Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS) — An eighteen month programme which targets the safety of youth in schools and communities is a new initiative between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis.
At a recently held National Consultation and Launch of the CARICOM – Spain Citizen Security Project, Ionie Liburd-Willet, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Information, welcomed the initiative and spoke on the issue of youth violence.
“We are aware of the fact that predisposing factors for crime and violence among youth includes alienation, social exclusion, unemployment, poverty, marginalization, school drop outs and at risk families,” she said. “All of these are associated with the increasing potential for children and young people to be recruited by or in some cases voluntarily join violent youth gangs.”
Willet stressed that having such a programme in place is vital.
“This National Consultation is important to everyone, as youth on youth violence is a subject of top priority for us in the Federation,” she explained. “The project will provide requisite research findings to improve our knowledge of the effects and impact of life skills and entrepreneurial programmes.”
Beverly Reynolds, Programme Manager for Human and Social Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, also praised the initiative, stating that it would help to advance the development and well-being of the young people in St. Kitts and Nevis. She further stated what CARICOM has done so far where youths are concerned.
“We (CARICOM) have over the past four years, under the Caribbean Social Development Crime Prevention Action Plan worked closely with the Ministry of National Security, The Ministry of Social Development, (Culture and Gender Affairs) and Non-Governmental Organizations in initiatives to build character and resilience in at risk skills,” she said. “We have also facilitated good practices for dealing with youth gangs and supported life skills development for youths who are desirous of exiting a life of crime.”
Gary Da Silva, Spanish Representative uttered remarks of praise and stressed that “this could not come at a better time as this year marks the 15th anniversary of the relations between Spain and CARICOM.”
“It is an excellent opportunity to highlight the long standing commitment of Spain to St. Kitts and Nevis and the region,” he said. “I am glad to share with you that the commitment of Spain with different spheres of the development of St. Kitts and Nevis and this region is strong and will continue over the years.
Through the CARICOM – paid joint fund agreement approximately US $436 million was made available to pilot this project and would be funded by the Government of Spain. Other countries undertaking this project includes Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
The project targets at risk youth 10-29 years old and is expected to contribute to a reduction in the incidence of youth on youth violence in selected schools and communities in which it will be piloted.