KINGSTON — “Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Hon Marlene Malahoo Forte, says she is confident that, despite the challenges, Jamaica will achieve constructive engagement with its Diaspora for national development.
Senator Malahoo Forte said that the engagement of the Diaspora in national development remains a key element of the administration’s foreign policy.
“I am confident that, despite challenges imposed by the global economic downturn and other domestic issues, we will achieve our objective of constructive engagement for national development,” she said.
The Minister was speaking at Friday’s (May 20) official launch of the Jamaican Diaspora Convention 2011, with the theme “One Nation: Jamaica and its Diaspora in Partnership”, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, New Kingston.
The biennial Jamaica Diaspora Convention will be held June 15 – 17 at the Sunset Jamaica Grande,Ocho Rios.
The convention, which has, as its mandate, the expansion of partnerships between Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora, was last held in 2008. This year will mark the fist time that it is beingheld outside of Kingston. The activities willinclude plenary sessions, as well as panel discussions and presentations by members of government, regional Diaspora representatives and specially invited presenters.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is leading the planning for the convention.
Senator Malahoo Forte, underscoring the importance of constructive engagement between Jamaicans in the Diaspora and at home, noted that the government has “progressively adjusted its foreign policy to reflect the significant role which the Jamaican Diaspora has been playing at different levels”.
She also highlighted the importance of the Convention in enabling dialogue.
Chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora Foundation, Earl Jarrett, indicated that this year’s meeting will see a significant representation of Jamaicans from the Diaspora.
He said that issues such as the governance structure and funding of the Jamaican Diaspora entities, as well as the engagement of the Diaspora communities were among those to be discussed at the convention.
Announcing the twinning of discounted tours and attraction packages, Mr. Jarrett highlighted the tourist attraction side of the convention.
He also paid tribute to the late Professor Rex Nettleford, former Chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora Foundation.
“Our relationship with the Jamaican Diaspora is the richer for his involvement in the process,” he said.
Professor Neville Ying, Executive Director, Jamaica Diaspora Institute (JDI), gave an overview of the activities of the Convention. He made the point that the JDI has extracted best practices from other Diaspora, and is working with the Foundation and the Foreign Ministry to streamline the Diaspora groups.
Professor Ying also disclosed that the discussions will focus on building Brand Jamaica, and seeking workable social development solutions for Jamaica.
Jason Hall, Deputy Director of Tourism, Attractions, Cruise and Events, Ministry of Tourism, also endorsed the Convention.
“It is a vital venture to provide engagement, and we’re pleased that it will place emphasis on building Brand Jamaica,” he said.
Sponsorship commitments were made by representatives of the Victoria Mutual Building Society, LIME, Jamaica National Building Society and Grace Kennedy Limited.
Vice President of Marketing at GraceKennedy Limited, Noel Greenland, endorsed the convention. He said GraceKennedy was optimistic about the country’s future, and emphasised that Jamaica is bigger than its 4,400 square miles, as it includes the Diaspora.
This will be the fourth staging of the biennial event, which was previously referred to as a conference , but with the increase in the range of activities, has now taken on the dimensions of a convention and is now being referred to as such.
By BALFORD HENRY, JIS Reporter & Editor