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Magdy Martinez-Soliman
UNDP Resident Representative, a.i.

I wish to start by welcoming our Impact Partners: Drs. Adam Baird (who I understand is attending virtually), Matthew Bishop and Dylan Kerrigan from Coventry University, Sheffield University and University of the West Indies (UWI) respectively. Many thanks for the collaboration with UNDP, which dates to 2016, when the ‘Breaking Bad’ research commenced. I wish to congratulate you on the successful conclusion of the first phase of this work.

I also wish to thank the Government and Civil Society Partners, who made the research a success as well as institutions that have been invited to contribute to the Policy Dialogue of today. Notably the CARICOM IMPACS; Ministry of National Security; Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force; Trinidad and Tobago Police Service; the Citizens Security Programme; National Crime Prevention Programme; National Drug Council; Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD), the Roots Foundation, other research institutions, as well as other critical stakeholders.

This event is a typical example of UNDP using its convening power to bring together multiple stakeholders (from a regional organization, to government agencies and the civil society) to reflect upon the findings of an empirical research and to attempt linking them to policy responses, in line with the SDG- Goal 16, which sees conflict prevention and peacebuilding as critical building blocks of just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

The timing of this Policy Roundtable is auspicious, coming as it does when the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has taken proactive measures to: (a) adopt and implement a National Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the empaneling of an Inter-Ministerial Committee to oversee its implementation; (b) rekindle confidence in the National Security Architecture through new high-level appointments; and (c) launch and commence the implementation of the National Crime Prevention Programme (NCPP).

It is instructive that the UNDP has been working closely with the Government to contribute to the success of these initiatives and the discussions today would provide additional impetus for us to reflect on how we can do more, particularly in ensuring synergy between government priorities and the works of non-state actors.

Key Issues & Expectations:

I would like to thank our academic colleagues for producing this well conducted empirical research, the details of which they will soon share with us in the follow-up presentations.

However, before they do, permit me to use the privilege of chairing this session to, in addition to the guiding questions in the Agenda, enumerate a number of posers, related to each of the three levels of analysis in the ‘Key Finding’ section, that I will like us to reflect upon, in the course of our discussions today:

One, from the synopsis shared with participants, I am intrigued by what could be described as the MACRO-level political economy of guns and violence, whereby the residues of crime - such as weapons as proceeds of drug trafficking become instruments in rupturing the social cohesion in communities. My reflection is that: beyond describing this interplay, is it possible to critically examine and proffer policy recommendations on how this political economy of drug trafficking - can be more effectively tackled at source, to prevent their residues from poisoning the communities?

Second, at the MESO level, it is interesting that the empirical research was able to establish connections between community vulnerability and the international drug trade. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago, as if taking a cue from this research finding, recently launched the NCPP which seeks to draw on community-based resources to build resilience against crime. The key poser for us therefore, is: What should be the minimum nature, elements and strategies of engagements by the Government with community stakeholders, sufficient for the re-establishment of a social contract and capable of strengthening the resilience of communities to the drug trade?

Third, at the MICRO level, how can the masculinized gangland culture which has proved remarkably resilient in poor communities be tamed and transformed into brotherhoods of positive change in communities?

My view is that discussing these posers (in addition to other perspectives brought to the table by the other participants) will be tremendously useful for our partners in Government, particularly the NCPP and TTPS, as well as the civil society, and will help us to move swiftly from ‘debate to action’. They will also help us in establishing the most effective pathways for implementing the recommendations of the research.

In closing, I would like to express once again, the gratitude of UNDP to the research team and all the partners for their hard work, commitment and resilience. Thanks also to CARICOM IMPACS for gladly accepting to host us at a very short notice. I wish us all fruitful deliberations.


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