I welcome you most warmly to this sixteenth staging of Jamaica’s Diplomatic Week. I am delighted that we are joined by an unprecedentedly high number of non-resident Heads of Mission.
I extend a special welcome to the newly appointed resident and non-resident High Commissioners and Ambassadors who have joined us since we last met, including those who, just yesterday, presented credentials to His Excellency the Governor General and, in one instance, to the Honourable Prime Minister.
I am pleased to note that the non-resident Ambassador of Suriname is present here today, complementing the excellent resident Caribbean Community (CARICOM) representation provided by St. Kitts and Nevis and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Jamaica’s foreign policy is based on a number of underlying values and principles, many of which are to be found in the Charter of the United Nations. These include an approach which rejects discrimination in any form and which strives for social and economic equity for all. Jamaica continues to be a firm advocate for the promotion of peace, the peaceful resolution of disputes, respect for multilateralism and adherence to the purposes and norms of international law.
At the same time, we are proud of our solid, unbroken democratic tradition, our strong institutions of state, our commitment to due process and the rule of law, and our stout defence of freedom of expression, including extremely high levels of press freedom. Indeed, in 2013 Jamaica was rated by Reporters without Borders as having the highest level of press freedom in the Western Hemisphere and the 13th highest rank in the world. I believe that this is worth highlighting, as we often fall into the trap of focusing on the negatives, instead of celebrating our achievements and taking pride in the hard-won political and social gains that are the envy of many other countries.
The focus of this year’s Diplomatic Week is on Partnership for Growth. We have chosen this theme to highlight the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in helping to shape an international environment that is conducive to Jamaica’s growth and development. After all, the primary objective of Jamaica’s foreign policy is to ensure that our role and activities in international affairs complement economic and social development at home and make us more secure as a nation. It is clear, therefore, that our efforts on the domestic front must be supported by our external outreach. In this context, we understand that our partnerships with the countries that you represent and our close collaboration with various regional and international organisations are:
- vital for the implementation of Jamaica’s Growth Inducement Strategy;
- critical to the success of our Medium Term Socio-Economic Policy Framework: 2012 – 2015; and
- Essential if we are to attain the goals and objectives of our overall National Development Plan- Vision 2030 Jamaica.
The global financial and economic crisis of the last six years has demonstrated unequivocally the close nexus between the external environment and our own prospects for inclusive and transformative growth and development.
We are heartened, therefore, that 2014 has started with encouraging an sign of recovery at the global level. A recent study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) forecasts global economic growth of 2.9 percent in 2014, with growth picking up in both developed and developing countries. ECLAC has found that GDP growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to exceed the global average, rising to a projected 3.3 percent in 2014. As would be expected, growth rates will not be evenly distributed. ECLAC has posited that Jamaica will experience a 1.2 percent increase in growth, compared to a high of 7 percent for some other countries in the Latin American and the Caribbean region. The comparison with other regions would be even more marked. Nonetheless, we are encouraged that, for many of us, after years of near zero growth, we may have finally turned the corner and are on a more upward trajectory…READ MORE