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Antigua and Barbuda

Eastern Caribbean Time Zone UTC-04:00

 Capital City St. John’s

 Currency East Caribbean dollar

National Day  November 1

Her Excellency Ms Karen-Mae Hill
High Commissioner
High Commission for Antigua and Barbuda
45 Crawford Place
London W1H 4LP
T: 020 7258 0070
F: 020 7258 7486
E: enquiries@antigua-barbuda.com

Antigua and Barbuda’s  new High Commissioner Her Excellency Ms Karen-Mae Coralie Hill arrived in London in mid-January. She says to be placed in “one of the world’s largest diplomatic centres presents interesting challenges and opportunities.” Shortly before our meeting, Ms Hill had observed the moving Battle of the Somme commemorations in France. “It was a humbling experience to learn of the contribution made by 16,000 people from the Caribbean, and of course remember those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.” She notes that it’s a challenging time in British politics: “I’m in Britain when significant changes are happening.  For Antigua and Barbuda, conserving and developing ties with Britain will be achieved if we find ways to align our policies with Britain’s new direction.”

One of six siblings, Ms Hill pursued a career in corporate law that brought her to the UK, first in 2001 when she won the first of many scholarships to study French and Law at Leicester University. She then became the first Antiguan to win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. Bar school in London as a Prince of Wales Scholar then beckoned. “I was lucky to be chosen for one of the top pupillages in Britain.” After “a highly educational and uplifting year” she knew it was time to apply her talents back home.

Ms Hill was called to the bar of England and Wales and the Eastern Caribbean and became involved in banking. As Managing Director of a small bank on Antigua, she learnt various skills that she believes can help her today. “As High Commissioner of a small island developing state, one must juggle minimum resources whilst achieving maximum results.”

So what are Ms Hill’s main priorities as High Commissioner in the UK? She wants to explore how Britain and the Caribbean can cooperate in areas such as healthcare, education and social policy. “We have to find ways to celebrate and promote those things we have in common. Working with NGOs, the public and private sectors and our diaspora, I have the glorious opportunity to bring all this together.” Secondly, Her Excellency would like to engage her diaspora in Britain to maximise positive contributions to both British and Antiguan and Barbuda society.”

The third area she is particularly interested in is the economic wellbeing of the Caribbean, particularly the need for the international community to understand that you cannot measure the development level of a country based solely on GDP per capita. For example, Antigua will graduate to middle income status in 2017, which essentially means that it no longer qualifies for preferential loans. “Thus if we experience a hurricane, or some other huge shock to the economy, access to preferential assistance would be limited. It is important to ensure that resilience and vulnerability are included in the index that defines one’s level of development.” Her aim is to see the country “no longer be a small island developing state, but a small island state that punches above its weight. I think its possible with the right connections, support, resources, mindset and vision.”

High Commissioner Hill believes that Antigua and Barbuda’s greatest diplomatic challenge is getting its voice heard as a small state on the global stage. “This is not just unique to Antigua and Barbuda, it’s a Caribbean challenge. We must articulate the challenges of our island state to the international community while at the same time defining common priorities with our Caribbean and international partners.”

In tourism, the UK is Antigua’s and Barbuda’s fastest growing market. “Although we do a good job of selling this idyllic paradise of sand, sea and sun, we have real challenges of sustainability and vulnerability because of hurricanes and an economy that is not highly diversified.”

A huge cricket fan, Ms Hill is patron of a team called the High Flyers back home.  “This group of young men have been brought together and exposed to a structured, well-resourced cricket experience, and they are doing well!” she exclaims. Indeed, her life has been one of service to empower young people.  Some years ago Ms Hill led a group of young people to South Africa, after raising over a million dollars to fund the trip. “Many of them had never had a passport or been on a plane. Today, these youths are studying all over the world and are determined to be positive contributors to society.” She continues: “I may be a diplomat here, but I’m still a youth leader at home.”

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