The Embassy of Jamaica in Washington has heightened its outreach efforts to the Jamaican community in the United States in preparation for the Second Conference on the Jamaican Diaspora.
The Conference, which will be staged in Kingston from June 15 to 16, will bring together many participants representing a range of Jamaican community associations, philanthropic organizations, alumni associations, interest groups, as well as private individuals. Representatives of several major Jamaican corporations, primarily representing companies in the food distribution and financial services sectors, will also be participating in and co-sponsoring the event. This year’s conference will be held under the theme: ‘The Jamaican Diaspora: Unleashing the Potential’. The preparatory efforts in the United States are being led by Jamaica’s Ambassador to Washington, Professor Gordon Shirley and the Community Relations Officer at the Embassy, Janet Madden.
Since the fall of 2005, the Embassy has been holding consultations with the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation leaders representing several geographic regions, including the north eastern United States, the midwest states, as well as the south eastern United States. Discussions have also been advanced with key sector leaders responsible for critical work areas, such as education, health, as well as trade and investment. These deliberations are aimed at assisting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, which is centrally responsible for planning and staging the conference, to develop an agenda which will encompass action areas of primary importance to the Diaspora movement.
Ambassador Shirley described the Embassy’s work in the lead up to the second conference as, “an important element of the overall preparatory process that is essential to ensuring the success of the conference and our activities in preparation for the meeting will aid in fashioning an agenda that will serve to fully engage the Diaspora”, at the conclusion of the forum.
Since the inaugural conference in June 2004, which instituted the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation, Jamaicans from community groups in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom have undertaken a range of projects and activities in concert with the Government of Jamaica, which have been targeted at improving the country’s educational system and aiding the delivery of primary care in the health sector.
In addition, Diaspora groups have also spearheaded the establishment of several Trade Councils across the United States with a view to promoting greater trade links with local American businesses and corresponding Jamaican enterprises, as well as increasing investment by American corporate interests in the Jamaican market.
The conference is also expected to discuss additional approaches which will serve to enhance the effectiveness of these Councils and encourage greater joint venture relationships between U.S. partners and counterparts in Jamaica. The most recent launch of a Trade Council by the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation took place in Boston, Massachusetts on February 11, 2006.
A key objective of the conference will be an assessment of important accomplishments since the last Conference, such as an educational reform initiative implemented by the U.S. north eastern region of the Diaspora Foundation at the St. James High School in Montego Bay, as well as the first cochlear implant ever performed in Jamaica, which was spearheaded by medical personnel from the Jamaican Diaspora, residing in the U.S.