KINGSTON — Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Gladstone Hutchinson, says continued progress towards the nation achieving developed country status under the National Development Plan, Vision 2030 Jamaica, is contingent on key Governance issues being addressed, particularly at the community level.
A critical component, he argues, is the strengthening of local governance to ensure broad stakeholder participation in the decision making process, coupled with implementation of mechanisms that are informed by, and responsive to needs at the community level.
Speaking at the opening of the Social Development Commission’s (SDC) two-day local governance capacity building project training workshop, at the Altamont Court Hotel, New Kingston, yesterday June 27, Dr. Hutchinson stressed the importance of having response mechanisms in place to address developments, such as volatility, vulnerability and social marginalisation facing some communities.
“These communities are pressed with challenges, including crime and violence, poverty, joblessness, especially among the youth; large numbers of informal settlements or squatter settlements; and vulnerability to natural disasters. It is, therefore, critical that a governance mechanism, a knowledge making mechanism, at the local level, that is inclusive, equitable, fair, and effective is put in place,” he said.
“This is to make sure that we can understand and vet the issues, so that they can plug into our national priorities and our national planning and development. It is the only way that we are going to create a sense of transitivity of opportunity and fairness across all of our communities…if we are going to address some of the challenges we face,” the PIOJ Head added.
In this regard, Dr. Hutchinson said Parish Development Committees (PDCs) must understand their role in the context of Jamaica’s national development goals and recognise that the end results at the national and local levels, are the same.
He argued that civil society’s input in assisting to address these challenges is critical, pointing out that efforts by the relevant stakeholders to design a local governance structure, “reflects an attempt to bring planners and implementers together."
“It represents an integrated approach in which all who have an interest have a say in what happens. Importantly, the local governance structure provides for integration of the works of government through local authorities and their interface with civil society,” Dr. Hutchinson said.
The two-day national training workshop, which is being held for representatives of PDCs islandwide, forms part of the Capacity Building of Local Governance Organisations Project, being funded through a US$47,283 grant from the London-based Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, in the United Kingdom. A similar two-day workshop was held on June 16 and 17 for all SDC parish managers.
The project is aimed at re-orienting SDC field and management staff, and training stakeholders of civil society, to ensure consistent levels of awareness of their role in partnerships and participation, towards effective local governance. The PIOJ, Department of Local Government, and National Association of Parish Development Committees (NAPDEC) are collaborating with the SDC in executing the initiative.
Director of Governance at the SDC, Sherine Francis, disclosed that the project, being implemented during June, is a short-term approach, which will be followed by a comprehensive capacity building programme that will extend to include all levels of stakeholders within local authorities.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter