State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, says the drafting of a Diaspora and Development Policy, is imperative based on challenges the country faces as a result of migration.
“The need for a policy framework has become very apparent…We are determined to look at policy options available to mitigate these challenges,” Mr. Brown said, as he addressed a meeting of migration and development experts from the Commonwealth at the Terra Nova All-Suites Hotel in St. Andrew, on July 2.
The State Minister said the Government also intends to institute measures which will reduce the disadvantages associated with migration and, instead, build on the migration benefits to Jamaica.
“This approach will include the countries of destination and more importantly, the migrants and their families. In this regard, we hope to implement strategies that will reduce transaction costs in remittance flows as well as safeguard the human rights and social protection of our migrants,” he said.
Mr. Brown said this policy-based approach is consultative in nature and involves the participation of all the major stakeholders in government, private sector and civil society.
“More importantly, the policy could not be complete without the invaluable involvement of Jamaicans overseas, as we need to benefit from the Diaspora’s tremendous knowledge and input,” he said.
Mr. Brown further argued that the global economic and financial crisis “stubbornly persists with severe consequences for small states, particularly those that are vulnerable and highly indebted."
He suggested that the way forward for this group of countries requires new and innovative solutions. “For small states, this could include the exchange of experiences and building on lessons learned in dealing with migration and development,” he added.
The State Minister pointed out that since the early 1990s, “deliberate steps” have been pursued to capture the development potential of Jamaicans overseas, targeting their human and financial capital through the creation of businesses, trade links, investments, skills training and other exchanges.
He said that it has been recognised that migration is far more than remittances, adding that, “the inextricable link between migration and development has determined that there needs to be an improved partnership and dialogue between the Government and the Diaspora."
“We are also partnering more with international organisations, and civil society, working together to amplify the development benefits of migration,” he said, pointing out that Jamaica is currently developing a National Policy on International Migration and Development, and a Plan of Action, in acknowledgement of the importance of factoring migration issues into economic development planning.
Mr. Brown said he was pleased that the Commonwealth Secretariat organised the seminar, “which will provide us with the opportunity to exchange views with a distinguished group of experts on migration."
“Moreover, the deliberations of Commonwealth small states on the costs and benefits associated with migration will be important as we prepare for the United Nations High level meeting on Migration scheduled for 2013,” he said.
“I must thank the Commonwealth Secretariat which, through its advocacy and research, has provided a framework through which small states, which are especially vulnerable to the negative impact of migration, can be heard in international policy making fora. This is in keeping with the commitment by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Secretary-General in providing a space in which to consider issues critical to the development of small states,” Mr. Brown added.
The meeting, being held from July 2 to 4, will highlight the costs and benefits of migration and examine the role that government policy can play in maximising the advantages while minimising the drawbacks. It will also identify areas that require international advocacy and practical support.
Organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, in collaboration with the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services at the University of the West Indies (UWI), the meeting will involve delegates from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific who will share research findings, best practices and experiences on migration and development in small states. Participants include government officials, policy makers, academics and representatives of regional and international organisations.
The topics to be covered will include international recruitment, diaspora remittances and investment and entrepreneurship. There will be specific research presentations on Guyana, The Gambia, Jamaica, Lesotho, Samoa and Tonga.
In 2009 and 2011, Commonwealth Heads of Government gave the Secretariat a mandate to examine ways of maximising the economic and social benefits of migration while addressing its challenges.
In addition to addressing these issues, delegates will see a screening of ‘Forward Home: The Power of the Caribbean Diaspora’, a documentary shot in nine locations across the globe, which reveals the economic power of Caribbean overseas communities.
Outcomes of the meeting will form the basis for practical policy options for small states. These outcomes will be presented at the Second Global Biennial Conference on Small States, scheduled for September 17-18, 2012, in London, United Kingdom.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter