KINGSTON, Jamaica – (JIS) Jamaica’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Ronald Robinson, has underscored the importance of a foreign policy to national development, noting that engagement of the Jamaican Diaspora was key in formulating such.
Making his presentation in the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate on Friday (July 18), Senator Robinson noted that it was imperative that foreign policy activities be aligned with national goals, citing the need to “broaden and consolidate global partnerships in regional and international fora, with a view to promoting and protecting Jamaica’s interests”, in order to achieve this.
The State Minister noted that there were between 2.7 and three million Jamaicans living overseas, who have contributed to various sectors of the society, including: education, health, security, and community development. He pointed out that: “many Jamaicans. continue to give unstintingly of their time, talent, experience, and expertise for the betterment of this country.”
Senator Robinson further noted that, over the years, successive governments have duly recognized the Diaspora’s contribution, and have sought to engage them in national development in a more structured way.
“This Government will continue this policy of engagement with the Diaspora, while underscoring the need to ensure that outreach to Jamaicans residing overseas is handled in a bipartisan manner,” he assured.
Regarding the Third Biennial Jamaican Diaspora Conference, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre on June 16 and 17, the State Minister highlighted the involvement of a significant number of young Jamaicans in that forum, which he said was encouraging. “It was heartening to see the passion and commitment to service of those young Jamaicans who attended the conference, many of whom were paying their first visit to the country of their parents’ birth,” he said.
Senator Robinson advised that the action plans emerging from the conference were being “reviewed and fine-tuned by the Ministry.” He informed that on completion of that exercise, the document entitled, ‘Action Plan 2008,’ would, over the next two years, guide the process leading up to the Fourth Biennial Conference, scheduled for June 2010.
On another matter, Senator Robinson disclosed that a Joint Select Committee of the Houses of Parliament on Diaspora Affairs, established in May, would be engaging relevant groups in the Diaspora in dialogue. Additionally, that Committee would be undertaking broad public consultations with a view to initiating and guiding a national approach, strategies, and policies on Diaspora matters.
In addition, Senator Robinson advised the Senate that the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation which has been established and was approved by Cabinet last May, and its operational arm, the Jamaican Diaspora Institute, which will be based at the Mona School of Business at the University of the West Indies, will become functional by year end.
“I am confident that the engagement with the Diaspora will be strengthened and enhanced significantly, now that the Joint Select Committee and the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation have been established. The fact, too, that the Joint Select Committee is bipartisan in membership should contribute to ensuring a common approach to the Diaspora, and its role in bringing about sustainable, national development,” the State Minister said.