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Caribbean Updates: Jamaica’s secretive constitutional reform (April 27, 2023)

Just Caribbean Updates : Jamaica's secretive constitutional reform
Just Caribbean Updates

Jamaica’s Constitutional Reform Committee working on a draft constitution — and has announced that a draft bill will be presented to parliament next month, part of Jamaica’s transition to a republic.

But the recent announcement that the committee had held six closed-door meetings have raised hackles among some sectors of civil society, where “there is genuine concern that the Jamaican people may somehow be left out of – or at least, remain uninformed about – the process,” warns Petchary’s Blog.

The anti-corruption watchdog group the National Integrity Action (NIA) and Opposition Member of Parliament Julian Robinson have called for the committee’s meetings to be held publicly, but the government has countered that the drafting process is sensitive. (Jamaica Gleaner)

“How does the government expect to get widespread public buy-in without widespread public awareness of what is being discussed, and what is at stake,” writes Peter Espeut in the Jamaica Gleaner.

“Grudging engagement of the public smacks of snobbery,” writes Raulston Nembhard in the Jamaica Observer.

Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal calls on Jamaica’s government to implement a “deep, broad-based programme of public consultation and education,” which “is indispensable to achieving a Constitution that enlarges citizens’ rights and protections and which deepens and protects participatory and accountable democratic governance.” (Jamaica Gleaner)

Escazú COP2 concludes

The second meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 2) to Escazú Agreement concluded last week in Buenos Aires. Participants elected the first seven members of the Committee to Support Implementation and Compliance of the treaty, tasked with aiding member countries with understanding and implementing the agreement on a local level. (CEPAL)

Escazú, which came into force in 2021, seeks to ensure a social and environmental balance for development, infrastructure and extractivism projects in the Caribbean and Latin America. This is based on three pillars: access to environmental information, environmental participation and environmental justice. A series of articles emphasize protection for activists, an issue of particular concern in the region, the deadliest in the world for environmental defenders, reports El País.

(See also MongabayClaves 21)

The Bahamas’ wave of gender-based violence

The Bahamas is undergoing a wave of gender-based violence — statistics reveal a 50 percent increase in reports of child abuse in addition to police reports of an increase of 34 percent in reported sexual offenses in 2022 over 2021. (Nassau Guardian)

Emphasizing that women need more than “platitudes and promises”, The Bahamas Crisis Centre described the national outrage over highly publicized reports of gender-based violence as a “wake-up call” for the country. (Eyewitness News)

In one case, a of Parliament has been accused of gender-based violence by a woman who was in a relationship with him. “Specific cases and patterns and the responses they receive, that rape culture continues to go unchallenged by people in positions of power,” writes Alicia Wallace in The Tribune.

Gender-based violence is a public health crisis, yet no government administration in The Bahamas has come to this realisation, declared it, and moved to take action to end it, wrote Alicia Wallace in The Tribune last month.

‘Two-Faced: Gender Inequality in The Bahamas’ takes an in-depth at how The Bahamas Constitution enshrines gender inequality and examines the ways in which that grounding has impacted the lack of female representation in Parliament, marital rape, gender-based violence, and equal work for equal pay. (Nassau Guardian)

Democratic Governance and Transparency

  • Commonwealth Caribbean countries often don’t permit non-resident citizens to vote. While advocates of permitting overseas voting argue it would help promote greater diaspora engagement, opponents are concerned such a move could give non-resident citizens an outsize voice, given the size of diaspora populations. (Caribbean Trade Law and Development)

  • Jamaican Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamina Johnson Smith says she will vigorously defend herself against allegations being made surrounding her efforts to become Commonwealth secretary general. (Jamaica Gleaner)

Public Security

  • A lynch mob killed 13 alleged gang members this week in Port-au-Prince. Footage shows people seizing the supposed gang members from a Haitian police checkpoint, surrounded them with gasoline soaked tires, and set them on fire. (See Tuesday’s Latin America Daily Briefing.)

  • A spike in violent crime in Trinidad and Tobago has fanned calls for the return of the death penalty. But rights groups recommend reforming the country’s criminal justice system. Effective justice is a proven deterrent, while the death penalty is not, Caribbean Centre for Human Rights Executive Director Denise Pitcher told the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian.

Climate Justice and Energy

  • A new ODI research report provides clear evidence of the gap between vulnerability and allocation of climate and development finance to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to build resilience.

  • Thirteen years after the BP Macondo well-blow out, environmental lawyer Melinda Janki asked what Guyana’s response to an equivalent tragedy would be. (Stabroek News)

  • Change.org petition to demand that Exxon honour their oil spill commitment in Guyana.

  • Guyana East Bank Demerara residents have raised concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to permit the operation of a hazardous waste facility in the area without a proper environmental assessment of the risks to those who live and work nearby. (Kaieteur News)

  • “Indigenous women maintain incredible and robust technical knowledge about their communities and environments. Indigenous women’s scientific knowledge can support us in climate resilience efforts by ways of food security, biodiversity, and by working with the Earth’s natural systems as they exist, among many other benefits,” according to Barbados-based Saedi Consulting

Slavery and Native Genocide Reparations

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refused to apologise for the country’s role in the slave trade or to commit to paying reparations. Earlier this week, descendants of some of Britain’s wealthiest enslavers called on the government both to apologise for slavery and begin a programme of reparative justice in recognition of the “ongoing consequences of this crime against humanity,” reports the Guardian.

Human Rights

  • WEBINAR RECORDING: Addressing divorce and spousal maintenance for survivors of gender-based violence — Jamaicans for Justice


  • Harry Belafonte, singer and civil rights activist died at age 96. Born in Harlem to West Indian immigrants, he almost single-handedly ignited a craze for Caribbean music in the 1950s — but his primary focus was civil rights. (New York Times)

  • “Across the Caribbean, where his influence was strongly felt and where he was greatly loved and admired, tributes continued to flow despite some being almost lost for words,” writes Emma Lewis in Global Voices.

  • Call for inputs — Report on colonialism and sexual orientation and gender identity to the General Assembly — United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

  • Call for Expressions of Interest — OAS Women Economic Empowerment Project (WEE) — Participating Caribbean countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

  • Call for “Climate Change and Health” policy case studies — IAP and Save the Children

  • Apply — GirlsCARE Climate Change Young Women’s Mentorship Program 2023


  • 30 April — The outcomes of the Escazu Agreement from a Caribbean perspective — Friends of the Earth Grenada. (Zoom: 271 827 9633, Facebook live passcode: ESCAZU)

  • 3 May — Putting the Glasgow Climate Pact into action: accounting for vulnerability — ODI

  • 7 and 8 June — Water is Life — Caribbean Water Conference

Just Caribbean Updates

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