National Diaspora Policy a priority at Jamaica Diaspora Summit

National Diaspora Policy a priority at Jamaica Diaspora Summit
Peter Bunting (L) and Minister Kamina Johnson Smith (R)

National Diaspora Policy a priority at Jamaica Diaspora Summit

Establishing the Diaspora’s role in Jamaica’ development will be top priority this weekend in Orlando at the annual Jamaica Diaspora Summit and Gala 2016. Set for Jun 24 to 26, this year’s conference gathers major stakeholders in formalizing Diaspora participation, including Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith.

This follows the Minister’s speech at the recent Jamaica Diaspora North East Regional Gala, where she announced that the government would soon launch a National Diaspora Policy, to maximize the contribution of overseas nationals for Jamaica’s development. Johnson-Smith had also confirmed the government has been analyzing avenues to establish voting rights for the Diaspora. At this year Summit in Orlando, Minister Johnson Smith will outline further these plans in her keynote address, “Jamaica Diaspora Partnership – a formalized Policy.”

The current administration has been criticized for the decision not to appoint a Minister of State specifically dedicated to Diaspora affairs to lead such initiatives, as done so in the past. But former Advisory Board Member Leo Gilling argues that “since assuming responsibility for Diaspora affairs, Minister Johnson Smith has shown her commitment to continuing what those before her have done, in giving due attention to the Diaspora and its critical role in contributing to Jamaica’s development. Engaging the Diaspora as partners and in a constructive and integrated manner is always the best approach and she has so far been doing just that.”

“[The Minister] “is most welcomed and serves as an affirmation of the seamless commitment of Jamaica’s Government to real and substantial partnership with the Jamaican Diaspora in the Southern USA,” says Wayne Golding, Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board Member of the Southern USA. “Considering the recent tragic events in Orlando, her visit also serves to demonstrate the solidarity with the people of that city. Although the Minister is slated as the keynote speaker at the Gala, her attendance is significantly substantive and by no means ceremonial.”
The minister will also participate in one of three symposiums at the Summit – “Effecting Diaspora Partnership between The Government of Jamaica, the Private Sector – Protocols and Mechanisms.”

These symposiums, says Golding, “highlight the intersection and interaction of our multi-generational Jamaican Diasporans.” He said the symposiums cover the media, elected office, government service, clergy, education, academia, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, culture, sports and entertainment.

Based on conference registration, hotel bookings, and general feedback, Golding reports an expected “good turnout” at this year’s Summit, which formally opens on Friday June 24 with a reception where former Jamaican Minister of National Security Peter Bunting is guest speaker.
Both local Diaspora leaders and Jamaican representatives will be participating at the symposiums, including Deputy Director of Public Works in Orlando, Florida, Charles Ramdatt, District Chief of the Orlando Fire Department Hezedean Smith, Public Private Partnership Manager of the National Education Trust in Jamaica, Latoya Harris, Ambassador Sharon Saunders, and Jamaica Consul General to the Southeast U.S., Franz Hall.

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