Judith Slater | Jamaica and the UK – Striving to deliver on common interests
Sixty years of Independence is an incredible milestone. It is both a privilege and a joy to be serving as British High Commissioner as Jamaica celebrates such a special occasion.
Though a relatively small country, Jamaica’s global influence belies its small size. Your music, food, diverse culture and sporting prowess are legendary and loved. Despite some challenges, Jamaicans have every reason to be proud of themselves as a nation. Your voice and brand influence and inspire, not least in the UK, where your vibrant Jamaican diaspora acts as an amplifier.
The UK has been a long-standing partner to Jamaica across a wide range of sectors. Our engagement has reflected shared values on transparency, integrity, democracy and inclusion. As in any relationship, we have not always agreed on everything, but we have always found common ground on the things that matter. In the last few decades, the UK has worked closely with Jamaica on development objectives in education, community development, economic growth and debt relief, private sector development, police reform, tackling stigma and discrimination, public sector modernisation and strengthening governance. In more recent years, we have increased our support in areas such as making hospitals and health centres more resilient to hurricanes; mobilising support to address the impact of climate change; tackling organised crime, corruption and violence – particularly against women and girls; and funding irrigation systems for agricultural lands. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamaica was a priority recipient of vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) from the UK. In addition to all of this, we have been privileged to enjoy productive and successful partnerships with a wide range of Jamaicans, from the public sector, private sector and civil society. Indeed, many have become friends.
This close cooperation also extends to the defence relationship between the United Kingdom and Jamaica – a historical connection that stands firmly on the foundations laid in 1962 – and which continues to develop and flourish. In the last 60 years, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has developed into a modern-day force that works in partnership, and as equals, with the United Kingdom Armed Forces. There have literally been hundreds of JDF officers and other ranks who have undergone training in the United Kingdom over the last couple of decades. This has included an impressive cohort of Chiefs of Defence Staff – and similarly, hundreds of British personnel have undergone environmental training here in Jamaica, working in partnership with, and trained by, the Jamaica Defence Force. In this 60th anniversary year, the Coldstream Guards – the oldest Regiment in the British Army – returned to train in Jamaica alongside JDF personnel. The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, an institution that has been training officers in the United Kingdom for over 200 years, has also supported Jamaica’s establishment of an Initial Officers’ Training Programme, which will benefit the region under Jamaica’s leadership. Additionally, in this year alone, 14 JDF members will undertake or complete training in the United Kingdom. So whether it is training with the Royal Navy, British Army or Royal Air Force, the United Kingdom Defence Academy, humanitarian response or training and development activities conducted here in Jamaica, the Jamaica Defence Force stands as a partner to the UK – no longer just supported, but now supporting the United Kingdom Armed Forces. The UK is proud to have the JDF as a key partner, working together to further the interests of safety, security and prosperity for all.
I also take immense pride in the Chevening Programme and how much it has grown. Chevening is the UK’s education programme that selects some of Jamaica’s best for fully funded scholarships to British universities for postgraduate studies. The Chevening Jamaica Alum group is now close to 300 since the initiative started. They are a great sounding board for me and my colleagues – and fun too! I encourage eligible Jamaicans to apply for a chance to advance your education and then use those skills for the further development of the country.
On a lighter note, since the start of my tenure as high commissioner, I have been lucky enough to see and experience some of the best that Jamaica has to offer. I have seen breathtaking scenery and met some wonderful people – but I have so much more to see, experience and understand about Jamaica. As a sports fanatic, I’ve so enjoyed witnessing Jamaica’s recent sporting achievements on the world stage, especially among the women. Just recently, the Reggae Girlz qualified for yet another Women’s World Cup. I also watched rapt as Golden Girls – Shelly-Ann, Elaine and Shericka – copped a clean sweep in the World Athletics Championships Women’s 100m finals, though Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith did at least get on the podium in the 200m.
I am pleased to say the Commonwealth Games are now on in Birmingham and I am fully expecting to see Jamaica collecting another trove of medals. I wish all the athletes a great experience at the “friendly games”.
I recognise that a lot has been said recently in the public domain on whether Jamaica should remain a realm or transition to a republic. The UK position remains that this is entirely a matter for the government and people of Jamaica to decide. Whatever the outcome of these deliberations, this enduring friendship will continue based on mutual respect and shared values.
My main goal as high commissioner is to continue building a modern, productive, trust-based relationship between Jamaica and the United Kingdom.
So in this, Jamaica’s 60th year of independence, the United Kingdom reaffirms its commitment to working with Jamaicans to strengthen the relationship between our two countries, and deliver on common interests.
Judith Slater is the British High Commissioner to Jamaica. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org