• JIS News

    The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), is in the process of designing the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Programme, an initiative geared towards increasing the security of citizens and fostering social stability in Jamaica.
    Speaking of the programme’s scope at a JIS Think Tank recently, Senior Governance Programme Manager, Louise Valle, said that JUST would work with “government, civil society, private sector and other international development partners, to help manage and reduce conflicts through judicial reform, mediation, human rights training, restorative justice and participatory governance.” It will form a major component of the comprehensive reform of the justice system being undertaken by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
    “We understand that institutional change, cultural change, systemic changes do not happen overnight,” said Mrs. Valle. In light of this, she indicated that the programme would be implemented over a long-term period of 12 to 15 years at a cost of about CDN$2.5 million in the first year.
    The JUST team, comprising representatives from the Department of Justice in Canada, the Ministries of Justice in some Canadian provinces, Planning Institute of Jamaica, MOJ and CIDA, has been touring and meeting with stakeholders. By mid-summer, after a thorough analysis of the sector is completed, a draft work plan will be submitted to the MOJ and other institutions for approval.
    According to Mrs. Valle, “justice is not just a system and process, there is also a component of social justice.” However, she said that if justice was to be brought to communities, developers could not circumvent working with the institutions.
    Mrs. Valle said that CIDA has identified the Supreme Court and the resident magistrate courts, as areas in the MOJ, which needed assistance. “We are looking at the possibility of providing equipment and technology,” she said, noting that many of the legal institutions across the island face deficiencies in the areas of training, computerization and modernization. The programme might be able to support infrastructural development in the legal sector, though this would not be a major undertaking, she added.
    When the wheels of the JUST caravan begin to turn, legal practitioners, the Dispute Resolution Foundation, and PALS are likely to be on board. Strategic alliances will also be formed with other bodies such as the Legal Aid Council and justices of the peace, whose close relationship with communities position them to make more significant contribution. “We are looking also, at the twinning of Jamaican institutions with Canadian institutions, Mrs. Valle said, “more so than bringing private sector firms to work in a management consultative way”.
    Expanding on the Social Conflict and Legal Reform Project implemented by CIDA, the JUST programme intends to intensify work in communities, helping them to “resolve disputes in a peaceful way and to resolve tension among young people and the people, who care for them.”
    The previously implemented programme worked successfully with the communities of Flankers in St. James and Trench Town, Kingston. As a result of the intervention, Flankers has seen a major reduction in its crime rate. Formerly classified as volatile, between 17 and 20 incidents of violence were reported per day in that community, but now “they don’t even have that in a month,” Mrs. Valle said.
    Similarly the project has transformed the community of Trench Town, as now, “there is a will within the community to take charge and to bring peace and to see progress,” she added.
    Mrs. Valle noted that if the people of Jamaica were prepared and were willing to make a long-term commitment to improving their institutions, “we also are willing to work with them and support that long-term transformation initiative. She added that Canada has had similar challenges, but has been able to address them at a faster pace, only because the country had more financial resources.
    Recognizing the existence of the Jamaican Diaspora Community in Canada, and their predominantly positive contributions, Mrs. Valle said that any constructive scheme that CIDA could facilitate in Jamaica was bound to have immediate positive impact in Canada.
    Jamaica has had a longstanding relationship with Canada, since 1966, when the Government of Jamaica requested assistance with a bridge rehabilitation programme. That programme lasted from 1967 to 2000. Subsequent to entering that agreement, CIDA was formed and has been a major supporter of numerous projects across the agriculture, education, environment, and other key sectors of the society.