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Minister of Local Government, Community Development and Sport, Portia Simpson Miller has pointed out that there has been increased emphasis on public participation and community involvement in the development of the country.
Delivering her address at the third Bi-annual conference of the High Level Inter-American Network of Ministers Responsible for Decentralization, Local Government Reform and Citizens’ Participation (RIAD), in Recife, Brazil from October 26 to 28, the Minister highlighted the progress of the Local Government Reform process in Jamaica.
She cited the National Advisory Council on Local Government Reform (NAC), the Parish Development Committees and the Community Development Committees as the vehicles, which facilitate multi-sectoral and community participation in the island.
The Minister stressed the importance of RIAD and other similar initiatives to the “future prosperity of most citizens of the world”, as they prioritise the need to “ensure that the model of governance that emerges in this new millennium enables citizens in their communities to have a real say in the governance process and in determining their own destiny”.
She was speaking within the context of the theme -‘Local Government, Citizen Participation and Regional Development: Fighting Poverty, Generating Jobs and Income and Democratic Governance’.
As a member state of RIAD, Jamaica, with the rest of the Caribbean sub-region, was moving apace with efforts “to advance the cause of local democracy, good governance and citizen participation in governance”, through regional co-operation, she outlined.
Minister Simpson Miller, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Sub-region, of which Jamaica is Vice-chair, informed the conference that “the Caribbean has undertaken or is engaged in several initiatives to advance the goals articulated in the [Mexico City] Plan of Action”.
Among the objectives achieved in the region, since the 2003 Conference in Mexico, was the convening of two sub-regional meetings. This compared favourably with the RIAD mandate of a minimum of one. The first was a symposium, held in Montego Bay in April 2004, and the second took the form of a conference, held in Port of Spain, Trinidad in August 2005.
These meetings facilitated a strengthening of ties among regional Local Government Ministers. “This close working relationship has been institutionalised by [the formation of] the Caribbean Forum of Ministers Responsible for Decentralisation, Local Government, Community Development and Citizen Participation (CFM),” Mrs. Simpson Miller noted. The process to gain formal recognition for the CFM from CARICOM is already underway.
“Another critical element of the Mexico City Plan was the enhancement of mechanisms to facilitate effective communication among member states,” she added.
The Minister cited the establishment of a Caribbean Local Government website, the setting up of a Focal Point in Jamaica, and the designation of the Local Government Reform Unit of the Ministry of Local Government in Jamaica as the Technical Secretariat of the CFM, as the gains made in this regard.
The Caribbean sub-region has also established links with the International Training Centre for Local Authorities and Civil Society (CIFAL), to improve the capacity of local authorities to carry out their roles.
“It is with much anticipation that we look forward to the strengthening of these collaborative efforts and to forge relations with new partners,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.