The Carter Center has worked with the people of Jamaica to strengthen electoral practices and increase government transparency.
Jamaica was one of three countries with which the Carter Center's Americas Program teamed in 1998 to reduce corruption and promote transparency in the Americas. The "Transparency for Growth in the Americas" project also focused initially on Costa Rica and Ecuador. In Jamaica, the program's work focused on ongoing legislative efforts to pass a corruption prevention act and an access-to-information act.
Jamaica was one of three countries with which the Carter Center's Americas Program teamed in 1998 to reduce corruption and promote transparency in the Americas. The "Transparency for Growth in the Americas" project also focused initially on Costa Rica and Ecuador. In Jamaica, the program's work focused on legislative efforts to pass a corruption prevention act and an access to information act.
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson invited the Center to help inform the public debate about the two acts. Consequently, the Center commissioned an annotated guide to the country's existing legislation against corruption and a comparative study of Jamaican legislation and other similar legislation worldwide.
The Center published two guides of expert studies on Jamaica's efforts in corruption prevention and access to information, in 1999 and 2002, and co-sponsored seminars to stimulate debate among Jamaican parliamentarians, citizen groups, media, and the private sector.
The Center brought in international experts on implementing the new provisions on asset declarations and access to information to advise government officials and citizen groups on utilizing these tools.
The Access to Information Act passed in 2002, and implementation began in January 2004. To increase awareness of the law, the Center's project facilitated workshops for civil servants, civil society organizations, religious groups, the media, and the private sector. The Center also supported Jamaicans for Justice in their monitoring of the Access to Information Act's use and government response. In March 2004, the Center opened a field office to provide programmatic continuity during the implementation and enforcement phases.
Jamaica's Electoral Advisory Committee twice invited The Carter Center to observe elections — in 1997 and 2002 — hoping to deter election-related violence and raise confidence in the electoral process. Jamaica's elections in the 1980s were fraught with violence; during the 1980 election, more than 800 people were killed. In 1997 and 2002, election-related violence in the "garrison" communities, controlled by politically related armed gangs, was a concern. Yet, with the presence of observers, both elections were relatively peaceful.
The Center praised the 2002 Jamaica electoral process, noting that Jamaicans' confidence in their election was bolstered by the professionalism of the security forces and the Electoral Office of Jamaica. Other contributing factors to a peaceful election were the institution of the Elections Center, which allowed for the immediate resolution of disputes, and the consultative process used to verify the voters list, determine the location of polling stations, and select poll workers.
The Carter Center delegation of 60 observers, led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former Costa Rica President Miguel Angel Rodriguez, visited more than 850 polling stations in 29 constituencies.
The Center sent 60 observers to the 1997 elections. The delegation was led by President Carter, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell, champion boxer Evander Holyfield, former Belize Prime Minister George Price, former Costa Rica President Rodrigo Carazo, and former Bolivia President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. Delegates visited 52 of Jamaica's 60 constituencies and noted reports of small-scale violence. They also noted theft of several ballot boxes and voters unable to cast ballots because their names were missing from registration lists. Based on assessment missions before, during, and after the 1997 election, the Center recommended that Jamaica's electoral process could be improved by: prosecuting "garrison" offenders to deter future violence, setting a deadline for printing and distributing voter ID cards, establishing a process for review of voter registration lists, and completing fingerprint cross matching.
Carter Center representatives met with officials in Jamaica as part of a fact-finding tour in January 1997 to prepare for the conference "Agenda for the Americas for the 21st Century." The group included former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter, and Dr. Jennifer McCoy, director of the Americas Program. Discussions with Prime Minister Patterson as well as meetings in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile helped to set the agenda for the April 1997 conference.
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Size: 10,991 square kilometers
Population below poverty line: 17 percent
Life expectancy: 74 years
Ethnic groups: black, mixed, East Indian, other or unknown
Religions: Protestant (includes Seventh Day Adventist, Pentecostal, Other Church of God, New Testament Church of God, Baptist, Church of God in Jamaica, Church of God of Prophecy, Anglican, United Church, Methodist, Revived, Brethren, and Moravian), Roman Catholic, Jehovah's Witness, Rastafarian, other, none, unspecified
Languages: English, patois English
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2016