Great expectations from Diaspora Conference
As the 8th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference got under way yesterday in Kingston, it is believed that one of the key roles that Jamaicans living abroad can play in the development of their country is to collaborate with the Government, the private sector and non-governmental organisations.
Activities for the conference continue today at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, until Thursday, June 20, with the theme ‘Jamaica and the Diaspora: Building Pathways for Sustainable Development.’
Moderator for today’s Education Plenary, Leo Gilling, is hopeful that the growth agenda will be maintained.
“Growth has been challenging and the path we made as we walked it was filled with uncertainties, discussion and sometimes confusion. Amidst the growing pains of a new movement, we have made excellent progress that rivals other diasporas,” he said.
Some of the more distinct benefits cited by Gilling over the last 15 years, above and beyond remittances, have been:
n Greater partnership between Jamaicans in the diaspora and Jamaicans at home.
n Increased awareness by the diaspora on the opportunities for collaboration in Jamaica.
n Greater partnership between the diaspora and the public and private sectors in meeting Vision 2030.
n Organic growth of measures to bring initiatives focused on not only philanthropic investment, but also financial, intellectual and business investment.
Gilling credits the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade for the integral role it has played in kick-starting and creating structure around the movement, but notes that there was still widespread debate about how the Government should engage its diaspora.
A one-size-fits-all structure, he said, would not work as the diaspora is scattered across continents, regions and jurisdictions.
The diaspora is currently maintaining links through missions: medical and educational, church and faith-base exchanges, business, trade and investments, task force project engagements, diaspora advisory boards, as well as remittances.
“Altogether, these tools of engagement have helped our homeland in meaningful ways and brought billions in foreign exchange to the island. We’ve seen a shift, so we are now at a point, where diaspora engagement requires a more diaspora-led and integrated approach than what is currently being proposed,” said Gilling.