A key focus of discussions and deliberations during this year’s fifth staging of the Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference, from June 16 to 19, in Montego Bay, St. James, will be the country’s long-term National Development Plan — Vision 2030 Jamaica.
The plan seeks to position Jamaica to attain developed country status by 2030 and in the process, make it ‘the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business’.
This will complement the Conference theme: ‘The Diaspora: Partnership for Development’, with trade, development, investment, and the Diaspora’s role through partnership being the overarching focus.
Against this background, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) will be seeking to further deepen dialogue with Diaspora representatives at the conference through the Vision 2030 Jamaica Secretariat; Population and Health Unit; Migration Policy Project Unit; and Community Renewal Programme.
Chief of these activities is the integrated booth which each Unit will combine to mount in the Marketplace. This will centre on Vision 2030 Jamaica and two of the key elements for realising the national vision: community renewal; and development of a National Policy and Plan of Action on International Migration and Development as well as a Diaspora Policy.
PIOJ representatives will also participate in several panel discussions and make a number of presentations over the three days.
Vision 2030 Jamaica Programme Director, Richard Lumsden, notes that “the Conference is structured around the priorities for development”.
He said there will be discussions around the areas of strategic investment in logistics; information and communication technology; tourism; the creative industries; developments in the social sector, health and education among others.
He added that the discussions are expected to explore how to effectively deepen the partnership between Jamaica and the Diaspora, “drawing on the lessons from other countries such as Israel and Ireland”.
One special area of focus this year will be engagements at the community level. Lumsden explained that members of the Diaspora are inclined to have “enduring connections” with their hometowns, communities, and districts. “They have often expressed, certainly with us, an interest in engaging in projects in specific areas of the country,” he said.
To this end, a number of field trips are being scheduled for Diaspora members following the conference’s conclusion on June 19, during which they will visit projects in several communities.
“That (community interest) was part of the rationale for the Community Renewal Programme being such a prominent component of this year’s engagements. That (community engagement) is one of the (new) areas that we see an interest in,” he advises.
The Community Renewal Programme seeks to promote interventions aimed at building capacity for self empowerment at the individual and community levels in the targeted areas, deemed marginalised.
Regarding efforts to heighten the Diaspora’s overall awareness about Vision 2030 Jamaica outside of the biennial conferences, Lumsden said the secretariat has endeavoured to provide information through collaborations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to representatives through Consular offices globally.
“We have (also) engaged in ‘one-on-one’ discussions with members….(and) actually travelled (on one occasion), at the invitation of (members of) the Canadian Diaspora, to Toronto and made a presentation at one of their events there,” he added.
Noting the extent of the PIOJ’s input in assisting to plan and organise the Conference, Lumsden says the Vision 2030 Jamaica Secretariat and the Population Unit have been engaged, “over the past several months”, in the preparatory work, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
Additionally, he said the Migration Policy Project Unit has engaged in developing the new Migration and Development Policy, which is also scheduled to be discussed, while also having an input in commencing work to draft a Diaspora and Development Policy.
Lumsden also said the conference was aiming to generate an action plan for implementation, during the two-year period preceding the next meeting, to further strengthen the partnership between Jamaica and its Diaspora.