at the centre of its region development partnership.
The APPG hopes to draw more attention and support for Dominica, given its centrality to the Caribbean region and UK foreign policy partnerships. The APPG will focus on Dominica’s trailblazing initiatives on climate change, renewable energy, economic diversification, and agricultural development. The island has vowed to become the world’s first climate-resilient nation.
The creation of the APPG comes on the heels of rising global awareness of the importance of the Caribbean in parliamentary, foreign policy and security circles both within and beyond the UK. An APPG for St Kitts and Nevis was established in February 2023, and has already resulted in a parliamentary delegation visiting the island.
The Caribbean APPG has also been influential in bringing the Caribbean to the table in conversations with the UK Government.
The Caribbean is on the forefront of conversations around climate change and sustainability, particularly regarding the fate of Small Island Developing States (SIDs). SIDs bear a disproportionate impact of climate change and suffer from natural disasters.
However, states like Dominica have proved adaptable and proactive by building climate resilient infrastructure and homes. These structures have withstood these disasters, providing an example to the rest of the world for how to adapt national infrastructure to face off the impact of climate change.
Similarly, Dominica’s construction of a geothermal power plant has garnered the attention and praise and support of the UK.
The APPG aims to gain visibility and support for future climate resilience initiatives, as these initiatives are coming up with creative solutions to world challenges but could be receiving more attention from developed nations.
The members of the APPG will continue to meet during the new year to encourage and further develop UK-Dominican relations.