JIS News

Since its establishment in 2002, the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), through its interventions, has contributed significantly to the diffusion of violence in several communities, particularly in the Corporate Area, enabling thousands of residents to go about their daily chores freely.
Vice Chairman of the PMI, Donna Parchment, tells JIS News that the PMI has been able to help communities, such as Mountain View in Kingston, where two years ago, children were unable to go to school, and men and women prevented from going to work, as entire areas were “locked down”.
“There have been several communities in which PMI intervention has regularized those positions and given back people an opportunity to live their normal lives and to make their lives better,” she adds.Persons in various communities in the Corporate Area have also been given the opportunity to participate in numerous workshops, while many have been involved in direct training.
“I know that hundreds of people have benefited (directly) in the period we have been there, because we have carried out projects through other organizations such as the Area Youth Foundation. We have also done so with Excelsior Community College, Dispute Resolution Foundation, local church groups and schools in the communities in which we are working,” she says, adding that they also work through other groups, including the Citizens Association of Allman Town, the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), the Trench Town Mediators Association, and others.
Miss Parchment, who is an Attorney-at-law, points out that one of the important things about the PMI, is that it affords people a vehicle through which they can participate in changing the problems that face the society. This, she says, is clear, as the PMI has been able to help communities resolve conflicts.
She notes that in many communities in which the PMI is engaged, which is over 60 communities in the Corporate area, “we are carrying out other activities, such as education programmes”.
The Vice Chairman points out that some 300 students were registered to do short courses at Excelsior Community College, which have since been completed. This, she says, is in addition to a series of conferences, which have been held with community leaders who the PMI identified and helped to develop through training and consultation.
Those conferences, she says, looked at issues within the communities and approaches to address them. “For example, through the social work team, we have an inter-agency group which has been pulled from many other organizations which support the work of the PMI in responding to victims of conflicts and victims of crime in communities that we have done interventions in,” she tells JIS News.
This social inter-agency team carries out activities, such as assessing children and women, as well as other affected persons to determine whether they need psychiatric support, counselling, relocation for education or residential purposes, or whether they need to get any particular service, which will help them to carry on and to minimize the stress and risk of reprisal from these communities.
Miss Parchment further informs that the PMI is involved in other activities, such as supporting some schools in the communities, helping with summer camps and assisting other partners who are carrying out social outreach, which may include using cultural activities to bring to the fore some of the issues and to develop a capacity for problem solving. This, she says, extends across the entire Corporate Area from Rock Hall to Duhaney Park to Trench Town and August Town.
She explains that the PMI is a volunteer body established at the invitation of the Minister of National Security to respond to violent conflicts in communities, particularly those related to politics or conflicts based on community identity.
“Sometimes there is a very thin line between community and political identity.so we intervene wherever there is a significant event that causes death or serious harm and disruption to normal community life,” she points out.
Miss Parchment tells JIS News that the PMI has been able to bring to the table, political representatives, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), representatives of the clergy and the community, representatives of academia, the Dispute Resolution Foundation and civil society and other partners, to have a more focused attention to solving a problem that has resulted in death or injury to people.
“I think it is fair to say that there is a high level of trust in the PMI. There is a high level of confidence in the competence of the PMI to facilitate large group conflict mediation and to provide viable agreement, working with the people affected, that will not prevent the Police from carrying out its operation, but will de-escalate the conflict and minimize the level of further deaths coming out of any particular incident,” she says.
“We have been overwhelmed by the confidence that the communities have reposed in us. I think it is very clear that we have tried to be a non-judgmental but supportive and enabling organization and the citizens of all the communities in which we have worked, have been more than co-operative. They have helped to develop and guide the process,” Miss Parchment adds.
She says it is very important to sensitize people about the role of the PMI, and to engage the public around its own capacity to partner with the PMI and other organizations, including the JCF, the church and other civil society organizations.
Miss Parchment tells JIS News that the focus for now is on the Corporate Area, but there is scope for the group to work closely with other bodies operating in the rural areas. This will be made easy as already, the Crime Committees that have been established in the rural parishes do have many elements of the PMI.
“I think there is scope for us to work more closely with those Crime Committees as well as the western PMI established in Montego Bay, to share learning experiences, so that there can be an increased capacity on the part of these bodies to respond to the challenges, as well as to be proactive about crime and violence in their particular community,” she says.
The Vice Chairman also noted that the PMI has done a substantial amount of work in Spanish Town, and with the wider St. Catherine Crime Committees.
Based on this collaborative effort, Miss Parchment says what is needed more, is the deepening of the PMI concept through other teams of persons, rather than the initial PMI body taking on the issues in every community.
She emphasizes that the PMI’s objective is to see a sustainable reduction in criminal activities, particularly violent ones, and an increase in the number of Community Councils, which will help to build integration and unity across communities.
“The PMI also recognizes that there is need for the economic, educational and cultural empowerment of the communities in which we work, by recognizing all the capacity that is within the communities and matching that with resources and plan that would allow us to unlock the potential of so many of our people, in particular the young men, in these urban underserved communities,” she says, while stressing the importance of training, consultation, job placement and mediation.