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The UK Overseas Territories

Photo: Trevor Glass

The Remarkable UK Overseas Territories

There are 16 Overseas Territories for which the UK retains sovereign responsibility. Mainly small islands, these Territories are spread across every major ocean basin on the planet. They are the UK’s most valuable environmental treasures, holding at least 94% of our unique wildlife species and every major habitat type on earth, including rainforest, tundra, desert, coral reef and icefield.

Nature exists here at vast scale: a third of the world’s albatross and a quarter of the world’s penguins breed in the Territories. With some of the clearest, richest and deepest parts of the world’s oceans under their stewardship, collectively they also have the fifth largest marine estate on the planet.

The UK has special responsibility for these globally important environments. Since the Territories’ biodiversity assets far exceed those in the mainland UK, they offer funders incomparable impact and value for money. Relatively modest projects can save unique habitats, prevent global extinctions, transform local capacity and facilitate legislative change.

The Territories have varied colonial pasts, with a common history of impositions from Whitehall. Today the Territories are in a constitutional partnership with the UK. Territory citizens are British nationals, and a Territory can cease its relationship with the UK if that is the democratically expressed will of its people. At EFN we recognise that the many injustices of colonialism left a lasting legacy around the world. Through our work in the Territories, we aim to support decolonialisation by funnelling resources to Territory-based organisations to support conservation priorities  determined by them. These very small communities are generally not able to generate locally the necessary resources to protect their extensive environmental assets.*

Next Steps for Funders

1) Explore and Share the Case for Funding in the UK Overseas Territories

The Environmental Funders Network has prepared a prospectus laying out the unparalleled opportunity for UK funders to achieve global conservation impacts in the Overseas Territories. It showcases their unique assets, explains the UK’s shared responsibility, highlights fundable local solutions and provides testimonials from experienced funders and NGOs.

2) Join a New Funders’ Collaborative

There is a strong case for funders to collaborate in order to maximise impact and coordination in these small jurisdictions. We are therefore delighted to be supporting John Ellerman Foundation in the process of establishing a collaborative fund for the UK Overseas Territories which is currently open to wider funder participation.

3) Fund Projects in Direct Need of Support

Whilst both UK and local NGOs are active in the Territories, most funders only have links to the UK NGOs.  As part of our approach to build up Territory voices and support local leadership, we have co-ordinated a large pipeline of locally-led project concepts in need of support which are available to view here.

For further information, please contact Jonathan Hall, EFN’s Strategy Advisor for the UK Overseas Territories.

* Can the UK Overseas Territories fund themselves?

The Territories vary enormously in their economic circumstances – four are eligible for development aid whilst a few of the larger ones have similar levels of wealth to the UK. The majority have very small populations (nine have fewer than 5,000 inhabitants), which leads to significant financial constraints. A few larger Caribbean Territory Governments operate multinational corporation tax systems that have led to them being identified by the Tax Justice Network as corporate tax havens. We are working to increase local support for NGOs in these places, for example by assisting the efforts of the Conservation Collective to develop a Cayman Islands Conservation Fund.