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Johnson Smith says Diaspora Conference not business as usual - Minister commits to action following wide-ranging discussions

Published:Tuesday | June 18, 2019 | 12:22 AM

The 8th Biennial Diaspora Conference officially got under way at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston yesterday, with Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith vowing to advance results from discussions held from this and previous stagings of the event.

She was speaking against the background of stinging criticism over the lack of actionable outcomes from previous conferences, with some critics saying the event has become “too political”.

“So now we are moving from knowing and talking to doing, to creating the framework to provide for this increased and sustainable connection,” Johnson Smith said.

She saluted the Diaspora Advisory Board and the Diaspora Affairs Department at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, along with committed diaspora associations, groups and partners, that have helped to produce the draft of the National Diaspora Policy, which is awaiting endorsement from conference delegates before it is submitted to Cabinet.

“It is pleasing to be able to predict that one will be hard-pressed to leave the conference on Wednesday saying that it has been business as usual,” she said.

Additionally, she said that her ministry will also seek to discuss and gain endorsements of the concept of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council, which is proposed to be an expanded and inclusive body with a wide membership of individuals who hold Jamaica at the forefront of their voluntary efforts.

“It has never been and it will never be easy to give up valuable time and energy to support causes which do not provide monetary returns. However, the altruistic nature of Jamaicans, who know that their umbilical cords have never been cut from the land of their ancestors, make it seem like a simple task.

“This widened group, the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council, will not only ease the burden placed on just a few who now carry the weight of the board, but it will allow for greater exclusivity of Jamaicans living afar in lands across several oceans,” she said.

Young Leaders Council

Johnson Smith further mentioned the establishment of chapters to be set up in each major diaspora location for a framework for a Global Jamaica Diaspora Young Leaders Council.

“We need to agree to give them the space to devise and implement sustainable means of deepening engagement with their contemporaries in Jamaica and the broader diaspora. Otherwise, every two years we will meet and hold a forum that says that young people need to connect more,” Johnson Smith said.

She said that the aim of the Diaspora Conference is to ensure that both delegates and the Government are open, honest and accountable to each other.

This year’s staging focuses on partnerships between the diaspora and Jamaica in working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030, which incorporate the goals of the Vision 2030 National Development Plan.