Speaking to the people of Gunjur during a recent visit there, the new British chief diplomat to Banjul explained: “I see it my job to establish a closer relationship with the president, vice president and the foreign minister during my time here and to take forward the relationship so that the European Development Fund money, which will be important in helping to create more jobs, is released into the communities for various projects. We work with the UN and their various organisations to minimise the risk of food security and do more to realise the potential of The Gambia as a nation that benefit its people and its prosperity. My hope is that I will spend about four years here in the country. The other discussion that we will be having with the government in the coming months is the Article 8 discussions which governs EU money and UK contributes about 16 % of that. At the moment there is a lot of funds that have been blocked. We had Article 8 discussions in the beginning of April and they went well. There is a follow-up discussion scheduled for November this year and I am hopeful that too will go well. And if these meetings are positive and the targets that are set for The Gambia to attain are reached, the next round of EDF money which is EDF 11 has a total value over five years of about 150 million Euros. It is a lot of money but there has to be certain issues that are resolved: the establishment of an independent human rights commission in the country, a code of conduct for some government departments. We have some rapporteurs coming in later this month on human rights issues [since postponed].
“There are still a number of issues which need additional work. I have been encouraged by the positive progress that we made since earlier this year. If that can continue hopefully some of this money will go to projects like feeder roads and agriculture-based projects as well. We are very concerned about the lack of rains at the moment. We are having discussions about that up in Banjul with the various agencies. Some people are concerned we are facing another 2011 scenario. There is possibility of a crop failure if we do not get more rains very, very soon. So we are working very closely and in tandem with the EU and the UN. UK is the only EU Embassy representative here in The Gambia so I am a bit of lone voice – all my other colleagues are based in Dakar. But I want them to be more engaged as well.”]]>