In my role as Assistant Chief Minister, and in partnership with the Bailiff’s Office, I have led a substantial project which seeks to enhance and promote our unique Jersey Identity, uniting our diverse communities and reshaping the narrative about Jersey on the world stage.
Our national Identity – how we see ourselves and how others see us
Our identity matters a great deal. Over the past couple of years I have been privileged to lead a piece of work entitled ‘Island Identity’, which explores the many different elements which define Jersey. Together with a very capable and diverse Policy Development Board, who volunteered their time over the difficult lockdown period, we have initiated a programme of reports and events with three related goals:
- People in Jersey are civically engaged and proud of their Island;
- Jersey has a recognisable and positive international personality; and,
- Public policies coherently support and develop Jersey’s distinct identity.
In Jersey, our ability to work together, care for each other, grow our economy and look after our environment depends on us being bound to each other by more than a shared geography and set of rules. Whatever our backgrounds or occupations, we can benefit from a shared sense of belonging and a shared understanding of what it means to be Jersey.
Internationally, our long-term future relies on projecting a positive image of the Island; a richer international personality than just that of our world-class finance industry. Our unique history and constitutional status, and our extraordinary endeavours in other fields (culture, heritage, philanthropy, international development, sport, business, art, digital, agriculture, tourism and conservation, for example) should also be recognised as part of this personality. Coordinating and projecting these facets of our Island identity will help us build the reputation and relationships we will depend on to thrive in a globalised world.
I realise that questions of identity must be handled sensitively. We must take particular care that we are not defining some ideal of ‘Jerseyness’ which alienates people with different views and backgrounds. Instead, I believe that discovering and celebrating what people themselves love about Jersey and value about the Island can help provide common focal points for our growing and increasingly-diverse population.
Chris Bright, member of the policy development board on Jersey’s international identity
Carolyn Labey has a deep understanding of what constitutes Jersey’s distinct and precious character as well as a clear desire to find new ways of harnessing it for the greater good, both at home and globally.
Interestingly, nations which have a strong sense of national identity, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, for example – are often among the best at integrating immigrant communities and giving them a sense of pride and belonging. Conversely nations with weakened identities are now struggling with legacies of social fragmentation.
And why is now the right moment to investigate these matters?
As we as an Island face the challenges of Brexit, and big global issues like climate change, pandemic recovery and huge technological advances changing the ways we work, the time is right to position ourselves as a global citizen with much to offer. We have great opportunities to diversify and innovate, as other British nations such as Scotland and Wales have done, with far fewer political and constitutional freedoms than we enjoy. However, visitors to those places are confronted at every turn with proud expressions of who they are, which is not something arrivals at our airport or harbour could say.
Furthermore, I also believe that during lockdown there has been a paradigm shift in our Society. It has given us time for reflection, to better appreciate the importance of family, our community, the environment, our wellbeing and all that we value.
Whether you grew up here, work here or have chosen to make Jersey your home, I hope you will enjoy reading more about the project, and consider getting involved!