Takeaways from highly successful Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference


Takeaways from highly successful Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference

Sunday, July 30, 2017

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Congratulations are due to the Government of Jamaica and all those involved in the organisation and planning of the four-day Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference last week. The conference was reinvented and refreshed and it worked.

Every day of presentations and discussions was followed by enjoyable entertainment and socialising where there was as much networking as in the conference rooms. There were the perennial stalwarts buttressed by bright, skilled, business-oriented young professionals.

The conference confirmed the immense untapped potential of the Diaspora and offered several important takeaways that must form the template for a new approach to the globally dispersed Jamaican Diaspora.

The Diaspora has changed in a fundamental way. Gone is the “Windrush Generation” who sold their lands to the transnational bauxite companies and caught the boat to the so-called promised land of England, later to return to Jamaica. They left menial jobs and racism to risk the crime and social envy of a changed Jamaica.

The Diaspora is younger, more educated, more technologically driven, and interested in opportunities. They are not necessarily born in Jamaica or left when they were very young and have dual identities and dual nationalities. Their mindset is global and their opportunities are not confined to Jamaica. They do not recite old school ties and often the majority of their family is scattered across the globe.

The Diaspora wants respect, appreciation and involvement. They are tired of being seen as a source of remittances for mendicant relatives and institutions who always need more. They want investment opportunities, business partnerships and meaningful jobs. They want Jamaica to get on with long languishing opportunities such as medical tourism. They cannot understand why rules are not obeyed in Jamaica as they are abroad.

Our Diaspora wants a greater say in Jamaican affairs and, indeed, would like to vote in elections without being physically in Jamaica. After all, Jamaica is a nation without borders and in which Jamaicans outside are as well informed about local affairs as those on the “Rock”, thanks to modern communications. The Diaspora is yet to be fully mobilised to influence the politics and foreign policy in countries like the United States.

This profile means a new policy approach towards the Diaspora. Private sector companies such as Jamaica National, Victoria Mutual and GraceKennedy are already pioneering new, innovative approaches in the United Kingdom. The Government's job is to make it easier for returning residents and for entrepreneurs from the Diaspora to do business.

Relations with the Diaspora must be a central part of the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and our overseas missions. Only the best ambassadors/high commissioners should be posted where the Diaspora is concentrated, in particular the US, the UK, and Canada.

The Diaspora is too sophisticated and complex, especially with the challenges of Brexit and enigma of President Donald Trump, for anyone but the best representatives, whether they be political appointees or career diplomats. Selection cannot be for political reward or based merely on seniority.

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