Moving forward by giving back (Part 2)
ID: INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE
Two weeks ago, I wrote part 1 of this column focused on my key takeaways from the Secretary's Global Diaspora Forum held at the US State Department in Washington, DC a few weeks ago. For the follow-up I asked some of the other Jamaican attendees, including Rain Jarrett, Marlon Hill and Nadja Johnson, to send their own thoughts.
Ms Jarrett sent me the following:
"As we celebrate our 50th, pride and passion filled our hearts as we accepted Secretary Clinton's invitation to engage with her representatives and other international development agencies here in Washington, DC as a part of the United States foreign policy. Oh what a week!
"A few days before the forum, The Economist reported that the celebration of our 50th anniversary will be muddled by forecasts of Jamaica ending the fiscal year with the slowest average growth rate since 2000, finishing "the race" behind our earthquake-stricken Haiti. (Economist, July 20, 2012). Dare I say that we are losing the Jamaica that we know and love, and something must be done about it.
"As we reflect on the progress over the last 50 years, we must acknowledge that the struggle continues for many, and the emancipation and liberation that our forefathers fought to achieve still have not been achieved in many ways.
"Jamaicans, those living abroad and at home, need to recognise that we have an opportunity to take the US up on its invitation to engage with them and join partnerships aimed at improving our country. Prime Minister Simpson Miller expressed her support of the African diaspora to South African President Zuma and disclosed the Government's interest in the African Diaspora Forum.
"She also voiced support for greater co-operation and solidarity between the African continent and the African Diaspora while advocating greater involvement in the African diaspora in the continent's development. We hope that we can count on our country's support in our mirrored efforts as members of the Jamaican diaspora.
"Let's make things clear, we are not trying to act as the Jamaican Government or take over their role in public finance and social development. We see an opportunity for us, through public and private sector partnerships, to help make a difference, and we are answering the call. Jamaicans living in the USA have established networks and we are in the unique position to engage with this country in ways that our Government cannot. We need to take advantage of that.
"While I understand the scepticism that Jamaicans living at home have of our efforts as members of the Jamaican diaspora, we are Jamaicans too, who care about our brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts and other family members who live in the country and we have a vested interest in seeing Jamaica continue on a path of sustainable development, allowing us to be more competitive in the global economy.
"The members of the diaspora are advocating our advancement, ie, Jamaica's advancement. We see ourselves as an extension of Jamaica and we are in a position to be a part of what Secretary Clinton says is "the start of something big and exciting for developing countries". Our contributions are more than remittances and we have long passed the discussions of wanting to vote. We are advocating our Jamaica.
"Jamaicans have been through years of economic decline and widening social problems. As we celebrate another Emancipation, we must force ourselves to acknowledge that there are areas of national life that we still have not been fully emancipated from. We no longer have the time, patience or space for the political tribalism that has plagued us. As a country, we must foster a new political culture of inclusiveness that can result in a more inclusive, desirable governance culture."
Ms Rain Jarrett is part of Generation Y, my generation, and I agree with what she took away from the Global Diaspora Forum, especially in light of what other developing countries are doing.
As our former Consul General in New York Geneive Brown Metzger said on the blog for www.diasporaalliance.org we must find ways to turn the "brain drain" into a "brain gain" and that means engaging those of us who want to give back in many ways.
David Mullings is president and CEO of Keystone Augusta and was the first Future Leaders Representative for the USA on the Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board. He can be found at facebook.com/InteractiveDialogue and Twitter.com/davidmullings