Jamaica Environment Trust is helping people raise their voices for cleaner air and water

The Commonwealth Foundation has premiered its new podcast series Commonwealth Voices. It investigates how citizens in Commonwealth countries participate in democracy and influence the institutions that shape their lives.

The first episode, Jamaicans for Clean Air, follows the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) who are empowering communities to fight for clean air and water.

Jamaicans who live near industrial sites and other major sources of air and water pollution suffer from negative side-effects on their environment and quality of life.

Communities are often reluctant to take action because these industrial activities double as an essential source of jobs, and their complaints can go ignored by the relevant authorities. But JET believes nobody should have to choose between their livelihood and their health.With programme funding from the Commonwealth Foundation, JET has been training Jamaican communities to know their rights under the law and engage with government regulators and industries operating in their communities.

This story shows us what can happen when we use our voices, democracy and institutions to advocate for our own health, prosperity and future. Suzanne Stanley, CEO of Jamaica Environment Trust, said:

‘Advocacy is not about complaining. Jamaican communities become more powerful, healthy, and resilient when we use advocacy to influence the policies that affect the very air we breathe and water we drink.’

‘We’re very pleased that Commonwealth Voices is showcasing our work empowering Jamaican communities to advocate on their own behalf, and hope it will inspire similar projects across the country and the world.’

Anthony Mckenzie, Director – Environmental Management and Conservation, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), added:

‘In order to achieve sustainable development, there needs to be a continued process of interaction between the community and regulators, and that’s what’s been happening in this case.’

Adrian Watson, a community resident who has suffered from years of poor air quality in his community of Seaview Gardens, said: ‘The […] community is the victim of environmental abuse.’

‘I believe the Jamaicans for Clean Air and Water Project allowed for the voices of Seaview Gardens to be heard.’

Vijay Krishnarayan, Director-General of Commonwealth Foundation, said: ‘The voices of civil society are essential for democracy and development to work for everyone. We’re delighted to be supporting JET’s important work building the confidence and capacity of those less heard to advocate on the issues that affect them.’

Commonwealth Voices is a podcast series about citizens coming together to participate in democracy and influence the institutions that shape their lives.

The podcast is available for free online via iTunes and other major podcast platforms.