Quick Reflections- Seminar Beijing, China (May-July, 2017)

Below is an excerpt of my reflections on a training seminar in Beijing, China.

Represented sector- Land Development; Urban Planning and Research &Development (Informal Settlements and Indigenous knowledge)
1. Overview, general comment and impression of this SEMINAR
The above named seminar was structured to fulfil the main purpose of assisting Jamaica in developing a sector around bamboo. The weekly schedules all consecutively flowed into each building a knowledge base and enhancing the capacity of the country representatives. All culminating into the practical application and demonstration afforded us by the three (3) well thought out weeks in YongAn, Fujian Province.
2. Professional knowledge you have learnt from this SEMINAR, including lectures and field trips. You can talk about this combined with your working experiences.
Having spent almost twenty (20) years in various capacities spanning Central and Local Government as well as in academia, I have learnt that LEARNING DOES NOT STOP. As a professionally trained Urban Development and Environmental Planning practitioner currently involved in projects and programme implementation, I understand the challenges involved in transferring knowledge into tangible actions that directly help the poor and vulnerable in the Jamaican society. Bamboo (and specifically the specie indigenous to Jamaica) can be used as a medium to alleviate some critical issues in Jamaica among which- reducing youth unemployment; providing low cost housing for the 30+% of the population who live in sub-standard housing and fuel the entrepreneurial efforts taking shape in the private domain.
3. What suggestions and comments for this SEMINAR? Are you satisfied with this SEMINAR?
Professionally, I satisfied with the organization of the lectures, cultural experiences and the opportunity to live in Fujian Province- one of the bamboo ‘capitals’ of China. My expectations for a seminar, as named above, were mostly met and many were EXCEEDINGLY met. I would suggest the following:
(a) Condensing of the first four weeks to three and perhaps a lengthening TO four (4) weeks in Fujian and,
(b) Reducing the final two weeks to one- this is all that is needed to wrap up the seminar.
With these two suggestions the duration would be two full months representing one week of savings.
4. Difference and shared things on Forestry and Bamboo in academics and industry. Specific examples are welcomed.
As a graduate of a College of Environmental Science and Forestry in the US, I have always noted the deliberate efforts to have comprehensive Forestry Management Plans (FMPs) in the US and paucity in Jamaica. Observing a similar approach in China especially as it pertains to bamboo plantations has made this deficiency very clear. Further the fact that project driven activities drive afforestation efforts in Jamaica is also a concern. Working on some – namely the CIDA- Ridge to Reef and the USAID- PARC projects highlights the vulnerability and unsustainability of the Jamaican forestry sector. Bamboo itself had been viewed as an invasive species so, much work is needed to remove this stigma and to begin to coalesce all the ground work thus far into a formal, national industry. Much work to be done.
5. Overall impression of Beijing and China
Personally, I know I have not begun to see even the ‘tip of the iceberg’ into the full essence of China-the country. However, what I have been able to see surpassed my dreams and ‘bucket listing’ of this country. Despite some inter-group issues- there was nothing that was allowed to diminish the beauty and appreciation of the experience. Being a city dweller and a professional Urban Planner I recognised the common issues of large urban areas and have even documented some of them. Overall, the best part of this first visit to China was the three weeks spent in YongAn, Fujian Province. The encapsulation of the rural-urban juxtaposition and the precision of the organization of the tours to offer demonstration and application of bamboo uses were absolutely impressive.
6. Possible cooperation idea between China and Jamaica in Forestry and other disciplines.
Many opportunities exist, a multi-sectoral, inter-agency approach is needed (LOCALLY) along with a multi-national partnership(INTERNATIONALLY) at certain stages of concrete milestones along the development cycle. Notwithstanding, Jamaica would need to either produce the resource in large volumes or directly manufacture value-added bamboo products (under viable financial conditions). Jamaica has a high national debt including huge import bills and the latter options would have to be done with several subsidies. Subjected to a tight fiscal space such subsidies may be hard fought. For the opportunities to be realized many activities have to occur concurrently and /or simultaneously. For example, a fast tracking of a policy (Central Government) inclusive of the full range of applicable standards (BSJ’s role).
*Questions provided by Facilitators – July 13, 2017


Marginalization and its consequences…


I have been grappling with the thought that sometimes- well meaning efforts can have inadvertently deleterious effects despite being impactful. This often happens when I am immersed in some gender related activity. I think on the ways in which many cultures still do not allow the girl child to achieve her fullest human potential. Some girls are primed only as brides and thus chattels of their male counterparts whether as a parent or later as a spouse. It is therefore important work to empower females who are so socialized or who have escaped these oppressive regimes they had been forceably subjected to.

However, observations made in the field, in other societies including mine, is that young males have, or had at some point previous, become themselves marginalized. In Jamaica girls are out performing their male counterparts in most of the indicators of human development. See below for the educational attainment indicator example in Jamaica.

Although the number of boys and girls in Jamaica is roughly equal, according to some recent statistics, 48,992 boys and 81,111 girls sat CSEC subjects, and the girls outperformed the boys in all arts subjects and all science subjects, except mathematics. More than twice the number of females (67 per cent) are enrolled in the University of the West Indies (UWI) than males (33 per cent), and 59 per cent of those enrolled in post-secondary non-tertiary education are women.

Its long been accepted that boys develop differently than girls. Strong family support is needed to nurture  the children  in such a re-socialization process so as to take these into consideration. Girls have a proclivity to learn at faster rates than most boys. The education system must, even through resource constraints, have specialized approaches to capture and retain boys as well as girls. Concurrently, there must be a demystified definition of the gender roles. Our boys AND girls must be equally socialized to realize their fullest potential  within the context of modern societies. Traditional roles have to be retooled such that there are no restrictions contained in either.

Correlation between inequality and crime

Thus, it is ironic that the men are expected to be primary bread winners and providers in their traditional roles as ‘heads of households,’ within the current system that is failing them. In previous articles I have written about the high rate of male drop outs and the large percentage of unattached youths primarily concentrated by the males in the population. With the increasingly high national crime rate and the spate of murders in St. James, data can be found to provide evidence to the underlying cause and effect, not excluding the educational attainment. It is an imperative that we do not attempt to only mitigate against the attendant results but also strive to bring resolution to the innate nature of the problem.

We watch the news and documentaries and we wonder how can people be so murderous. We also wonder how people can be so callous as to scam the elderly out of their pension and life’s savings. It is time for us to get into the belly of the beast and slay the dragon from within. We need to start to understand, not empathize, but to dissect the mindset of deviants. As stated in a TEDWomen talk delivered by Jacqueline Novagratz in 2010 we should seek to understand how someone, ‘…[can] look at other beings, human beings, as lesser than [them]selves and in the extreme, to do terrible things.’ In an episode of the series Black Market on the Vice network, some young males (including boys as young as 12) who were involved in carjacking activities in Trenton, New Jersey, stated, ” its ‘us or them,’ when we are hungry.” This echoes the sentiments by many males who hang on the corner in many inner cities or impoverished neighborhoods here- as well some hardened criminals- and those relegated to a life of crime and illicit activities.

To help to make the connection and to solidify the call for attention to neutralizing gender gaps at the socio-economic levels, Novagratz makes the following point even as she was reflecting on a female parliamentarian who was imprisoned for war crimes.

And there is no group more vulnerable to those kinds of manipulations [see quotation above] than young men. I’ve heard it said that the most dangerous animal on the planet is the adolescent male. And so in a gathering where we’re focused on women, while it is so critical that we invest in our girls and we even the playing field and we find ways to honor them, we have to remember that the girls and the women are most isolated and violated and victimized and made invisible in those very societies where our men and our boys feel dis-empowered, unable to provide. And that, when they sit on those street corners and all they can think of in the future is no job, no education, no possibility, well then it’s easy to understand how the greatest source of status can come from a uniform and a gun.

Olympics lessons…on winning and losing

The summer 2016 Rio Olympics is almost at a close and in addition to reflecting on this very exciting event, I simultaneously commemorate today which is World Humanitarian Day. From the triumphs of many of the athletes to the gracious ways in which many accepted defeat the Olympics was a true testament to human character. However there were moments where others have tainted the competition and illustrated that competitiveness if not healthily nurtured can create true monsters – some of the ever present viral commentators via the numerous  social media included. From comments on Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, etc body shaming and reckless  inhumane utterances unconscionably abound.

Which brings me to ponder on the meaning of what it means to be a humanitarian which states that its to be  ‘involved in or connected with improving peoples lives and reducing suffering,’ (Source:Cambridge dictionary). Scale is relative as this can be on an individual basis as well as on a major level (for example- a community such as current flooding in Louisiana, a  country such as Syria or vulnerable groups such as refugees). On the individual level often we forget that in our daily walk extending kindness, justice and dignity to people we meet is a form of humanitarianism. We may in a moment be saving someone’s life, uplifting his/her spirit and/or encouraging an individual to take another step or go  another mile.

This is due in part to the human quest to not give up or surrender in the face of adversity/es…coincidentally that was a common theme throughout many interviews conducted with athletes. Many repeated and/or shared their stories of having to overcome adversities and adversaries. The story is now known of one of our own Jamaican female athlete who was not deemed ‘good enough’ for a local team but who through encouragement and perseverance pressed on and is now a double Olympic gold medalist. The most important lesson then is to keep jumping those hurdles like an hurdler and pressing through the obstacles and challenges like in a steeplechase event.

You see just like many of these athletes who have endured tremendous personal, physical and mental sacrifices so too must the common man. The lesson for us then is not just for this Olympic moment but instead it is for all through our lives. The euphoria will pass but the lesson must endure and propel us on. Sometimes we may lose, we may fall but we must never give up…our Olympic gold may be just around the proverbial corner. However, we, like the athletes, must keep (preparing) training and keep (working) competing …all in anticipation for our own rewards, successes, awards, breakthroughs, etc.

  • Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 years, he could not read until around age 7 years and his teachers said he would not amount to much…
  • Steven Speilberg ‘s poor grades resulted in him being rejected from cinematic arts school three times…
  • J.K. Rowling’s first book was rejected thirty times…
  • Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper having been told that he could not write, had no imagination and no good creative idea…
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired from her TV  job having being told she was too emotional and not fit for TV…

There is a long list of prolific ‘failures’ who are just simply not failures anymore…

So lets be more inclined to be gentler, kinder, more just and less intent on destroying each other. Do not add to another’s burden but seek to assist where possible. We may be in the presence of greatness…plus it just does not hurt to be nice.

Everyone does not win (and we can substitute excell, triumph,prosper, etc) at the same time but each and every person will and does overcome…if nothing else we have certainly seen numerous examples of those at the 2016 Summer Olympiad in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

‘In the end only kindness matters’


Friday…end of the work week ‘bits and pieces’


The work week is not yet over and for some of us it will include the weekend as well…(sigh). However just thought to post these quick shares in order to get through it all.


1. The ‘Jamaican’ influence. There is no dispute that as a country (and this is operationalized by the people of Jamaican descent)- Jamaica has an impactful global influence. Take this example from Nairobi, Kenya. Thanks Oral Campbell -BUPJ. However, sometimes I wish it was not for the wrong, nonsustaining, superficial reasons.

2. And here’s another one…… https://www.facebook.com/funnyordie/videos/10154059075898851/.

Shaggy’s ‘IT WASN’T ME.’ In case you don’t know here is a link to the song- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g5Hz17C4is.


3. This videohttps://www.facebook.com/blakprophetz/videos/804198946290425/.

Led me to think that this can be replicated for so many other situations ‪#‎beingfat‬, ‪#‎bodyshaming‬,‪#‎beingblack‬, ‪#‎beingmuslim‬ ‪#‎beingrastafarian‬ ‪#‎beingnative‬ ‪#‎beinglocal‬,‪#‎beingyoung‬, ‪#‎beingawoman‬, #beingmisunderstood, ‪#‎notapartoftheindustrycrowd‬, ‪#‎notoneofthem‬,‪#‎beingdifferent‬, ‪#‎beingafirst‬, ‪#‎beingunknown‬ ‪#‎justbeing‬! ‪#‎stopthinkrespect‬.

Just keeping it real!

Crying for our children and thinking about the future…

One of the item on the nightly news just now was the fatal road death of a 7 year old boy from a corporate area school in Kingston, Jamaica. Coincidentally, I also read the article in the Jamaica Gleaner 24/04/2016 entitled, ‘Secret Gardens’ all cried out-Monument to remember children killed across the island running out of space. The terrible feeling of sadness that engulfed me on both instances was so profound that I felt myself thinking what would I do if I lost my child. It is not an easy task being a parent, the kind that is involved and well-meaning. We are consumed with worry every day from the moment of their conception and gestation, birth and indeed throughout every spectrum of our children’s lives. We do everything humanly and legally possible to take care of them- to provide for them. Some parents have even selflessly participated in dubious life threatening activities to ensure that their children are fed, clothed and sheltered. It is therefore a most hurtful and hard to fathom / incomprehensible pain such parents feel when they lose their child/children in un-natural ways. (Natural ways are just as devastating but its perhaps a little more bearable…and for this I may even debate otherwise…but the point is made). My father, who himself died as a result of a ‘hit and run’ road fatality, always said he wanted long life so that he would be able to see his children ‘pass the worse.’ Then there is the old adage about, a parent should never have to bury a child. You love your child for life, if you are a vested parent.You love to death. To love and have sorrow for the same thing and at the same time is the hardest undertaking.

Photo credit:http://evenifministries.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/memorial-for-unborn-children.jpg

I remember the gut-wrenching pain I felt when I heard that my father had passed. That is incomparable. However I noted how I was a bumbling, snot nosed tearful mess when I had some scary pains in the early part of my pregnancy when I thought I was going to lose my child possibly by a miscarriage. Most poignant was also in June 2015 when my ever stoic child called me to inform me that a JUTC bus ran into the side of another JUTC in the Half Way Tree bus terminal – at the exact vicinity of the window where he was seated. He was asleep and woke to the shattered window and jolt produced by the impact….I was a crumbling mess after the confusing moments and the state of affairs was sorted out including sending prayers of thanksgiving. I bawled…just at the prospects …again….this time that I could have lost my teenager. I recount all these personal moments to indicate, while not over-simplifying, that losing a child is heart breaking and life shattering! It is not surprising that my heart weeps when I hear news of a child’s life being pre-maturely and senselessly taken. When you are a parent you can empathize with other parents. Their child did not get to have a future. We as adults have to protect them when we can and work as a collective to protect them overall. Look out for them on the streets, inquire of them when they look sad or forlorn….it [still] takes a village.

Reflecting on the future….Unfortunately, I was not able to leave the island for a thematic meeting on Habitat III in Toluca, Mexico. I blogged about that meeting in an earlier post…. Please read the article in Citiscope  https://shar.es/1e0rSA that offers an insight on the level of participation. As a point I made was mentioned in the article,this led me to consciously ponder on an ever-present thought- the FUTURE I WANT and the future I want for my child. Presently, some systems seem to be on a collision course… for example there is water scarcity, marine life overkill, ‘homelessness,’ erratic weather due to changing climate and the list goes on. In addition our children may not have a secure world to exist in as monopolistic and capitalistic ideologies continue to create situations  resulting in the displacement, destabilization and disenfranchised of peoples and states.To this end I remain resolute to participate in the development and environment sectors so that we will have a world with the same common pool of resources for them as we partook of when we were children….

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)




Habitat III …Refining and Redefining of agendas and goals.

Hellloooo my friends. It is a momentous time! So much is evolving nationally and internationally. There is a series of undertakings  including national governments reorganizing, regional and meetings and global development goals being detailed into actionable plans. One such is the Habitat III Regional Meeting on Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) currently underway in Toluca, Mexico. I was schedule to attend  but was however detained here by a pressing work matter. Notwithstanding I have engaged in an online platform for urban dialogue. Habitat III is the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development to take place in Quito, Ecuador, from 17 – 20 October 2016. According to Dr, Joan Clos the Secretary General -UN Habitat, ‘the Conference is a unique opportunity for rethinking the Urban Agenda in which governments can respond by promoting a new model of urban development able to integrate all facets of sustainable development to promote equity, welfare and shared prosperity.’

Great opportunities for practical action and ‘realistic ‘ dialogue abound! However forged partnerships is a crucial and decisive factor for successful implementation.

Question 1: What are the most pressing challenges and opportunities in achieving sustainable urban development in Latin America and the Caribbean? What are some good practices?

The views I succinctly outline is an extension of a previous blog post I wrote about the Caribbean and Latin America being an odd couple. Https://hilaryfsmithblog.wordpress.com/?p=19&preview=true.

Subsequently my urban dialogue input read.

The Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region is an odd couple, if ever there was one. This non-contiguous region (in particular the Caribbean small island developing states) consist of 33 countries. Languages differences across the region is a notable distinction. The official language of the citizens of most of the countries in the Caribbean is British English whilst Spanish is the primary language in the Latin American countries of the region. Within the education systems second languages are offrerd in the curriculum however for many English speaking Caribbean nationals proficiency in a second language is limited. However, it is significant that there is free movement across the countries in the region with the removal of visa restrictions which minimize other impediments. As urbanization is fuelled by migration the impediment and / or access across the region and within cities in individual countires is a critical factor. This is critical to the sustainable urban development in the LAC. Subsequently, I posit that in the LAC the most pressing opportunities in achieving sustainable urban development would be in the forging of partnerships, the involvement of the youth and the utilization of technology. Conversely, some of the most pressing challenges in achieving sustainable urban development would include gender equity, informality of human settlements, environmental vulnerability and continued efforts for poverty alleviation.

The Citiscope magazine utilized words and thoughts forthcoming from the overall urban dialogue to prepare and present a great extension to the threads in the Urban Dialogue entitled- ‘Habitat III host region takes stock of its urbanization process — warts and all.’



‘Give us Vision less we perish….’

The title of this blog entry is one of the lines from the national anthem of Jamaica which always resonates with me.


Negril, Jamaica sunset. Photo: Hilary F. Smith, 2012.

As a trained Urban Planner,  Environmentalist and Policy Analyst and last but by no means least lover of all things historical, I love the idea and in fact see the necessity of having a vision which lays the foundation for a plan of action. So I have taken the time to understand, in a concise way, just exactly what is the vision for my country. After all the line above indicates that we intercede to the Most High God for such and therefore this must be in place and executional. I have spoken with and done numerous review and it is  a conclusion that what exist is the VISION 2030. Many have stated that this is BOTH a vision / strategic document as well as a national development plan. I had some misgivings about this but have not allowed myself to dwell on that here. It was a very ambitious undertaking and resulted in voluminous  documents as the product of such. So much so that a ‘popular version’ was produced… a shorter more compact version aimed at easy promulgation. As a result of my self study the following gives a quick and dirty synopsis. It is helping me with some much needed professional direction and perhaps it is also timely for revisit by many in decision making at this crucial time of refocus on the country’s development.

VISION 2030- Jamaica’s National Development Plan

Jamaica’s comprehensive long term National Development Plan that seeks to position Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. The long-term development plan is based on a comprehensive vision ‘Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business,’ and on guiding principles which put ‘people ‘at the centre of Jamaica’s transformation.


Vision 2030 Jamaica is based on the Guiding Principles listed below.  

  • Jamaica’s transformation must have PEOPLE at the centre of its development. 
  • Transformation should be directed by an over-arching VISION for the society, buttressed by strong, extra-ordinary LEADERSHIP and guided by a cohesive and comprehensive development PLAN. 
  • Sustainability – integrating economic, social and environmental issues 
  • Fostering balanced development in rural, urban and regional areas
  • Equity – ensuring that the Plan facilitates equality of opportunity and equal rights 
  • Social cohesion and partnerships

These Guiding Principles prioritize the elements which are absolutely critical for enhancing the quality of life of all Jamaicans and for the country’s achievement of world class standards in specific or predetermined areas.


In order to achieve developed country status, Vision 2030 Jamaica will give priority attention to the following key areas of national development: Developing Human Resources, Effective Governance, Environmental Sustainability, Gender, Culture & Values, Health, Infrastructure, International Competitiveness, Law & Order, Population, Regional Development, Science, Technology & Innovation and Social Protection.


There are three (3) components:
The Integrated National Development Plan: this is the overall plan for Vision 2030 Jamaica that integrates all the sector plans into a single comprehensive plan for long-term national development. It includes the National Vision, the four National Goals and the fifteen National Outcomes, and the fifteen National Strategies necessary to achieve these goals and outcomes.

The Medium Term Socio-economic Policy Framework (MTF): a three yearly plan that summarizes the national priorities and targets and identifies the necessary actions to achieve those targets over each three year period leading up to 2030.

The Thirty-one Sector Plans: these sector plans cover economic, social, environmental and governance sectors relevant to national development. At this level Vision 2030 will be implemented through strategic frameworks and action plans for each sector as detailed in the individual sector plans.

Well this sure helped me to get an handle on Vision 2030. My aim, in the not too distant future, is to undertake a comprehensive review instead of the intermittent perusals of selected sector plans in the past…wish me luck.