Political corruption can feel daunting and remote. So can we really do anything about it? If we speak out about how we’re governed, we can.
We need to call on our politicians and public officials to be accountable for their actions. How can we trust them if we don’t know what they’re doing? We must demand that they put in place regulations which will force them to act openly. Then corruption can’t hide. And our trust in the political process will improve. When leaders act transparently, showing us clearly what they do, we can make informed choices when we vote. And we can hold them to account once elected.
From grassroots groups to big organisations, civil society has a crucial role to play. We can monitor electoral campaigns and parties’ activities. If state resources are abused, we must report it. And if regulations to prevent corruption aren’t in place, we must demand them. Rules about politicians’ conflicts of interest, for example. Or regulations to stop corporate lobbying and political funding from distorting the democratic process. If companies publish their donations, they can show their contributions aren’t intended to win favours.
By speaking out, we can show that everyone gains from honest elections and open decision-making. Even politicians. Go back to the problem
- Published on Wednesday, 24 December 2014 08:05
National Integrity Action (NIA) recognizes that the youth are an important component of society and so actively seeks to engage them, in order to raise their awareness of the impact of corruption – on the nation and on an individual level – as well as deepen their understanding of the issues related to corruption and steps that can be taken to reduce corruption and build integrity in Jamaica.
Against this background NIA has embarked on a number of youth specific initiatives to include:
1.MoE/NIA Essay Competition
Partnership with the Ministry of Education (MoE) is a natural step in the process of engaging the nation’s youth. After initial discussions between National Integrity Action (NIA) and the Ministry of Education (MoE)the decision was taken to stage a Youth Essay Competition targeting the sixth form population across the island under the theme, ‘Fighting Corruption, Building Integrity in Jamaica’ in support of the Research and Advocacy Component of the Ministry of Education’s New Civics Programme.
This was a thrust at creating greater public awareness and getting youth to engage in the discussion on building integrity in Jamaican society. The competition was launched on September 23, 2012, International Peace Day, with submissions closing on December 9, UN International Anti-Corruption Day.
The competition was staged under the patronage of former Governor General, Sir Kenneth Hall, and the adjudicators of the essays were: Martin Henry, Communicator, Gleaner columnist and NIA Board Member; Gloria Bean, President of the History Teachers’ Association; Dorothy Noel, Publisher and Ryan Small, President of the Jamaica Youth Council.
Arrangements were made to host the launch of the competition at the Palace Cineplex, in order to facilitate a screening of the film ‘Ghett’a Life’ a wholly Jamaican film which tells a story of the extremes of political victimization – which is a major form of corruption. It was hoped that the film, and the subsequent discussion, would stimulate the students to think about solutions to the corruption problem. It is therefore no coincidence that the greatest weight, in evaluating the essays which will be submitted, will be placed on solutions proposed. The ensuing discussions and the quality of essays received were very encouraging. NIA plans on facilitating similar competitions aimed at improving the awareness of youths on matters relating to corruption and the building of integrity. See pictures of the screening of ghetta life here
2. NIA Co-Sponsors the Burger King's Islandwide School Debating Competitions
National Integrity Action (NIA) in another show of its commitment to the nation’s youth has also partnered with Burger King in staging the annual islandwide Secondary Schools Debating Competition and the first ever National Prep and Primary School Debating Competition. NIA’s decision to partner with Burger King in the staging of these competitions arose from the belief that the values and tenets of integrity should be nurtured from the earliest possible stage of development. Additionally, the competition encourages critical thinking, research skills and the organization of thoughts into pointed arguments, showing youths that there is a better method by which to settle disputes among themselves than by coming to blows. NIA was also able to suggest moots which were all geared towards getting our youngsters to think about matters of ethics and integrity and of course of the need to combat corruption in all forms. NIA is these instances also provided research material to the participants to aid in their preparation.
Bearing the results in mind, NIA is pleased to have been a part of both competitions and looks forward to continuing to work with the youth demographic using the Burger King Debating Competition as one platform.Inaugural bk prep school debate final photos
3. Integrity Ambassadors
In partnership with the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC), National Integrity Action launched a student leadership development programme, Integrity Ambassadors, in three corporate-area high schools - Holy Trinity, St. George’s and St. Hugh’s.
After several months of planning, the programme commenced approximately with the start of the 2013-2014 academic year and spanned ten weeks.It was geared towards encouraging reflection, leading to commitment and action around issues of integrity. The student participants’ experiences were used as the building blocks for new learning and insights. The methodology was participatory and included a variety of activities including role play, games, use of technology, field trips, discussions and guest presentations.
The curriculum of the programme, around which a detailed teacher manual as well as a student handbook - has been developed, focused on five themes:
- Understanding Integrity and Corruption
- The Self and Integrity
- The Country and Integrity: Jamaica’s Journey – How Far Have We Come?
- The World and Integrity: It’s a Global Movement
- I Can Make a Difference: Accountability and Courage
The programme was implemented by a consortium of Value Added Services, Elaine Wint and Associates, and Sistren Theatre Collective. It was endorsed by the Ministry of Education and secured the buy in of the principals of the three schools.
NIA was pleased to participate in this project and worked with the project implementation team to ensure that documentation of responses to and feedback on the curriculum as well as documentation of the participants’ experiences of corruption will be captured. This will help to guide any future iteration of the programme. Indications are that success at this ‘pilot’ stage may see the programme being expanded to additional schools, with added support becoming necessary. It is also hoped that this approach will one day become a part of the High School curriculum.
NIA and JCSC personnel present certificates and pins to Integrity Ambassadors
4. NIA has also formed partnerships and worked with many Youth Specific Organizations. Here we mention a few:
-The University of the West Indies (UWI), Department of Government Governance Society
In January 2014, National Integrity Action was approached by the Governance Society a newly formed body based within the Department of Government on the campus of the University of the West Indies to be a participant in its February 26, 2014 Public Forum.
The Governance Society has a stated vision to encourage students in the department to promote the pillars of good governance among their peers by specifically promote the following:
- Importance of participation
- Transparency and accountability
- An observation of the rule of law
- The need for an effective, responsive and efficient government
- The impact of corruption as well as the principles of consciousness
- Inclusiveness and equity
The Public Forum was hosted on the campus of UWI, the event took the form of a presentation by the Contractor General Dirk Harrison on the topic Combatting Corruption in Jamaica: Challenges and Solutions followed by a Panel Discussion with the panel comprising Professor Trevor Munroe, Executive Director of NIA, the Contractor General, a Guild Councillor and a representative from the Governance Society.
NIA is supportive the Governance Society’s stated vision and mandate and has welcomed the invitation of its leaders to not only participate in this forum but also help to shape the work of the body. Against this background NIA sees this as an excellent opportunity to engage with the youth population on the campus as well as continue to explore opportunities for meaningful partnerships with individuals and groups interested in making attempts to publicly engage on issues surrounding corruption, the building of integrity across the island and the overall governance challenges and exploring possible solutions to these in the Jamaican context. We look forward to continued partnership between both bodies. (See Photographs of the Event)
- Irvine Hall Leadership Seminar - “Ethical Leadership for Change”
National Integrity Action’s accepted an invitation from Irvine Hall to speak with the newly elected members of the Hall Committee on the topic of “Ethical Leadership for Change” on May 19, 2014.
NIA’s Former Deputy Director-External Relations, Nadiya Figueroa (fourth from right) is flanked by members of the Irvine Hall (UWI, Mona) Committee who participated in the Hall’s annual Student Leadership Seminar on May 19, 2014. Also in the photo (first from left) is Dr. May Miller-Dawkins, a consultant to Transparency International who visited the island to conduct an evaluation.
Irvin hall has invited NIA to participate in discussions on leadership prior to this invite. Notwithstanding this, NIA welcomes all invitations of this sort as it seeks in some way to influence the thinking of the nation’s youth by bringing to the fore the core principles of integrity, accountability, transparency and the need to remain ethical regardless of the circumstances and situations. After the presentation, students were given a chance to raise questions. These questions centered on best practices going forward and on how to change the culture of Hall leadership, which has been mired by the misconduct of past leaders. Committee members spoke to their concerns surrounding how to address reputational damage and regain trust and respect. They also touched on the need for youth political education and participation in national political processes. (See Photographs of the event here)
- Mary Seacole Hall, UWI Mona
Mary Seacole Hall End-of-Year Ceremony - “Women of Excellence”
NIA through its then Deputy Director-External Relations also accepted an invitation to be the guest speaker at Mary Seacole Hall’s end of year “Women of Excellence” awards ceremony. Over 50 young women from the Hall, participants in the Leadership Academy, Academic Honours Program and UBUNTU outreach arm, were present at the April 13th, 2014 ceremony at the Mona Visitor’s Lodge. Given that the invitation from the Student Services and Leadership Development Manager asked Ms. Figueroa to “use your journey to excellence, to inspire these younger women to strive for excellence and integrity at the highest level”, Ms. Figueroa took the opportunity to share a few personal stories of her own challenges and disappointments on her journey as a student leader and young professional. She also stressed the need to maintain integrity in the daily lives of individuals. A message strongly echoed by the Board, staff and supporters of NIA
-UWI, Mona Guild of Students
International Students’ Day
National Integrity Action hosted a workshop for volunteers on September 7, 2013, in which several students from the University of the West Indies, Mona participated. Among these students were several members of the executive body of the Guild of Students, the student representative body on the campus. Arising from that interface and subsequent engagement, NIA supported the Guild of Students in hosting a forum to mark International Students Day 2013 on November 19, 2013 at the Undercroft of the Senate Building on the campus.
The forum entitled ‘Youth at the Helm: A New Paradigm of Leadership’ sought to elicit the views of some of the younger participants in the political sphere in an effort to engage youth in nation-building processes, on a foundation of accountability and transparency. The speakers at the forum were:
- Dr. Dayton Campbell, Member of Parliament St. Ann North Western
- Hon. Damion Crawford, Member of Parliament St. Andrew East Rural
- Mr. Floyd Green, President of G2K (The youth arm of the JLP)
- Mr. Warren Newby, Former Senator and Former Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Culture Youth and Sport
- Mr. Terron Dewar, Guild President
(l-r) Damion Crawford, Terron Dewar, Warren Newby, Dayton Campbell & Floyd Green
The forum was moderated by media personality Ms. Krystal Tomlinson, a former vice-president of the Guild of Students and reigning Ms. Jamaica Festival Queen. Though there was an obvious deficit of female representation on the panel, NIA’s Deputy Director-External Relations, Nadiya Figueroa was slated to speak but was unable to do so due to a scheduling conflict.
Each of the speakers gave their opening remarks, consisting typically of a few words on their experiences of political life at the national level. The forum then transitioned into an extended question and answering session, lasting well over two hours. The questions and responses covered a wide range of topics, including:
- The reconstitution of the youth parliament
- The level of equitable gender representation in politics
- Issues of personal integrity in politics
- The topical issue of the decriminalization of marijuana
- The struggle to make a difference
- Youth unemployment
The forum was well-attended, with a significant portion of the audience having to stand.
Overall the forum was a successful one, with a strong turnout and excellent discussion being facilitated. The forum was able to maintain NIA’s non-partisan orientation, with equal representation from both major political parties among the speakers. NIA’s aim to engage youth was also continued, with strong branding at the event and the engagement with and of youth – on issues that are important to them and to national development.
-Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Youth Leadership Development Programme
National Integrity Action through its Administrator, Ms. Jamie-Ann Chevannes, accepted an invitation to speak under the theme ‘Doing Politics Differently’ with youth leaders, from varied socio-economic and educational backgrounds, participating in the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Youth Leadership Development Programme in June 2014.
Ms. Chevannes engages some of the participants in a perception exercise to encourage broader thinking around how corruption can be seen from differing perspectives.
Ms. Chevannes in her presentation ‘Anti-Corruption and Transparency in the Democratic Process’, focused on defining what constitutes a democracy and what measures could be used to determine what is a healthy democracy. She engaged participants in an examination of Jamaica’s present situation by analyzing the major characteristics of the country’s democratic process. Corruption was highlighted as a major hurdle in developing a healthy democracy, as it erodes the fundamental principles of a democratic society and results in increasing disparities in wealth and opportunities among citizens. It also manifests as inequality in the justice system and a lack of accountability and transparency by elected officials. Ms. Chevannes noted various forms/types of corruption and that corruption has somehow become a normative behaviour for some, while others will justify corrupt actions in whatever way they can, including making reference to their circumstances. The effects of corruption on the society and the individual were also addressed, as the presenter pointed out that negative impacts range from the deterioration of social institutions and physical infrastructure to the loss of investment and jobs, among other things.
Ms. Chevannes explained that each participant, in whatever small way, can effect change by holding themselves and those in their immediate surroundings accountable for their actions. She also reminded participants that they each have a say in the manner in which the country is governed, and that they can be vocal as individuals or as a group; that they should utilize the various media outlets to raise questions about any act, that they believed to be corrupt. (See Photographs of the event)
NIA’s Executive Director was invited to deliver the keynote Address at the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha High School) Parent Teachers Meeting and also the Munro High School Prize giving ceremony in late 2015. Both invitations were gladly accepted as this would form the first opportunity to address students of both schools on the issue of corruption. Both events were well attended and the message of NIA was well received. (See photos of both events)
NIA continues to build its meaningful engagement with youth leadership, and will be pursuing further opportunities to empower and work alongside the nation’s future leaders.