Jamaica Observer / In an expression of public opinion that’s rare for diplomats, the European Union representative in Jamaica has described pervasive littering and dumping in the island as “a massive shock” to first-time visitors and a contradiction to the scenic views promoted as a part of the tourism product. “I hope I’m not offending anybody,” said head of the delegation Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, “but what we see as outsiders is that there is plenty of work to be done here. It was a massive shock to all of us arriving in the country to see the massive amount of plastics and rubbish in the beautiful forest.
“You have nature like nowhere else in the world and everybody comes to admire it, but as a society there is a responsibility to look after it better because despite the fact that Jamaica is beautifully located and the richness of the vegetation is fantastic, it will not be forgiving forever,” she warned.
Wasilewska’s comments were made in the context of a charge to the group of individuals and organisations which the Forestry Department recognised for their various roles in promoting the development of the sector, at the Jamaica Pegasus two weeks ago.
She told the awardees – called Forest Heroes – that the honour meant they have a responsibility to bring messages about the value of forest conservation and protection to their families, friends, communities, peers, and everyone else, not just for the sake of the current generation, but also those to come.
“To be called a hero is already quite something, but to be called forest hero, in today’s day and age when climate change is such a priority for most of us internationally – not all, but definitely for us at the European Union – is a particular honour.
“It’s a great job, [but] it’s a challenge,” she said, pointing to the poor waste disposal practices.
Wasilewska, a native of Poland, arrived in the island two years ago, taking up her duties in September 2016.
She explained that in her tenure, part of the EU’s programme of cooperation with the Government of Jamaica involves reversing forest degradation, deforestation, and the loss of forest biodiversity, strengthening the sector’s legislative policy and institutional framework, and enhancing the economic, social, and environmental benefits of forests through sustainable use of its resources.
The EU is putting up 16.5 million euro towards that end, 1.3 million euro of which is earmarked for civil society grants.
“Our programme is done in the form of budget support,” the head of delegation said. “That means the Government of Jamaica has the policy and the strategy. It leads the work and we mutally agree on what is to be achieved throughout the duration of the project and the money is disbursed as the goals get achieved.”
She added that as donors, the EU was swapping out its traditional strategy in which foreigners take the lead and make decisions.
“It’s very important that the ownership and the leadership is on the Jamaican side,” she said, adding that the move also signalled Jamaica’s “maturity, progress, and improved financial management”.
While she applauded the progress in those areas, as well as the country’s example internationally however, the EU delegation head also knocked the country’s policy implementation record.
“We will be helping with not only the improvement of policy but also assisting the Government in making sure those policies are also implemented because Jamaica has plenty of good policies, but unfortunately not all of them are implemented,” Wasilewska said.
— Kimone Thompson