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I greet you with warmth from the ‘One Love’ country. It has been said that true friendship inspires strong emotions and high expectations, regardless of cultural differences or where we happen to find ourselves in time and space. For those who may have been disappointed in friendships, there may be understandable cynicism. It was one of Shakespeare’s young lovers who warned that “Friendship is constant in all other things. Save in the office and affairs of love.” A somewhat more powerful bit of advice comes from another of Shakespeare’s characters, who wisely instructs his son: “The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.” Ladies and gentlemen, I know tonight, I am among true friends. For twenty-five years, your organization – the American Friends of Jamaica, AFJ, has been tried and true in the constancy of its friendship with our beautiful island. It is as though once infected by its beauty, the charm of Jamaica and Jamaicans cannot leave you! Indeed, I would want to characterize your friendship as ‘a lasting love affair with Jamaica’. For a quarter of a century, you have consistently expanded your programmes of involvement and support; reaching out in areas such as healthcare, in education, in human and economic development assistance. The long list of grantees of the AFJ and the substantial funds raised and disbursed over this period firmly positions you as a leading philanthropic organization and one dedicated to the cause of meaningfully helping the people of our island. Your friendship, like true friendship, is about much more than money. It is about more than some hand-out and making a donation of one kind or other. It involves personal interest, contact, commitment, and oftentimes, sacrifice. Tried and true friendship involves a unity of purpose and a coming together of heart and soul. That, ladies and gentlemen is what characterizes the nature of the relationship and the friendship so many individuals and institutions in Jamaica enjoy with the American Friends of Jamaica.
And, it is for this reason that I had to make the special effort to be with you tonight. On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I wish to publicly thank the AFJ for its well-placed humanitarian investments in our people. It is no secret, that, like you, I too share a passion and an impatience for quantum improvement in the lives of those of our people who have had too little for too long. We share a belief in aggressively pursuing strategies that protect the most vulnerable in our society and empower the marginalized. While the government plays its part, organisations like the American Friends of Jamaica are also important in the process as you do not seek to be simply associated with mere “handouts”, helpful though that may be. Such an approach at best only serves to perpetuate that culture of dependency from which people need to pull themselves, if real transformation is to take place. Today’s enlightened philanthropy and which is clearly along the lines pursued by the AFJ seeks to be transformational. It seeks to make a real difference in the lives of the people with whom you come in contact. Ladies and gentlemen, there is much to the on-going debate about the respective roles of Government, civil society, and Non-Governmental Organizations in forging mutually beneficial partnerships which can maximize the benefits from national and international philanthropy. In Jamaica, our strong tradition of self-help, self-reliance, volunteerism and caring, so evident at the grass roots level, have fostered the survival of many, while providing for an abundant display of creative energy, even in the midst of poverty and deprivation.Not many people understand it. But it is remarkable at times to see those with the least in the society being among the first to offer assistance and care from the very little that they have. Sadly though, we seem to be losing some of our old-fashioned, traditional values of giving and caring. There is a real fear that as we seek to carve out a viable space for our young nation in this rapidly changing world, and in the face of rapid urbanization, unemployment, crime and other challenges, we could see even further erosion of these traditional values. Government’s welfare efforts and the contribution of transformational philanthropy must work in partnership to bring about the development of our people while guarding against the dependency syndrome. However, in the new world of globalization and the general lessening of State influence, there are many areas formerly viewed as Government’s responsibility which will increasingly have to look to partnership with corporate and non-governmental organizations.This in order, not just to meet immediate needs, but move toward positioning our people and our economy for sustainable growth and human development. It is what I have referred to elsewhere as ‘balancing the books and balancing people’s lives.’Jamaica now finds itself ranked among middle income countries based on the Human Development Index. While on the one hand, that is encouraging news; on the other, it means we no longer qualify for certain types of Official Development Assistance. Official development assistance to Jamaica has declined from XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX in XXXXX to XXXXX At the same time, there is increasing competition globally for available development resources.Given such an environment, now more than ever, Government must recognize that it is critical to maintain a clear policy on funding practices, and provide the mechanisms and climate to facilitate a “culture of transformational philanthropy.” There must be common values, shared principles and agreed outcomes between all the stakeholders. Regulation, while not restrictive and bureaucratic, must firmly address issues of accountability. The transparency and trust engendered must serve to galvanize individuals, corporate entities and NGO’s at home and abroad into appreciating more readily, the real value of philanthropic investment in social projects, organizations and community building. This emerging appreciation of the new parameters in philanthropy is already being demonstrated in a number of ways in our country. A Centre for Caribbean Philanthropy, an outgrowth of the University of the West Indies Development and Endowment Fund has been established. The Centre has hosted two conferences on Caribbean philanthropy, and the discourse in this important area promises to more fully engage partners from Government, faith based organizations, the non-profit and corporate communities. The UWI Development and Endowment Fund is also focusing on “Diasporic Giving and the Future of Philanthropy” as one of its areas of study. Another dimension relates to other mechanisms for persons interested in Jamaica to meaningfully contribute to its growth and development. Currently, much of this is being done through remittances. In recent years, the growth in financial transfers to the island from the Jamaican Diaspora in the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom has been truly phenomenal. From US$164.2 million in 1990, remittances last year stood at US$1.87 billion, surpassing gross earnings from tourism and the bauxite alumina sector at US$1.55 billion and US$1 billion respectively. Last year, remittances from the Jamaican Diaspora in the USA alone were $990.6 million. Recognizing the tremendous economic and political importance of the diaspora to the country, innovative mechanism must be found to develop a more structured and organized approach to deepening the effectiveness of such contributions and indeed, the relationship with our overseas communities. The government had already spearheaded the staging of two highly successful Diaspora Conferences in June 2004 and June 2006. Out of these have come several important proposals such as the establishment of overseas trade councils, lobby groups on issues affecting Jamaica, and the establishment of a Jamaica Diaspora Foundation. It is hoped that our efforts will help to take the already strong relationship with the Jamaican overseas community to higher levels, not only in terms of welfare, and the sending home of money to relatives, but also in terms of direct foreign investment flowing from this group. In fact, feasibility work is now underway in floating a Diaspora Bond which will serve as a specific investment instrument into which Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica in the Diaspora can make a meaningful contribution to national development. I note with great pleasure and interest, the dovetailing of some of the most recent initiatives of the American Friends of Jamaica with areas of focus by both the UWI Development and Endowment Fund and the Government. In this regard, I wish to commend the AFJ on its recent launch of the American Friends of Jamaica Diaspora Giving Programme. It presents another avenue by which members of the Jamaican Diaspora in the United States can formalize charitable donations to Jamaican organizations. This is a welcome development and I invite members of this group to maintain close contact with the Jamaican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in respect of information flowing from our Diaspora Conferences that can facilitate your own commendable work in the area of Diaspora giving. Truly, ladies and gentlemen, there are new paradigms of philanthropy. No longer it simply ‘handouts’, but a vehicle for social development, empowerment and advancement. The extent to which the work of the American Friends of Jamaica reflects this new thinking was powerfully demonstrated early this year when the AFJ joined with former Ambassador to Jamaica and Florida Secretary of State, Sue Cobb in launching the AFJ-Cobb Family Lecture series. In providing this public forum for an outstanding researcher from the University of the West Indies to present research findings on areas critical to Jamaica’s future, Ambassador Cobb has thrown out a strong challenge to our young people, and one which I know will be responded to great interest by our bright minds at the University. Hard and constant debate of social, political and economic ideas and ideals will inspire a vision of what can be achieved for our country in the dramatically changing regional and global environment. This dynamic approach to development and philanthropy by an organization such as the American Friends of Jamaica, augers very well indeed for our island. Ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to join in expressing my delight in the choice by the AFJ of Mr. Chris Blackwell as tonight’s recipient of the International Humanitarian Award. Mr. Blackwell is truly a product of the extraordinary melding of cultures, talent and inspiration that has forged our people over 500 years of history. Brother Chris has been described as the “single person most responsible for turning the world on to reggae music.” His forays into film and tourism have similarly contributed to globalizing the exceptional culture of our small island. Today, he continues to be a leader in the movement toward reinvestment in Jamaica by our entertainers, cultural and other entrepreneurs at home, and dispersed across the world. We join the AFJ in saluting him and all those who by blood, adoption or friendship are so much a part of the past, present and future development of our beloved and beautiful island of Jamaica. And so, ‘One Love’ to true friendship. ‘One Heart’ to the bonds between the American Friends of Jamaica and Jamaica.
‘Let’s get together’ and not only feel alright, but go from strength to strength in the service of Jamaica, land we so truly and dearly love. I thank you