The re-launch of the Parish Development Committees (PDCs) is seen as critical in the reform of local governance by increasing citizen engagement in the decision-making process and development of their communities.
“The PDCs give the common man an opportunity to represent their views at the municipal corporation because it is the PDCs that sit on the committees of the municipal corporation,” Director of the Governance Division at the Social Development Commission (SDC), Sherine Francis, tells JIS News.
“With them sitting on the committees it gives members from a youth club and sporting association for example, an opportunity for their voice to be heard at the municipal corporation,” she notes.
The PDC is an umbrella structure that brings together the network of organistations, interest groups and agencies that exist within a parish.
These include community-based organisations (CBOs), which represent segments or special interests in the communities such as police youth clubs, neighborhood watches, senior citizens groups, citizens associations, sports and agricultural groups.
These organisations can then come together to form a Community Development Committee (CDC) to more accurately represent the views of the community.
Representatives from several CDCs and private and public stakeholders within the same area will then form a Development Area Committee (DAC) to take the development issues of the geographic or economic area and report them to a higher level – the PDC.
“It promotes the concept and principles of good governance and works in partnership with the municipal corporations,” Ms. Francis tells JIS News.
The PDCs were re-launched earlier this month under the new participatory governance framework, mandated in the Local Governance Act, 2016.
Under the Act, PDCs are now an integral part of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, with the SDC functioning as the facilitator and regulator of all committees.
Ms. Francis says that by undertaking this move, the Government of Jamaica is enabling citizens and stakeholders on a whole, “to play a very critical role in local and national development. What we want to do with this relaunch is what we call institutionalising the role of the PDCs in local and national development as recognised in the Act.”
She notes that the PDCs have been instrumental in ensuring that the issues or challenges faced by communities are being addressed by the local authorities.
“There are a number of PDCs right across Jamaica that are doing very good work in different areas,” she says.
“For example, for Clarendon, it would be in the area of climate change. In the case of Westmoreland it would be as it relates to working to solve some social challenges such as crime, and for Trelawny, they have been working with their respective groups in terms of economic development. In Manchester, the PDC has been working closely with the municipal corporation there to implement various components of the local sustainable development plan,” Ms. Francis tells JIS News.
She is appealing for citizens to get involved in community groups in order to have their voices heard and contribute to national development.
“By being active in your community groups it will feed up to the development areas and ultimately the PDCs. So, I am encouraging all Jamaicans to go out, find your community groups, participate, let your voices be heard, become involved. Jamaica needs you,” she says.
The SDC is mandated to monitor and audit each PDC to ensure their adherence to the stipulated operational guidelines.
The commission will also administer the grant, which was established to support the PDCs’ administrative functions.
Each PDC is eligible for a $1 million in quarterly disbursements, once they apply to the SDC and meet the requisite criteria.
Details of the functions and requirements of critical stakeholders are listed in the Local Governance Partnership Agreement signed by portfolio Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie; Executive Director of the SDC, Dr. Dwayne Vernon; and all Mayors and PDC Chairpersons, at the re-launch.