Many Jamaican communities are adversely affected by poor air and water quality from a variety of sources including open burning, mining, quarrying and other industrial activities. However, community awareness of the negative impacts on health and the environment is typically very low. In addition, data on air and water pollution levels is not made widely available, and Jamaican communities often find it difficult to access this information from state regulatory agencies.
Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is working with a selection of groups from communities experiencing air and water quality issues to form community-led advocacy networks. These networks are engaging with the government’s regulatory agency and other industry stakeholders to advocate for proactive disclosure of air and water quality data and an improved regulatory framework. The project is also conducting and sharing research on existing legal and policy frameworks in Jamaica and across the globe, to increase awareness and strengthen advocacy.
Ultimately, community awareness of the impact of air and water quality on health and the environment is expected to improve, and the communities involved in the project will be better equipped to engage with the issues identified.
The Commonwealth Foundation has awarded a grant of £59,390 over 24 months.
Jamaica Environment Trust
Jamaica Environment Trust is a non-government non-profit membership organisation based in Jamaica. Jamaica Environment Trust’s mission is to protect Jamaica’s natural resources using education, conservation, advocacy and the law, and to influence individual and organisational behaviour and public policy and practice.www.jamentrust.org
Following the economic turmoil that many Caribbean nations experienced during the global economic downturn that began in 2008, it became clear that countries in the Caribbean region needed to develop the skills and strength to build their financial policies and make their voices heard in wider policy debates.
With the support of the Institute of Law and Economics in Jamaica, this project will create an official network of businesses, NGOs, CSOs, youth organisations, community organisations and will increase their knowledge and skills to engage effectively in the process of fiscal policy formation. Workshops and public forums around the region will be held, and partnerships with tertiary institutions will be forged to capture younger opinions. Network participation at OECD, UN and Commonwealth forums on tax will also be secured.
Grass-roots groups, small and medium-sized enterprises, youth organisations, civil society organisations will all benefit from the increased visibility of fiscal policy, by having their voices heeded and from inclusive and constructive dialogue with government.
A comprehensive communications strategy, will be developed so that the project can leave a sustainable legacy that will provide guidance and support for any and all Caribbean leaders, stakeholders and experts long into the future.
Professor Rosalea Hamilton, founding Director of the ILE, is excited by the response to the project so far, especially from young people. She said, “I am confident that this investment in deepening our democracy will enhance the growth of our human, social, and political capital and, in turn, will contribute to social and economic development in the Caribbean.”
In 2014 there was no structured mechanism for civil society engagement with the Caribbean regional policy making body, CARICOM (The Caribbean Community). Civic voice engagement was largely adhoc and there was expressed dissatisfaction by both governments and civil society on the quality and nature of the engagement. With the aim to enhance cooperation with civil society in the Caribbean region to dialogue with CARICOM Heads of Government and advocate on behalf of the sector and Caribbean society, the Commonwealth Foundation supported the work of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) between 2014 – 2017, to establish a Caribbean Consultative Working Group (CCWG).
The CCWG is a multi-sectoral thematic grouping of civil society representatives from six Caribbean countries.
The CCWG was conceived as a means for Caribbean civil society actors to learn from each other and share good practices on policy advocacy in the region. In addition to attending capacity building workshops facilitated by the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) with support from the Commonwealth Foundation, the group pooled their collective experience to build a strategy to advocate on one policy issue ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ in the Caribbean.
As Elijah James, who represented the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN), explained: Despite the different organisations involved in the CCWG, Sustainable Energy was a theme that affected everybody in the CARICOM region, “because of how important energy is to the Caribbean region itself, and more importantly how high the cost of energy is here in the region, which is obviously affecting not only consumers but our economic activity as well. It affects everybody – businesses, consumers, everybody.”
As part of the project, CCWG conducted a number of national consultations in six CCWG member-countries: Antigua and Barbuda; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; Trinidad and Tobago; St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2016 and 2017. The consultations engaged national policy makers and civil society on the enabling conditions to support implementation of sustainable energy initiatives; built awareness of sustainable energy policy and commitments; and, supported consolidating partnerships between civil society and energy officials.