An Initiative for ‘a safe, cohesive and just Caribbean’ : CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy Review Steering Committee

Dec 15, 2017

On November 20, 2017, the first meeting of the CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy (CCSS) Review Steering Committee, organized by UNDP in Trinidad and Tobago and CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

The objective of this meeting was to launch a first review of the 2013 CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy with the aim to improve the impact and effectiveness of the Strategy. This initiative by CARICOM IMPACS and UNDP TT is an example of the UN’s global commitment to help states implement and attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 16, which is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful, safe and inclusive societies through effective and accountable institutions of government providing citizens with safety, security and justice.

The CCSS, a historic document representing the collective thinking of CARICOM Member States on crime and security issues and policies, was adopted in February 2013 to provide the Region with a cohesive policy framework and a reference to guide decisions on security.

At the Meeting, a ‘CCSS Review Steering Committee” was established to guide the process of determining where the Community is with respect to the implementation of the Crime and Security Strategy; including its usefulness and continued relevance, as well as extent of implementation. The Meeting selected the Chief of Defense Staff of the Jamaica Defense Force, Major General Rocky Meade, as the chair and Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams of Trinidad and Tobago as the vice-chair.

This meeting brought together the Chairs of the CARICOM Standing Committees of Operational Heads which include; Commissioners of Police, Chiefs of Military, Chiefs of Immigration, Comptroller of Customs, Heads of Intelligence and Financial Investigative Units, and Heads of Prisons and Correctional Services. Other participants included high level representative from international and regional agencies such as; the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), CARICOM Secretariat, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the  Regional Security System (RSS), as well as representatives from the University of West Indies, regional technical experts and civil society.

There was collective agreement among participants that security is the foundation for achieving sustainable economic, social and environmental development. It is at the core of Caribbean societies and is necessary for the CARICOM region to grow and prosper. The strategic review is a step in the right direction as calculated decisions are being made towards lessening security risks and improving responses to threats that can undermine the well-being of Caribbean nations and implementing a strategic plan that will enhance citizen security, peace and prosperity for our CARICOM region.

The Role of Civil Society in Crime Prevention

In addition to discussing the parameters of the Review, the Committee members shared their experience with civil society crime prevention activities and discussed the important role of youth and civil society in crime prevention recounting the importance of integrating local and national efforts.

The issue in the Caribbean of young men being ‘left behind’ by a combination of low expectations, lack of role models, a skewed sense of masculinity and strong presence of violence in communities is prevalent in a number of CARICOM states.  One of the key concerns is that young men join gangs to earn respect and recognition and gain financial benefits, thereby perpetuating a cycle of violence. 

The CCSS Review Steering Committee falls under a priority area ‘A safe, cohesive and just Caribbean’ of the United Nations Multi-country Sustainable Development Framework (UN MSDF), the business plan for the UN agencies, funds and programmes in the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean for the period 2017 -2021. This priority area acknowledges that insufficient citizen security restricts the people of the Caribbean to live full and productive lives. It acknowledges conditions that will promote security and rule of law as well as addresses the root causes that perpetuate violence, including attitudes, vulnerabilities and lack of access to justice.

UNDP’s work is well represented in the Road Map for SDG Implementation in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. Both Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have benefited from SDGs MAPS (Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support) Missions, which have produced roadmaps to prioritise key areas of intervention in the achievement of Agenda 2030 and national development objectives. SDG accelerators were proposed for Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica to create secure, cohesive and just society, including improving access to justice and strengthening the effectiveness of the judiciary system.

Related Issues for the Caribbean

For the Caribbean countries to adopt and work to achieve the SDGs, structural challenges must be resolved. Crime and violence are at an unacceptable level in Latin America and Caribbean. Violence in a fragmented society has negative effects on not only personal level, but also community level, and ultimately on economic growth. In a recent study by the Inter-American Development Bank the “The Costs of Crime and Violence New Evidence and Insights in Latin America and the Caribbean” estimates the direct annual cost of crime and violence in Latin America and the Caribbean at $261 billion or 3.55 percent of GDP. The costs of these high crime rates are significant; people change their behavior to avoid crime or engage in criminal activity; households spend to protect themselves from crime; firms reduce their investment and incur productivity losses; and governments shift the allocation of resources. The region accounts for 9% of the world’s population, but contributes nearly one-third of its homicide victims, making it the most violent region outside of war zones.

To rectify this issue, we need to address:

Root causes and risk factors of crime: especially, the correlation between gangs, weapons smuggling, fraud and organized criminal activities.

Challenges in the judicial system: case back logs, issues with policing, recidivism, issues with data collection and sharing, and the large number of male youth between 14 and 24 years who enter the criminal justice system.

Related Project

A joint project of USAID, the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago, and UNDP: Juvenile Justice Project.

In taking a step forward to control and eradicate the issue of juvenile delinquency, USAID and the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago have partnered with the UNDP on the Juvenile Justice Project. This project seeks to open two new children’s courts in the coming months and transform the child justice system, where a rehabilitative and less retributive approach which be utilized. Focus will be on preventive and diversionary programmes, which are expected to reduce the rate of repeat offending and keep young people, particularly children and young men, out of criminal justice system.  

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