Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Balancing Dependence and Sovereignty

A Review of the Context

Despite having to manage and make policy as independent sovereignties, public managers in the Anglophone Caribbean are now being united around the common concern of citizen security that is shared amongst all these countries. Being united around common concerns is not novel to these policymakers. Traditionally, they have dealt with the effects of natural disasters and indebtedness as Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and vulnerabilities to international trade shocks as part of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States. For the Anglophone Caribbean, it is U.S.-based foreign aid which has been either geographically or geopolitically critical to stabilization whenever these public administration crises occur. Present concerns with citizen security are therefore placed within the wider context of hemispheric rule of law, and the United States as the critical source of foreign aid.

How can U.S.-based donors better understand their significance to Caribbean public administration and how can these recipient countries manage so as to make this aid more effective? The example of how security and justice public administration in Jamaica relies on U.S.-based foreign aid can illustrate some critical lessons.


The Transnational Nature of Security and Justice Public Administration in Jamaica

Like most former colonies of Britain, Jamaica’s political history reflects a narrative of conquest and resistance. It tells a post-1492 story of contested progression over time and reveals primary concerns over insecurity and retaining social order. The 1945 Moyne Commission supported these concerns across the Anglophone Caribbean, embedding the need to build stable and well-ordered states. However, Jamaica appears more peculiar.

Security challenges in Jamaica have hemispheric implications, which simultaneously require the country’s public managers to make policies with transnational horizons. In the book Police and Crime Control in Jamaica, author Anthony Harriott argues that since 1962, not only have anti-crime policies become politicized issues that were consolidated with macroeconomic development challenges, but domestic crime in the country directly impacts domestic crime in key cities in North America. He asserts this is an amalgam of the illegal drug, arms, and commodities trades; emigration flows; and the role of homegrown gangs in transnational organized crime. The implications are therefore that if public administration in Jamaica was struggling with governance independent of direct British support after 1962, then these security challenges have now added layers of responsibilities beyond state capacity.

Interestingly, while the smaller Anglophone Caribbean countries have been busy balancing macroeconomic challenges, since the 1970s Jamaica has been busy using these challenges as a fragile, yet opaque glass bowl for mixing bitter political competition with criminal factions into a potent lethal brew. It is therefore no surprise that security and justice public administration in Jamaica is now a picture of dependence on U.S.-based foreign aid. Can Jamaica manage effectively?


The Picture of Aid Dependence Challenging Sovereignty

Security and justice public administration in Jamaica is dependent on U.S.-based bilateral and multilateral foreign aid. Constitutionally, although maintaining the rule of law is the state’s sovereign responsibility, Jamaica is not independent of foreign support and influence in this regard.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has traditionally provided assistance in this context under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. De-classified documents reveal that in 1967 USAID facilitated the training of 55 members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) under a public safety project. In more recent times, USAID has funded the Caribbean Justice Improvement Project with a dedicated Jamaica component, the Sustainable Justice Reform Project, the Community Empowerment and Transformation Project (COMET), the Building Bridges Project, the Suppression of Maritime Drug Trafficking (Shiprider Agreement) and various grants of assistance under its Democracy and Governance Program as well as the wider Country Assistance Strategy. Interestingly, Jamaica had to accede to a Shiprider Agreement and give this legislative authority through The Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act of 1998, simply because the country is dependent on rule of law foreign aid. This is despite contestations around sovereignty at the time. The U.S. government also provides other classified direct rule of law assistance to Jamaica’s government.

In addition to assistance from USAID, Jamaica benefits from security and justice foreign aid multilaterally through the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank to a lesser extent. It has been noted that, owing to the fiscal constraints the country faces, security and justice public administration would not survive independent of this level of foreign aid support. Senior public managers in both the ministries of National Security (MNS) and Justice (MOJ) have had to accept that they function in a transnational context and inherently engage in aid management as part of their job descriptions.

Security and justice public administration in Jamaica is the state’s constitutional responsibility, is aid dependent and uses U.S.-based foreign aid which supports much of the work and sustainability of this state capacity. It is therefore in this context that there is a real operational nexus between U.S.-based foreign aid and public administration in the Caribbean. Although politically independent, Jamaica’s rule of law responsibility is operationally a ‘dependency’ of bilateral and multilateral donors.


Managing Dependence and Sovereignty

Paradoxically, despite Jamaica’s dependence on foreign aid to support its constitutional responsibility, it does not automatically follow that donors exert direct influence and contrive public administration. This is because there are underpinning institutional characteristics which at times buffer large extents of foreign influence. The three interrelated institutional characteristics of colonial transfer, political competition and departmentalism interact to find a workable balance between dependence and sovereignty over time. These are characteristics which directly emanate from Jamaica’s Westminster-Whitehall heritage and which exist in other Anglophone Caribbean countries.

The next set of articles will explore how these characteristics impact public administration in Jamaica in the wider context of U.S.-based foreign aid. This discussion will have relevance for both theory and practice specific to the Anglophone Caribbean. Theoretically, it will affirm the view that historical institutionalism helps explain how structure shapes behavior and policy outcomes in the context of rule of law public administration. In practice, it will illustrate how the narrative of colonial transfer opens the door to contestations between actors and the repudiation of foreign influence in public administration, how political competition creates cycles of policymaking inertia, and how departmentalism structurally segregates aspects of rule of law public administration in a lopsided way. These characteristics help with balancing sovereignty with dependence for U.S.-based donors.


Author: Vaughn Graham is a doctoral candidate in the University of Birmingham, UK. He has also worked with the Jamaican government for more than 10 years in various capacities. He has experience with Rule of Law policymaking and the implications for various donor funded programs and projects.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)



The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *