Jamaica undertakes extensive mapping initiative for Diaspora cohesion (Part 1)

minister

The Hon. Arnaldo Brown, M.P., Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, poses with OnPointPress.net’s Editorial Director Mrs. Carmen Glover, and Mrs. Rukiya Brown, of IOM, after an interview about the Mapping Jamaica Diaspora (MJD) Project at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade on Monday, August 18, 2014. –Charles Glover Photo.

By Carmen Glover

Heeding feedback that emerged from the Diaspora Conference held in Jamaica a year ago, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has partnered with the International Organization for Migration, IOM‎, to compile a database of Jamaicans across the globe via mapping of their location through voluntary completion of an online survey. The extensive effort is described as the Mapping Jamaica’s Diaspora (MJD) Project and its objective is to determine, through responses to the survey, specific areas of interest expressed by Jamaicans across the globe and then harness the information to “create a borderless Jamaica.” The survey instrument is dual in nature, one to be completed by individuals and one by organizations and business entities.

The survey instrument was developed in December 2013 and the mapping project officially launched in June 2014. the minister of state, who is responsible for the project, recently visited the New York Tri-state area to launch the international version of the initiative and solicit support from the community in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Upon his return to Jamaica, the minister of state met with OnPointPress.net in Kingston at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade on Monday, August 18 for an interview brokered by Assistant Director in the Ministry of Diaspora and Consular Affairs Department Mr. Lincoln Downer. Hon. Arnaldo Brown, Mrs. Rukiya Brown of the IOM (no relation to the minister) and Ms. Ann-Margaret Lim, who spearheads media affairs regarding the initiative, provided an overview of the project and feedback generated to date.

arnaldo brown

The Hon. Arnaldo Brown M.P, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is aggressively promoting the Mapping Jamaica’s Diaspora (MJD) Project.

“I th‎ink the response has been good” said the state minister, evaluating his week-long trip to the United States. “The mapping project is not a new idea. It’s been on the table since 2004. This particular project is the first in collaboration with the IOM.”

He explained that the project is funded by the IOM to the tune of US$100, 000. Rukiya Brown, who has provided insight on behalf of the IOM, explained that while the main thrust of the mapping project is to encourage brisk completion of the survey, the demographic tool experienced a myriad of growing pains initially.

“The survey is accessible on the IOM system and we had problems with the IP address at first but those issues were fixed,” she said. She further ‎explained that with the survey now properly streamlined, “IOM gets updates from the IP specialist three times per week to tell us how many people have taken the survey and how many people have subscribed to the website to get more information and our newsletter.”

diaspora conf

Concrete ideas for the Mapping Jamaica’s Diaspora (MJD) Project were explored at the Jamaica Diaspora Conference 2013. The 2015 conference will be held in Montego Bay, Jamaica in June.

‎Despite the period of time that has elapsed since the launch in June, only 300 persons had completed the survey as of the interview date with OnPointPress.net. But State Minister Brown shrugged off concerns about the low numbers at this stage of the process.

“I’m optimistic that we will meet our target. There is a build up that is happening and we will continue to plug it,” he said, explaining that the survey “is online and can be downloaded wherever you have Internet access. The issue is not whether people are supportive of the idea but if people are taking the survey.” He explained that during his week-long trip to the New York Tri-state area between August 9 to 17, he was heartened by the interest and commitment espoused by members of the Diaspora there.

“We got the support of Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who attended the Independence Ball in New York last weekend. In his statement he mentioned the mapping project and encouraged people to sign up.”

ann

OnPointPress.net’s co-founders Charles and Carmen Glover pose with Ms. Ann-Margaret Lim after the interview.

But why would a Jamaican who resides overseas complete such a survey in the first place and is there a risk of personal information being compromised? According to information provided by Ms. Brown, the survey can be completed by anyone of Jamaican heritage by birth, descent, marriage, naturalization or registration. Hon. Brown explained that the potential benefits to be derived from completing of the survey ‎are far-reaching, with no discernible drawback since the information provided will be closely guarded and only used for the purpose outlined.

“There are two aspects to the project: reaching individuals and organizations, businesses etc,” the state minister explained. “This is an 18-month project. Between December 2013‎ to June 2014 it was the technical phase. The first six months was the construction of the website. The next twelve months is the promotion of the site. After June of next year people will still be able to take the survey,” he said, indicating that the process of survey completion will be ongoing. Once June 2015 rolls around, the database will be compiled of individuals who have taken the survey to that point. The advantages to participating, he said are immeasurable. Stating that Angel Investors will be developed, the state minister said:

OnPointPress.net's co-founders Charles and Carmen Glover share a moment with Mrs. Rukiya Brown of IOM, after the interview.

OnPointPress.net’s co-founders Charles and Carmen Glover share a moment with Mrs. Rukiya Brown of IOM, after the interview.

“Once you know where the person you can use the information. We plan to plug this information into JAMPRO’s Global Business Connect which will launch later this year.”

Inclusion in the database that will be complied from the completed survey ‎can make it easier for Jamaicans in the Diaspora who plan to return to Jamaica to live, work or to launch businesses, he said.

“The government of Jamaica has never ruled out the possibility of recruiting anywhere from across the Diaspora for positions available, example the commissioner of police,” he said. ‎”The idea is to create a database that is dynamic in access to intellectual ideas.”

The Hon. Arnaldo Brown, M.P, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is being proactive and aggressive in promoting the Mapping Jamaica's Diaspora (MJD) Project.

The Hon. Arnaldo Brown, M.P, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is being proactive and aggressive in promoting the Mapping Jamaica’s Diaspora (MJD) Project.

The promotion efforts for the mapping project are being coordinated through the various missions and consulates across the globe. Among the notable Jamaicans who have pledged support to the effort are track icon Merlene Ottey as well as various civic leaders. Participation is key, the minister explained, urging Jamaicans to embrace the slogan: “You count, I count, we all count,” in completing the survey so that their voices can be heard.In an effort to maximize the survey completion process, Ms. Brown, from the IOM, said that social media tools are being utilized aggressively.

“Currently we have a Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter.” However, she acknowledged that there is no involvement on LinkedIn despite that medium being the main engine used by businesses and professionals. “We’ve been active on social media but not as active as we would like to be,” she explained, but she said that will change.

To take the mapping survey visit: www.mapjadiaspora.iom.int, Twitter:@MapJaDiaspora, Facebook: MapJADiaspora.iom.int, Instragram:MapJaDiaspora. (In September, we will share feedback from the Diaspora)-OnPointPress.net.

Respected, beloved, Jamaican diplomat prepares to return home

Jamaica's High Commissioner Aloun-Ndombet-Assamba embraces Minister-Counsellor Lincoln Downer.

Jamaica’s High Commissioner Aloun-Ndombet-Assamba embraces Minister-Counsellor Lincoln Downer.

 

By Carmen Glover

There is an adage that underpins most successful careers: If you do what you love, you will always succeed. For Lincoln Downer, a Jamaican diplomat with a vast repertoire of foreign relations experience, that adage holds true. Downer has dedicated his life to serving the Jamaican community as a diplomat, accepting assignments across the globe and adroitly making spectacular contributions while simultaneously strengthening his legacy and sterling reputation. As his latest assignment in England comes to a close, Downer is focused on returning to his native Jamaica, eager to explore the new adventures that await him in Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Downer shares a joke about being "The High Commissioner's Consort" with the audience.

Mr Downer shares a joke about being “The High Commissioner’s Consort” with the audience.

“I started my diplomatic career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs years ago,” Downer stated in a recent telephone interview from England. He served as a protocol officer for three years in that ministry, processing documents for senior government officials as they prepared for meetings overseas. In that capacity, he also translated documents that were necessary to enhance the preparation process for those officials. “I have always enjoyed using my skills to make a meaningful impact and effect change, no matter what the assignment,” he said.

Mr Downer stands with Ms Beverly Lindsay who chairs the Association of Jamaican Nationals in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Mr Downer stands with Ms Beverly Lindsay who chairs the Association of Jamaican Nationals in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

 

Mr Downer stands with Mrs P. Patterson of the Northern Region, and shows off gift to the audience.

Mr Downer stands with Mrs. Pancy. Patterson of the Northern Region, and shows off gift to the audience.

Those who have worked with him agree. “Lincoln Downer may be referred to as the ultimate protocol expert,” said Deputy Director of Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) Mr. Ephieum Allen. “His contribution to matters relating to Jamaica’s immigration, citizenship and passport has been integral to the vision of the government of Jamaica.”

The audience listens as Mr Downer delivers his farewell speech.

The audience listens as Mr Downer delivers his farewell speech.

For the past five years, Downer has worked at the Jamaican High Commission in London, England, in the role of Minister Counsellor for Diaspora and Consular Affairs. “My primary functions for the past five years have been to engage the Jamaican community, provide resources and services, build on relationships and manage the operations of the consular portion of the High Commission,” he said, reflecting on his achievements in the position. “I think I would say my proudest achievements in this post  are completely revamping the consular operations by implementing procedures that resulted in greater transparency and accountability as well as improving the relationships and access for the local Jamaican community so that the consular operations are not as mysterious.”

Mr Downer poses with Ms Lindsay and other well-wishers at the Birmingham event.

Mr Downer poses with Ms Lindsay and other well-wishers at the Birmingham event.

Intrinsic to Downer’s success in the tapestry of his diplomatic career has been a humble, authentic personality that has allowed him to win and maintain the trust and admiration of the constituents that he serves as well as his peers and superiors. His affable nature, caring interactions and willingness to lend a helping hand, offer a word of prayer or simply share a word of encouragement has won him acclaim, love, support and respect. None of which he takes for granted.

 

Diaspora Advisory Board Member Celia Markey, chair of Jamaicans Inspired Nathaniel presents gift

Diaspora Advisory Board Member Celia Markey and  Nathaniel Peat, chair of Jamaicans Inspired. present gift to Minister Counsellor Mr Lincoln Downer.


“From the outside looking in, it’s not easy to understand some of the opportunities I have been fortunate to experience,” he said, reminiscing on his assignment immediately before he assumed his current post. “When I worked at the Jamaican Consulate in New York as a vice consul from 1998-2001, it never crossed my mind that I would return there as acting consul general from 2007-2008 before coming to England,” he stated, adding, “that is why it is so important to get along with people from all walks of life because you never know where you will end up.”

Minister Counsellor Mr Lincoln Downer with members of Jamaica National Council,  Huddersfield, England.

Minister Counsellor Mr Lincoln Downer with members of Jamaica National Council, Huddersfield, England.

Downer earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, in 1995 and a certificate of translation in Spanish and English in 1997. But for Downer, who prides himself on learning as much as possible to effectively serve in his various posts, education is an ongoing process. Inspired to keep his skills sharp and evolving, he earned a diploma from the International Organization on Migration in Argentina in 2005 on inter-American migration, followed in 2007 with certification in the performance management training system.

Members of the Jamaican Community, London, Reading, England.

Members of the Jamaican Community, London and Reading, England.

“I look forward to returning to Jamaica to see what lies in store for me,” said Downer, whose time in England ends this weekend.

Jamaican author Deanne Heron presents Minister Counsellor with a copy of her book, Pardner Money Stories.

Jamaican author Deanne Heron presents Minister Counsellor with a copy of her book, Pardner Money Stories.

The real measure of achievement for professionals who are committed to their craft is the regard with which they are viewed in the community that they serve. For Downer, who has been enjoying a month-long farewell tour replete with receptions, gifts, hugs and embraces, the measure of his impact is felt profoundly among an audience who view him with mixed emotions: torn that he is moving on, while being comforted by the knowledge that wherever he goes next, his steps are ordered and he will be in the right place at the right time.—OnPointPress.net