In 2004, the first historic Jamaican Diaspora Conference was held 16-17 June under the theme “The Jamaican Diaspora: Unleashing the Potential”. The aims were inter alia: to place on record the country’s appreciation for the contribution made by Jamaicans resident abroad to national development and to use the occasion to involve the Diaspora more comprehensively in the economic, social, political and cultural life in Jamaica. Over 250 participants were drawn from the three principal Diaspora locations namely; the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America.
A number of far reaching decisions emanated from the Conference such as:
- Proclamation issued by the Governor General that June 16th should be commemorated as “Diaspora Day”;
- Establishment of a Diaspora Advisory Board
- Creation of a Diaspora Bond targeting overseas Jamaicans
- Establishment of a Diaspora Foundation
- Formation of Trade Councils
- Formation of a Network of Church Leaders
- Formation of Lobby Groups
- Hosting of a biennial Diaspora Conference in Jamaica.
Six Biennial Jamaican Diaspora Conferences have been held since the inaugural one held in 2004; namely in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2015. The Conferences generally focus on issues germane to the Diaspora such as the service delivery of public sector agencies, tourism, culture, crime situation, education, healthcare and investment. Over the period there has been a consistent concentration on healthcare and education throughout the Diaspora.
The Fifth Biennial Jamaican Diaspora Conference was held in Montego Bay 16th -19th June under the theme “A Nation on a Mission: Jamaica-Diaspora Partnership for Development. The Conference was rebranded with an increased focus on business, trade and investment as well as philanthropy, social investment and Diaspora diplomacy.
The overall objectives of the Conference were to:
- Initiate business, trade, investment and venture capital deals;
- Present strategies to consolidate and expand contributions from the Diaspora in healthcare and education;
- Explore strategies for Jamaica to work in collaboration with the Diaspora to deal with policies which affect them where they reside, as well as have implications for Jamaica;
- Establish an Implementation Plan and an Implementation Team to monitor and effect the key recommendations emerging from the Conference.
An added feature of the Conference was the Marketplace held in a defined space contiguous to the main Conference. It brought together an estimated 50 companies, ministries, departments and agencies of the Government of Jamaica, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), cultural, tertiary and civic groups. The Marketplace facilitated business meetings, express services from public sector agencies and exhibits.