DR. ARUN KASHYAP // Inaugural Session: UN Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development in Jamaica

Oct 23, 2013

•Mr. Lincoln Robinson, Prime Minister’s office;
•Mr. Everton Hannam, Secretary-General, Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO;
•Robert Parua, Officer-in-Charge, UNESCO Kingston Cluster office;
•Colleagues and participants from UN agencies, Non-governmental institutions and multilateral institutions;
•Excellencies
•Distinguished Guests;

On behalf of the United Nations Family in Jamaica, I warmly welcome you to the inaugural session of the Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development in Jamaica.

The United Nations in Jamaica is committed to supporting the Government in the achievement of its Vision 2030, Jamaica - National Development Plan.  Being a trusted partner of the Government, the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) supports demand based national capacity development and providing the optimum evidence-based advice and best practices to promote inclusive and equitable development for all.

As we approach 2015 and prepare to take account of the progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals the global community is heartened by the endorsement of the road map for creation of an inclusive Post-2015 agenda by Heads of States during the recent UN General Assembly.  The single framework and sets of goals that merge poverty eradication and sustainable development will mobilize all stakeholders to work together and transform the lives of the people who need it most – the marginalized communities experiencing the greatest poverty and vulnerability. 

The above commitment and UN’s reponsibility to ensure brodbased stakeholders’ participation, transparency in its actions, and fostering accountability provides a basis for this Roundtable on communication for development.  And, over the next two days, we will jointly develop a common “UN system-wide approach” to communication for development.  It will enable us to effectively communicate the progress of our activities to Jamaica and Jamaicans including our contribution towards achievement of Vision 2030 Jamaica, National Development Plan, attainment of the MDG by Jamaica and strategy for Post 2015 inclusive development.

The Heads of States had gathered in Geneva in 2003 for the World Summit on the Information Society.  They envisioned in their declaration the need for communication for development as a fora “where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life”.   While highlighting the integrity of  sharing knowledge to reach consensus for mutually beneficial action, the Geneva Declaration takes into account the interests, needs and capacities of all stakeholders especially the marginalized communities that would participate in the development value chain, ranging from  planning, implementation and evaluation to benefit from its outcome.


We are now less than 900 days to the 2015 target date for achieving the MDGs in line with the Millennium Declaration — a solemn pledge “to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty”.  It is a bold vision rooted in a shared commitment to universal human rights and social justice and backed by clear time-bound targets.   Jamaica signed on to this bold vision and agreed to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, reduce infant mortality, provide all children with an education, roll back infectious diseases and forge a new global partnership to deliver results.

Today life expectancy in Jamaica is 73 years, infant mortality rates have improved to 20 per 1,000, access to safe water is now enjoyed by 81 percent of Jamaican households, and almost 100 per cent of all households have access to sanitary facilities.  Jamaica is now rated as an upper middle-income country, with a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.730 and a rank of 85 out of 187 countries (HDR 2012).

As per the national estimates, it is expected that Jamaica will achieve most of its MDGs and meet targets for poverty reduction, infant and child nutrition, primary education and access to safe drinking water.  The Government’s 2009 analysis also shows that the poorest decile of the population account for 2.7% of national consumption compared to 29% by the wealthiest 10%. While the Jamaican population living in poverty significantly decreased in 2007, it increased to 17.6% in 2010.  The projected poverty rate for 2013 is nearly 14%. Rural areas continue to have the largest proportion of poor people at 23.2%. Even with an overall increase in the labour force in Jamaica, the youth unemployment rate, at over 30% is more than three times higher than adult unemployment.  Over a million Jamaicans presently live below the poverty line.

While Universal access to reproductive health is on target, Jamaica is far behind in reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters for 2015.  Gender disparity is obvious by grade 6 in primary schools, with boys being the majority of dropouts at the secondary level. Males continue to be under-represented by 2:1 at the tertiary level. There is a low representation of women in Parliament and in other areas of decision-making with a significantly higher rate of unemployment for women, despite their educational gains. We need to work strategically to enable Jamaica achieve the MDGs by 2015 while simultaneously preparing for the Post 2015 development agenda.  As for the MDGs, the endorsement of road map for the creation of an inclusive Post-2015 agenda by Heads of States includes peace and security, the rule of law and democratic governance and gender equality.  It also recognizes the need to integrate human rights, economic transformation, social justice and environmental stewardship to coherently achieve the vision of poverty eradication and sustainable development.  As the report of the High-Level Panel underscores, it is “only by mobilizing social, economic and environmental action together can we eradicate poverty and meet the aspirations of eight billion people by 2030”.

The United Nations truly values and supports the National Motto of Jamaica "Out of Many, One People". It forms the core of Government of Jamaica’s importance on greater equality.  However, the presence of an inadequate fiscal space and the necessity to fulfil the conditionality of the Extended Fund Facility agreement with the IMF present a challenge for its achievement.  The Government’s emphasis on creating decent jobs while exploring opportunities to spur inclusive growth is commendable.  Renewing people’s confidence in Government’s ability to deliver basic goods, services and social protection to all citizens is indispensable as it affects the achievement of good governance.

Development is led and owned by the countries themselves. It is therefore vital to galvanize a renewed commitment by all stakeholders in Jamaica to work together to achieve concrete demand based outcomes.  The integrated and synergistic development approach is as critical for the Government as it is for the entire UN System.  In fact, I would submit that the development effectiveness framework requires all development partners to work together and contribute to achieving the agreed upon national priorities in Jamaica.

Accordingly, the UN High-Level Panel on UN system-wide coherence in 2007 comprising among others, the Prime Ministers of Mozambique, Norway and Pakistan – in its report made a strong plea for the UN system to “deliver as one”.  The UN recognizes its obligation and the Agencies are taking steps to jointly realign development tasks and contribute effectively to enable client countries to achieve the MDGs in a timely manner.  The United Nations Country Team in Jamaica is committed to work together and assist Jamaica in meeting its priorities in harmony with the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s guidance in his recent speech before the UN General Assembly, viz., the “true measure of success for the United Nations is not how much we promise, but how much we deliver for those who need us most”.   The relevance and impact of the UN system will increasingly be judged by its results orientation and capacity to “deliver as one”.

The resolution 50/130 of the General Assembly recognizes the important role of communication for optimal effectiveness of UN’s development programmes through enhanced transparency of system-wide coordination and Inter-Agency cooperation. The UN Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development provides a mechanism to share experiences and strengthen dialogue with communities to structure joint programmes by the UNCTs that under-score policy coherence, capacity-building, and monitoring &evaluation.

To catalyze the process of working as one, UNESCO, in collaboration with other UN agencies, coordinates the biennial United Nations Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development.  The 12th UN Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development was hosted by UNICEF in 2011 in India with a focus on “Advancing the Rights of Adolescent Girls through Communication for Development”. 13th UN Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development Round Table will be hosted by FAO in Rome in 2014.


Learning from past roundtables clearly informs us of the inadequate focus on communication for development in development planning. It has been usually limited to mere publicity for the plans with a little or no emphasis on enabling a consensus on the development value chain. It is necessary to forge a common understanding of the role of Communication for Development in the achievement of MDGs and planning an inclusive Post 2015 agenda through broad-based participation, greater transparency and enforced accountability.  

In closing, thank you, colleagues, experts and associates for accepting this invitation to work together and expound on a framework to strengthen communication for development in Jamaica that would assist the Government to achieve Vision 2030 Jamaica including the MDGs and planning beyond 2015.  I look forward to fruitful and constructive discussion that would guide us with recommendations to deliver jointly and together.


Thank you!

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