human rights in MontserratMontserrat is a small Caribbean island in the British West Indies. Montserrat is not an independent nation; rather, it operates as a British Overseas Territory. While Montserrat has its own government structure and constitution, the U.K. government is responsible for external affairs, security and defense. In addition, the U.K. government is responsible for ensuring that British Overseas Territories observe human rights standards. However, this does not necessarily mean that concerns about human rights in Montserrat are the same as concerns in the British Isles.

In fact, there are seemingly very few concerns with the state of human rights in Montserrat. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch list no major human rights violations on the island. The U.S. State Department’s 2016 Country Report on Human Rights for the U.K. only mentioned Montserrat once. This mention was related to same-sex age of consent varying across Overseas Territories.

One of the few concerns regarding human rights in Montserrat relates to children’s rights. The U.S. Department of Labor’s 2015 Child Labor and Forced Labor Report for Montserrat found no evidence of forced labor and multiple protections against child labor and trafficking. However, the Department did note a lack advancement in efforts to reform a legislative gap prohibiting the use of children in illicit activities. According to the report, this could leave children vulnerable to the worst kinds of forced labor.

During the past legislative year, children’s rights have been a primary focus in Montserrat. This was addressed in September 2016 with Montserrat’s 2016 throne speech. This speech set out the government’s policy agenda for 2016/2017. The speech acknowledged growing concerns regarding child abuse on the island while stating that children must be protected from this treatment. The Children (Care and Adoption) Bill was also briefly laid out as an example of multiple bills that would work to protect children and families in Montserrat. This specific bill will establish protections for children on the island, including preventative measures and safe spaces for protection, nurturing and counseling. With this area of concern being addressed, human rights in Montserrat should be well cared for in the future.

Erik Beck

Hunger in Montserrat

Located in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, Montserrat is a tiny British overseas territory with a population of less than 6,000. After a series of volcanic eruptions in the late 1990s, the island became more difficult to reach. Even today, it is relatively isolated compared to other tourist-oriented Caribbean islands, but there are a growing number of tourists coming to see the “Caribbean Pompeii”.

The economy of Montserrat today is based mostly on service and construction due to the impact of both Hurricane Hugo and the severe volcanic eruptions that began in July 1995. The city of Plymouth was covered with ashes and boulders, and even though it is not completely reconstructed, it is still officially the capital of the island. Approximately two-thirds of the inhabitants fled the island to escape hunger and general insecurity in Plymouth area. Some of them still live in poor housing, struggling with their economic situation after the loss of their homes, incomes and family members.

The economic downturn after the hurricane increased unemployment, reduced working hours and increased pressure on household budgets. There is widespread criticism of the government’s performance, ranging from the failure to control prices or reduce taxes to the perception that administration only takes care of their own employees.

A 2007 study of poverty and hardship called “Montserrat Survey of Living Conditions” (MSLC) and research undertaken by the World Bank showed that economic factors are the main causes of poverty in Montserrat. According to the International Comparisons of Poverty table, 36 percent of the population is poor and 34 percent are food insecure. Children are the most vulnerable in general, and make up a third of the population affected by hunger in Montserrat.

Hunger in Montserrat is caused by high food prices, low wages and lack of employment opportunities. Many families are struggling to buy food every day and educate their children. This stress is made worse by high rates of criminal behavior, domestic violence and drug abuse. Because of the situation, many inhabitants have left the island to find work or to join their families in Britain.

Even though there are no opportunities for rapid economic growth in Montserrat, some government initiatives in the past few years, like the establishment of the Montserrat Development Corporation, promise to be beneficial for everyone.

The Department of Agriculture has several potential projects in the works, and there are plans to increase the number of small companies. The Ministry of Health and Wealth offers a number of services to the poor and vulnerable, including social assistance in cash and counseling for the poor.

Even though the general number of people affected by hunger in Montserrat remains high, some overall progress has been made in lowering the rate of extreme poverty. Most households have access to basic services and women are being empowered with educational programs. The government elected in 2014 is now investing in geothermal energy, tourism and sand mining. In an interview with The Guardian, premier Donaldson Romero declared that the “long, hopeless period” that started after the eruptions is finally over.

Edita Jakupovic

Photo: Flickr

Montserrat is a Caribbean island that is a part of the Lesser Antilles chain and a British Overseas Territory. Poverty in Montserrat reached its peak after numerous volcanic eruptions, resulting in significant damage to the south of the island and to social and economic structures. Drastic improvements have been made through grants, loans and support from the community, as the citizens of Montserrat rebuild areas of weakness and work to return to life before natural disasters struck. Here are five facts about poverty in Montserrat.

  1.  In 2009, children under 15 were reported as holding the highest poverty rate, accounting for more than a third of the disadvantaged population.
  2.  According to the Country Poverty Assessment Report in 2011, 36 percent of the population was classified as impoverished, and 25 percent of heads of households experienced inadequate housing.
  3.  In 2013, the EU distributed a $55.2 million aid package to Montserrat in order to boost the country’s economic recovery, with a specific focus on public finance management, public sector reform and economic management.
  4.  According to the CIA World Factbook in 2016, none of the population rested below the poverty line — a notable change in comparison to the country’s state in 1995, after the severe volcanic activity.
  5. As of 2017, poverty in Montserrat has decreased and the island has made commendable developmental progress as a whole, sitting above the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) average and ranked as an upper-middle-income country.

Despite the series of eruptions that impacted two-thirds of the tiny island, internal damage and the rate of poverty in Montserrat has improved immensely. Since the crisis, British taxpayers have invested large amounts of aid toward repair efforts for the island, which have taken the form of a new airport and housing for displaced residents in the region.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr