KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaican communities will benefit from enhanced access to justice thanks to a new project funded by the government of Canada and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the ministry of justice.
January 12, Canada’s minister of international development, Harjit Sajjan, announced the launch of the Social Justice (So-JUST) project: “[Today], we continue our strong partnerships with the government of Jamaica and the UNDP by launching this new initiative to further justice reform in Jamaica. Ultimately, we look forward to a future in which all Jamaican citizens have increased trust and confidence in the justice system,” said minister Sajjan.
The project, which has a JMD$1.3 billion budget, or CAD$12 million, will be implemented from 2023–2030.
The So-JUST project will strengthen and promote a rights-based and gender-sensitive justice system that achieves equitable outcomes for all Jamaicans. It will support a human rights and a gender-responsive approach and foster improved changes within the structures of the ministry of justice, the courts, and other related agencies. There will be a specific focus on enhancing the rights and access to justice for women, girls, people with disabilities and residents of rural and vulnerable communities.
In her opening remarks, Denise Antonio, UNDP resident representative, noted that this project would be crucial in supporting inclusion and promoting equity within the justice system, benefiting communities and people.
“This is a defining moment in Jamaica’s bold and exemplary journey to strengthen its justice system. It calls for us to confront social and cultural biases. It calls on us to systematically dismantle the barriers which deny too many vulnerable Jamaicans the right to access their constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms. UNDP is your proud partner in this critical journey for social justice under the leadership of the ministry of justice, and with funding from Global Affairs Canada. Our commitment to Jamaica’s justice sector reform journey is unwavering because we believe it holds the power to unlock Jamaica’s development and economic growth potential while undermining the roots of poverty,” said Denise Antonio.
For his part, minister of justice, Delroy Chuck emphasized: “The ministry of justice has been expanding its service delivery and methods to allow for improved access to justice services for all. These are important features in a modern society that will foster peace and harmony. On behalf of the Jamaican government, I thank the Canadian government and the UNDP for coming on board to support.”
During the launch event, participants and partners were introduced to the main activities, the expected results, and the working methodologies for the project. Planned events include expanding alternative justice services, enhanced witness care, improved child justice coordination mechanism and services, and legal aid programs. Other features will focus on strengthening partnerships with civil society groups that serve disadvantaged groups. The project will also assist in modernising the court’s records management systems.
Canada has been investing in justice reform in Jamaica for over 15 years. The project follows the decade-long Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Program which focused on providing enhanced technical-legal assistance, institutional strengthening, and social-order capacity-building to actors within the justice sector on behalf of the poorest and most marginalised Jamaicans.