KINGSTON, April 27 (JIS): BY: ELAINE HARTMAN RECKORD
Members of the Diaspora and Jamaicans at home will gather at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, in St. James, from June 13 to 18, to participate in the sixth staging of the Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference.
Activities will include a business and cultural exposition, a range of meetings to address investment opportunities and social activities, culminating with a Diaspora Day of Service.
The forum is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, in collaboration with the Jamaica Diaspora Foundation, the Jamaica Diaspora Institute, the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board Members, key community persons and Diaspora community groups, under the theme: ‘Jamaica and the Diaspora: Linking for Growth and Prosperity’.
This year, the conference promises to be bigger and better, with the organisers anticipating a robust turnout of Diaspora members.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade,
Hon. Arnaldo Brown, tells JIS News that the last staging saw a record number of diaspora members in attendance. He is hoping the number will increase in 2015.
“Our intent is to have 1,000 local participants and hopefully, we will have an equal number from the Diaspora in attendance at the conference,” he says.
Since its inception in 2004, the event has grown, and in 2013 more than 1,500 participants attended the conference.
He notes that efforts are being made to increase the turnout through the deliberate targeting of the Diaspora outside of the traditional areas of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada.
Since the conference was officially launched in February 2015 by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, Mr. Brown says several others have been held to promote it overseas, noting that the first international launch was held at the St. George’s Episcopal Church, in New York, last month.
“Consequent upon the New York launch, we launched in Canada from the 12th of April to the 19th of April. There were launches in Toronto, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal and all launch events have gone fairly well,” he adds.
Other Diaspora launches include Grand Cayman and Florida. The launch in Florida will take place at a community forum on Thursday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Miramar City Hall, 2300 Civic Center Drive, Miramar.
Mr. Brown is urging Jamaicans who wish to attend the conference to register now and take advantage of the early bird rates. The official conference hotel is the Rose Hall Hilton Hotel and attendees are being encouraged to log on to: www.jamaicandiaspora.gov.jm for early registration and further details. He is also reminding Jamaicans in the Diaspora who have difficulty registering online to get in touch with the nearest Consulate or Mission in their area to get the form completed.
“I am encouraging persons to book their tickets and to make their reservations early. Reservations can be made online and if there is a difficulty registering online, then get to your nearest Consulate or Mission,” he advises.
The State Minister says Jamaicans can also register to share their skills and resources in projects in communities in Jamaica while at the conference.
“So, any Jamaican who is interested, whether here or overseas, there is an outlet for persons to sign up and to be on the programme of activities,” he notes.
Mr. Brown says a report on the achievements from Conference 2013 and highlights of Conference 2015 and some of its expected outcomes will be presented to participants on day two of the conference.
“We will present a report card on the successes that we have had, implementation that have taken place and our view is that persons will be satisfied that significant work has taken place during the period between conference 2013 and conference 2015,” he tells JIS News.
“We are positing the conference as a global forum for Jamaicans worldwide to be actively engaged,” he says, adding that a report will also be presented on the Diaspora Mapping Project, an online survey which seeks to identify the locations, skills, expertise and interests of members of the global Jamaican Diaspora.
Additionally, he notes that there will be a report on the Diaspora Policy, along with the International Migration and Development Policy.
“We hope that the Diaspora Policy will be at the Green Paper stage by the time we get to conference. Work is now being done,” he says.
Mr. Brown explains that organisers are seeking to build on the successes of the 2013 conference and will be placing much emphasis on social development and trade and investment. A feature called, Marketplace, which was introduced at the last conference, will be expanded this year. It will feature a range of local businesses and brands from various sectors, including business matching meetings, transactions and networking and Jamaican cultural presentations and other entertainment.
“A number of features were introduced in that conference. Marketplace was introduced and the matchmaking session. We are introducing it again, but with a twist. There is also going to be the Marketplace Live. There are 70 slots that are available for companies, whether in Jamaica or overseas, that are interested in displaying their wares,” he states.
The six-day programme will also feature a Government at Your Service ‘One Stop Shop’ which is a collaboration of public sector agencies offering attendees fast-tracked Government services.
“We are going to have a golf tournament. We are going to have two church services, which is a first, on Saturday and on Sunday, marking the start of the Diaspora Week,” he says.
In addition, he notes that another event; ‘the Diaspora Day of Service’, has been significantly broadened in scope in an effort to encourage civic-minded Jamaicans to participate in outreach activities.
“Members of the Diaspora will be able to go out into the different communities and undertake projects that are of interest to them in the communities, in and around the conference site, and even wider if they so desire,” he adds.
A Power Breakfast will also be included, where decision-makers, whether from the public and public sector, will get a chance to meet and discuss projects that can be implemented or explore opportunities that are available.
Mr. Brown says there will also be a special symposium on Immigration and Deportation, with the aim of developing an action plan to sensitise persons who have immigration issues and “to look at how we deal with the reintegration of persons who have been deported or persons who lived away from Jamaica for a period of time.”
Additionally, he notes that there will be discussions on the role of the church and Faith based groups in Diaspora development and engagement. He says many persons who migrate continue their church tradition and can be found in various churches across the length and breadth of the Diaspora.
“We trust that the participants will be fully engaged and that they will leave feeling that they have spent a worthwhile time in Jamaica. We expect that at the end of the conference, there will be an action plan and a move towards implementation,”
Mr. Brown says.