Church and community leaders, government officials and members of the business community met at a full-day conference last week to discuss plans for the upcoming celebration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence next year.
The conference, entitled “Jamaica 50 and Beyond: Towards a Developed Nation”, was hosted by the country’s consul general in Toronto, George Ramocan, and focused on issues surrounding leadership, mobilization, self-sustainability and the involvement of the church.
Once a British colony, Jamaica was granted Independence in 1962. Over the years, Jamaica has evolved economically by joining with economic trade partners in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), developed socially and grown culturally. While this island in the Caribbean has seen much progress, much more is on the horizon as program director at the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Richard Lamsden, indicated with his Vision 2030 Plan.
“All hands (need to be) on deck to achieve stability,” he said.
Lamsden said Jamaica achieved a 1.4 per cent real GDP growth in spite of the global financial crisis, which hurt many leading nations. With economic, social and environmental goals, the Vision 2030 Plan is meant to serve as a guide for Jamaica’s development within its 21-year time frame.
A key element of the conference was a focus on the involvement of the church community. A panel discussion moderated by Minister Paulette Brown, with pastors Vernal Savage, Anthony Reid, Dr. Pat Francis and Bishop Daniel Vassel, discussed the stabilizing role the church plays for Jamaicans at home and abroad.
Questions and comments raised from the audience encouraged discussion about the power of prayer, the church as a communication channel, the notion of church leaders as community leaders and the idea that spiritual readiness hinges on engagement.
Over the course of the conference, the inclusion of the church was a major theme as a framework for Jamaica moving forward as a nation. It was suggested that a stronger and more inclusive network, involving the church, should include tangible change by the church working with key education and business sectors. It was also recommended that the church should mobilize focus groups to foster communication.
Ronald Jackson, Director General for the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in Jamaica, spoke of the new initiatives for emergency response during natural and man-made disasters. The issues of underdeveloped countries and the Diasporic response to natural disasters was a key point of his presentation.
“Catastrophes and risks are increasing globally,” said Jackson. “There has to be a framework for action, not just in terms of response, but development issues.”
Jackson said that, with all of the global changes that are occurring on the planet, there needs to be a better system for disaster management. He said that while early recovery and post-impact support is traditional, a Diaspora community and government partnership is one possibility of improving disaster response as well as post-response financing.
While social costs aren’t prioritized, risk transfer schemes and donor support are needed, he added.
Valerie Steele, past president of the Jamaica Canadian Association and current interim co-chair of the Jamaica Diaspora Canada Foundation (JDCF), made a brief presentation about the foundation, which was established in 2004.
There were also presentations on key events to take place as part of Jamaica’s 50th Independence Anniversary celebration. Many events in Jamaica are already in the works to mark the special occasion.