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The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and the Dispute Resolution Foundation yesterday (October 27), signed a $12.9 million contract, for the Foundation to provide mediation, conflict resolution and conflict management services in 12 inner city communities across the island.
These communities have been identified as being in need of social and physical infrastructure intervention.
The mediation and conflict management intervention is the first undertaking of the Inner City Basic Services Project (ICBSP), which is being implemented by JSIF, through a US$32.3 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), to improve the quality of life in the selected inner city communities.
Communities slated to participate in the ICBSP include Whitfield Town, Federal Gardens, Jones Town and Pasmore Gardens in the Corporate Area; Central Village, Africa, Dempshire Pen/Jones Pen, Lauriston and Tawes Pen in St. Catherine; Bucknor/Rectory Land in Clarendon; and Flankers in St. James. The project, which is slated to last for five years, will involve the implementation of basic infrastructure services, such as improvement of the communities’ road network, water supply and sewage systems. The project will also deal with crime and violence prevention, tenure regularisation and access to micro-financing.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, held at the JSIF’s head office in New Kingston, Managing Director of JSIF, Scarlette Gillings, said the Fund was pleased to be associated with the project, noting that, “it is very significant that we are starting with the all-important conflict resolution component.[as within violence-plagued communities], we need to find a way of settling our differences”.
“That is the best we can do in terms of assisting our communities to be able to manage their conflicts better,” the Managing Director added.
Meanwhile, Project Manager, Faith Graham, explained that the overall aim was to “improve basic services and the social fabric in the communities”.
Informing that Community Liaison Officers have been placed to work in the communities by JSIF, she further pointed out that, “we are also emphasising what we are calling a public safety intervention, so that while the physical infrastructure is the more costly element in the project, this public safety intervention is probably the more critical aspect”. The public safety intervention, she said, would comprise mediation, conflict resolution, family support services, counselling for families, and life skills development.
Additional provisions include alternative skills and livelihood development, which the Project Manager said would entail, “looking at training and placement and just teaching community members job related skills, because sometimes people are unemployed because they do not possess the skills that go with maintaining employment, so those are some of the areas that we are focusing on”.
Miss Graham stressed that JSIF was committed to putting in every effort that is required to make the project a success.
“We have already signed some partnership agreements with a number of agencies, including the Social Development Commission (SDC), the National Water Commission (NWC), the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), Jamaica Public Service, and the Rural Electrification Programme, which will be working with us to do some electricity regularisation in the communities. The Parish Councils have also signed agreements with us for managing the project during its implementation, and then also taking over management of the community facilities and the service delivery, once the project is completed,” she added.
In her address, Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation, Donna Parchment welcomed the opportunity to work in the inner city communities, noting that she was optimistic that at the conclusion of the project, she anticipated leaving stronger communities more confident in their abilities to resolve their conflicts and live together in a peaceful way. “There are a range of issues confronting the communities in which we are going to work and we are prepared to deliver these services, subject to the communities approval and participation, and guidance,” she said.
“We believe these communities are peopled by wonderful Jamaican citizens who deserve to be engaged as fully as anyone else in that wonderful experience of being a Jamaican, who is included in everything, and it is our pledge, as we do this work, to honour the idea that everyone has a right to be at the table and contribute and benefit from this project,” Miss Parchment added.
She outlined that the communities involved in the project would be called on to identify persons to participate in certain activities; shape the final deliverables; map the community resources; participate in consultations; engage in the training programmes, and help to shape and sign agreements at the end of this process. In addition to the Dispute Resolution Foundation, Peace and Love in Society (PALS), the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), the Sistren Theatre Collective and Building and Enriching Minds Through Empowerment (BEME), will also be lending help in the conflict resolution and management component of the project. “I hope it will be a great adventure for all of us to work together, learning about one another, putting our skills together in a strategic way and working with the communities and the resources that reside there,” Miss Parchment said.
Attending the signing ceremony were Members of Parliament for St. Catherine South Central, and St. Catherine Central, Sharon Hay Webster and Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, respectively.
The two women endorsed the Project and expressed the hope that it would help to foster a spirit of unity within the communities.