The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has reached out to stakeholders as it moves to convene a multidisciplinary summit on security in April to have “frank discussions”, amid spiralling crime and violence in the region.
This was among the key outcomes of the 31st Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, which wrapped up in Barbados on Wednesday.
Host Prime Minister and CARICOM Chairman Mia Mottley conceded that the leaders were “deeply concerned about the level of crime and violence in the region”, but stressed it was not a matter that required only the attention of governments.
“It is critical that we bring together not only the Heads of Government of the region…but also partners from faith-based organizations…artists, sports personalities, teachers…[among others] for us to have full and frank discussions about how we as a region, not as individual governments, will begin to contain the difficulties that individual communities and countries are experiencing because of a change in behaviour, a change in values, a change in attitudes,” she said.
“If we are to win the battle in the medium term, we need to treat this as a national and regional discussion….The message from Heads of Government is that this [issue] is urgent.”
According to the Caribbean Community Security Strategy (CCSS), there are high rates of homicide and violent crimes; trafficking in guns, ammunition and illegal narcotics; organized crime; and rising cybercrime. The CCSS also points to growing power of transnational and organized crime networks across member states.
The upshot of this includes: youth violence; gangs; and gender-based violence, especially domestic and sexual violence against women and girls. Increased cyber and financial crimes on an international scale are mainly due to technological advancements.
Statistics indicate that the Caribbean region, while home to 8.5 per cent of the world’s population, disproportionately experiences about 27 per cent of the world’s homicides, and that some Caribbean countries rank among the highest in the world for the number of homicides per 100,000 people.
Trinidad and Tobago is expected to host the security meeting which Mottley said would be held in early April.
That country’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told reporters that regional leaders will be treating the matter as a public health issue.
“We have to get to the root cause of this upsurge. The experts are telling us that given the effects of this kind of behaviour, it is now a public health issue and ought to be looked at in that context,” he said.