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The number of registered participants for the second Jamaican Diaspora Conference has almost doubled from the 250 persons who attended the inaugural event in June 2004.
State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Delano Franklyn made the disclosure at Friday’s (Feb. 10) sitting of the senate, where he said an estimated 450 persons were expected to turn out for the conference in June.
Providing a breakdown of the range of participants, Senator Franklyn said some 150 persons were expected from the United States; 100 from the United Kingdom; 100 from Canada; 50 from the Caribbean region, Latin America and Africa; and 50 individuals from Jamaica.
Senator Franklyn, who was making his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate, explained that the government’s involvement in the Diaspora Conference was a means of continuing its “developing and establishing structures and institutional arrangements to foster and strengthen the relationship with the diasporic community.” Referring to the decisions that were taken at the inaugural conference, he said the three most critical were the convening of a conference every two years; the establishment of a Jamaican Diaspora Foundation (JADF); and increasing the work in the Diaspora community through the establishment of appropriate structures.
In relation to the JADF, Senator Franklyn said the Foundation was intended to function as a limited liability non-profit organisation and should come on stream during the course of this year. Before the Foundation’s formal establishment, he said, several elements had to be ironed out, such the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of the West Indies, which will be the site of the Foundation.
Additionally, a business plan estimated at $38 million has to be finalised to get the Foundation fully operational. According to Senator Franklyn, a commitment of $8 million each year, for two years, has already been received from a stakeholder.
Elaborating on the work to be carried out by the JADF, he said the primary objectives of the Foundation would be to strengthen the links and support systems between Jamaicans at home and those abroad and deepen the collaboration and cooperation among the stakeholder groups that serve them; serve as a liaison between the Diaspora communities and the government, private sector and community-based organisations in Jamaica; and make recommendations for government policies in respect of the Diaspora. Senator Franklyn said following the 2004 Conference in Jamaica, the Diaspora community has been galvanised, with the contingent from the United States establishing trade councils in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New Jersey. The trade councils are intended to promote trade and investment opportunities in Jamaica.
As for the diasporic community in Canada, the Jamaica Diaspora Canada Foundation was launched in December 2004, with the focus areas of social development, education, health, and law enforcement.
The Foundation invited Commissioner of Police, Lucius Thomas, to visit Toronto where he met with representatives of the Toronto and Hamilton Police Services to discuss cooperation between the two sides.
In June 2005 a Jamaica Diaspora United Kingdom (UK) was launched and six regional group structures for engaging the Diaspora are being established.
Senator Franklyn said a regional Diaspora conference was slated for Birmingham in April, which he will attend, along with Commissioner Thomas and Member of Parliament for East Central St. James, Edmond Bartlett.
This year’s Jamaica Diaspora Conference, which will be held from June 15 to 16 at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Downtown Kingston, will focus on issues identified by the Diaspora, such as business opportunities, globalisation and the movement of people, tourism and culture, and crime.