CARICOM Secretariat tackling youth crime and violence…But resources are slow in coming

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat has facilitated yet another successful national consultation on youth crime and violence.

The two-day consultation which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with The Bahamas Ministries of National Security and Youth Sports and Culture, opened on Tuesday in Nassau, The Bahamas under the theme: Partnering for crime prevention and social development.

It is the fifth in a series of national consultations, organized by the CARICOM Secretariat to engage representatives from the public and private sectors, civil society, academia, affected youth, families and communities in dialogue in order to develop country-specific social interventions and crime prevention strategies to mitigate the alarmingly high incidence of youth crime and violence in the Caribbean Region. This is just one component of the four-pronged CARICOM Social Development and Crime Prevention Action Plan, which was developed in tandem with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Youth violence in several Caribbean countries is significantly above the world average and threatens the prosperity of the Region. The national consultation provided an exposé on the enormity of the situation in several Member States, including The Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis; and as Member States grapple with solutions to what is obviously another development challenge, it is clear that there is no one approach to crime-fighting, but what is even more painfully clear is the challenge of harnessing resources.

At the opening ceremony of the national consultation, The Bahamas Minister of National Security, the Hon. Dr Bernard Nottage pointed to several Reports – including the most recent Caribbean Human Development Report (2012) – which provided empirical evidence on the social determinants of youth crime and violence. These include poverty, inequality in employment and under-employment, the growing economic gap between the rich and the poor, lack of judicious parental guidance and the reluctance to pursue positive opportunities.

He stated that youth violence was an important development challenge worldwide, therefore, “youth development and youth empowerment must be important parts of our citizen security response…”

In the Minister’s estimation “investments in reducing the risk factors associated with violent offending and victimization, coupled with strategies for boosting youth resilience can reduce or even reverse the negative impact of youth violence…” But the Minister emphasized the need for the Caribbean to rethink its approaches to tackling crime and violence and insisted that “… we must address the fundamental social and economic development issues that predispose our youth to crime and violence…”

He asserted that any response to youth crime and violence must address the structural, societal, community and individual risk factors that account for youth violence.” He also stressed the importance of cooperation and partnerships in the successful implementation of any crime fighting strategy.

The latter note struck a positive chord with the USAID representative John W Armstrong, who underscored the importance of partnerships in tackling what he stated was an enormous challenge for both his country and the Caribbean Region.

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