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JFJ 2012 report slams failed gov't policies

Conrad Hamilton

Sunday, September 16, 2012    

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HUMAN rights lobby group Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) is dismayed at the fact that many Jamaicans still hold the view that state resources belong to their political representatives, who are at liberty to share them up as they please.

The pronouncement is contained in the 2012 Jamaicans For Justice Report, which focuses on social and economic justice and was launched last Friday.

The lobby group expressed alarm that at this point in Jamaica's history, people still perceive the state and elected government representatives as benefactors and the owners of resources, which are handed out as favours, mainly at election time.

"This perception (which has some basis in fact) limits what citizens will demand in terms of accountability and good governance and realisation of their rights. This situation must change," said JFJ's Executive Director, Dr Carolyn Gomes.

She highlighted the extent to which such dependence has thwarted the development of many Jamaicans, including members of poor households across the country, some of whom participated in the discussions and fieldwork that informed aspects of the report.

"It can change if people are empowered with knowledge and given the skills to advocate for their rights," Dr Gomes added.

While pointing to some positive developments, including the involvement and responsiveness of some state agencies such as the Jamaica Foundation For Lifelong Learning, and the Social Development Commission, the report concluded that Jamaica has been failing its people in many other areas, including the right to education, the right to adequate living conditions, the right to social protection and health, as well as the right to employment.

On the issue of housing, the report took issue with the approach used by successive administrations to deal with squatting.

"These communities are growing nationally and the government has a responsibility to develop and implement — working with the communities themselves — to devise solutions (and) a structured regulated and sustainable process to ensure that squatter communities are regularised or relocated, and that more persons have opportunities to obtain valid titles for the land that they occupy," the JFJ report read.

"The existing situation in Jamaica, with so many persons living on land to which they have no claim, or for which they have no title, restricts economic growth and locks generations into the cycle of poverty," the report added.

On the matter of education, the report blames successive administrations for the failure to create an education system that is not easily accessed, or of sufficient quality, or at a high enough standard to ensure that all those who complete basic education are literate. According to the report, this failure constitutes a breach of the fundamental rights of Jamaicans.

The lobby group has also expressed concern that there are many people — especially the elderly — who are not accessing or benefitting from social protection programmes because they either do not know about them, or because the benefits are insufficient.

The report adds that consideration should be given to the provision of adequate resources to ensure universal access to an acceptable standard of health care.

JFJ, in its annual publication, has also taken issue with Jamaica's high levels of unemployment, especially among males.

Officials of the lobby group explained that the social and economic justice report focuses on the enjoyment of economic and social rights, which the group says are international principles articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

"Each and every citizen is entitled to proper health care, secure streets, where citizens can carry out daily normal activities without fear, safe drinking water, clean, well-maintained gullies, proper road surfaces on which to drive, and schools that are properly equipped and staffed with qualified instructors," read a section of the report, which is produced by JFJ with the support of Christian Aid — a UK-based charity — and the European Union.

The group has contended that the daily struggle of many Jamaicans to meet basic needs impedes their ability to attain their full potential and contribute to national growth.

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