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JFJ says Lisa is wrong on its advocacy strategies

Published:Friday | May 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM
HANNA
OSBORNE
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Below is a response from executive director of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) Kay Osborne regarding Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna's statements on JFJ's advocacy approaches.

MINISTER OF Youth and culture Lisa Hanna's recent press release on Jamaicans for Justice's (JFJ's) advocacy on children at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and overall advocacy on the rights of children contains misleading inaccuracies that require clarification.

JFJ's advocacy includes in-depth research, public awareness, consultation, and the reporting of abuses. Reports on children to the IACHR are among the most effective means of securing child rights and of holding Minister Hanna's administration accountable.

Further, reports to IACHR and United Nations' committees are necessary to compel the Government to engage in moderate initiatives that enable vulnerable and marginalised youth to "survive and develop healthily," as required under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

IACHR PETITION

In 2013, JFJ petitioned the IACHR on behalf of girls in prisons facing human rights abuses. The IACHR, recognising the harm to these children, granted precautionary measures on behalf of the girls, and instructed our Government to take immediate action to end the patent violation of the rights of said girls in state custody.

In March 2014, JFJ, the Government of Jamaica, and the IACHR had a working meeting to follow up on the situation of this vulnerable group. At that meeting, both JFJ and the Government of Jamaica agreed to meet to further discuss the issues. Since then, JFJ has written to the minister with responsibility for the population in the precautionary measures, Peter Bunting, to request this meeting and, to date, Minister Bunting has not responded. Despite the joint commitment to meet, the Government of Jamaica has not sought to engage with JFJ in any way since the IACHR instruction.

Over the past two years, JFJ has met with Minister Hanna twice, the Office of the Children's Advocate, the advisory board of the Child Development Agency (CDA), the Office of the Children's Registry, the Department of Correctional Services, the minister of justice, and officials from the CDA to find meaningful solutions to the desperate state of childcare. We continue to engage with the Government on these issues.

Minister Hanna's statement that JFJ's activism is "the issuing of press releases, and this is not the way to achieve meaningful reform," mischaracterises JFJ's advocacy strategies, which include substantial collaborations with the minister's own Ministry of Youth and with children's homes.

Since October last year, JFJ developed and conducted an intervention and education programme within six children's homes, spanning 75 two-hour workshops, that exposed over 150 wards of the state to important health, human rights and development content that will enable them to become well-rounded citizens.

ADOPTION ACT recommendations

At the Ministry of Youth's request earlier this month, JFJ provided a comprehensive submission on improving the Adoption Act. JFJ's recommendations include a new structure to replace the Adoption Board, a revised framework for assessing applications, internal regulations to ensure proper governance, and an implementation and monitoring framework to disclose material and human resources assigned to various activities. Similarly, JFJ provided recommendations on the Child Care and Protection Act. To our regret, this reform process is delayed, and Minister Hanna neither provided a timeline nor update for its completion.

For the record, JFJ has been involved in child rights advocacy over many years, namely:

1. JFJ was involved in drafting the original Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA).

2. JFJ has provided a written contribution to the current review of the CCPA.

3. JFJ has researched child rights issues and published the findings to help inform a data-driven public debate.

4. JFJ in consultation with national stakeholders undertook the preparation of a lengthy NGO report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Jamaica.

5. JFJ has staged public forums that have included the commissioner of corrections, the children's advocate, and other experts to help drive collaboration and information sharing in the childcare sector.

6. JFJ engaged with overseas specialists to provide possible alternate child justice models that have been successful in the USA. JFJ flew down one such expert and facilitated a presentation with the Department of Correctional Services and the chief justice on an alternative rehabilitation and juvenile justice model.

7. JFJ has continuously provided legal services free of cost to families who have come to us regarding the plight of their children in prisons or state facilities.

JFJ's commitment on collaborations with the Ministry of Youth and other government agencies remains steadfast. JFJ remains committed to advocating on and supporting initiatives that advance human rights, including child rights.