Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | Bipartisan, non-divisive approach to justice, governance and security

Published:Thursday | March 30, 2017 | 3:00 AM

It is heartening to know citizen safety and security and our access to, and securing of justice, are national priorities which (seemingly?) enjoy the keen attention of both the Opposition and Government. The Prime Minister. Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader (at the time), Portia Simpson Miller's Budget presentations earlier this month are evidence of this.

There is hardly a meeting or event where these issues are not raised by the government (of the day) and nary a political rally where politicians do not make mention of these matters. It is therefore not by chance that safety and security and access to justice were also included in the manifestos for both major political parties in the December 2011 and February 2016 general elections.

However, while our leaders continue to focus on these issues, commit resources to addressing them, and take other actions, we are still unable to meet the targets for Goal 2 of the National Development Plan, Vision 2030. Goal 2 are related to the society being 'secure, cohesive and just'. Our development hinges on success in this regard. We already know crime and violence cost us billions each year, and that an improvement of the justice system and reduction in crime and violence would contribute greatly to alleviating some of the challenges we face. One wonders though what on earth we have been doing over the last eight years since Vision 2030 came into effect in 2009 given the vast amount resources allocated to these areas.

Vision 2030 The National Development Plan of Jamaica is the first long-term development plan that we have had. It is quite an ambitious one. It 'presents a strategic road map for Jamaica to achieve developed, country status by 2030' and be known as 'the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business'. Spare me your cynicism. Have some hope for Jamaica.

Goal 2 The Jamaican society is safe, cohesive and just has two outcomes : effective governance and security and safety. Unsurprisingly, as mentioned earlier, we have not had much success in this regard.

 

Great concern

 

The January 2017 Update on Jamaica's Development which was published online by the Planning Institute of Jamaica, describes this as 'the area of greatest concern for the country'. It makes it clear that this is because none of the indicators related to justice, governance and security met the target. Some of the indicators include, crime rate, murder rate, rate of recidivism, and indices related to rule of law, control of corruption, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, and voice and accountability. Further, it indicates "the majority of indicators are worse than the baseline year of 2007 and some, such as the murder rate, while being lower than the baseline year 2007, are showing declining rates of improvement". In 2007, the baseline for the murder rate was 59.5 per 100,000 of the population. The target for 2015, which was not met, was 35.

It amazes me that we pay so little attention to the Vision 2030 Jamaica-National Development Plan, though its success would result in our communities being safer, justice becoming more accessible, the economy more prosperous, and everyone being more educated and qualified, among other things. We can no longer afford to do this.

The Medium Term Socio-Economic Framework for 2015 to 2018 outlines several key strategies that would, if implemented, result in the improvements we need to see in our communities. These include expanding the framework for the rehabilitation of inmates and offender, strengthen the policy and legislative environment, reform the justice system to accelerate the pace of the justice process, improve methods of policing, improving public trust in the JCF, fully implementing local government reform, enhancing administrative systems in the courts, and address the issue of gender-based violence.

It seems clear to me that we must be much more aggressive about fulfilling the commitments we have made. We have pussyfooted enough with our development over the years. We need a bipartisan, non-divisive approach to our development if we are to make our country safer and better for everyone. Government must commit to implementing with alacrity (as best as is possible) the commitments it has made.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.