Honourable Khemraj Ramjattan, Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Co-operative Republic of Guyana
Chair, Dr Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary General, Human and Social Development, CARICOM Secretariat
His Excellency, José Maria Fernandez Lopez de Turiso, Plenipotentiary Representative of Spain to CARICOM
Ministers of Government of CARICOM
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Dr Martin Baptiste, Operations Officer, Education, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)
Dr Astell Collins, Chief Executive Officer,
BD1 (Be Dee One) Leadership Development
Government Officials of CARICOM Member States
Youth and Students from across the Region
Representatives of Faith-Based Organizations
Representatives of the Private Sector and Labour
Representatives of Civil Society Organizations
Members of the Media
Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you to this important CARICOM Forum on Youth Crime and Violence. I bring you greetings from the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, who deeply regrets his inability to be with you here today. The issue of the development of Youth, in all its facets, is one to which he is soundly committed. He has asked me to convey his best wishes to you.
This Forum has brought together a wide range of stakeholders to examine challenges and solutions related to an important development issue that threatens to consume the gains we have made as a Region and as individual Member States, in preparing our young people to live productive and safe lives and to contribute to the further development of our Region. I refer, of course, to the increasing incidences of violence which are occurring throughout our Region, in our homes, our schools, in our streets and public places and in our communities. I am happy to note that one section of our programme provides us the opportunity to envision a violence-free Community and to plan to work towards that now seemingly elusive goal.
The Region has not been silent on these issues. The Report of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development (CCYD) presented to Heads of Government in January 2010, recognised the seriousness of crime and violence and the need for concerted action. The CCYD report identified crime and violence as the number one concern of youth. It also identifies young people as under-utilized resources and partners in development. It underscores the importance of addressing youth needs and interests to achieve social cohesion, economic resilience and integration. The Declaration of Paramaribo, issued by Heads of Government on the basis of the Report of the Commission also sends a strong signal of the intent of Member States to cooperate and address issues of concern related to youth.
Our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Strategic Plan, based on a resilience framework which focuses on social, economic, environmental and technological resilience, has laid out specific measures across a wide spectrum to ensure comprehensive treatment of crime and violence. The implementation of the Strategic Plan will be addressed through co-ordinated action among Member States, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Community Institutions.
Youth are often identified as both the main perpetrators and victims of crime, especially violent crime. The theme of this Forum ‘Youth Crime and Violence – Breaking the Cycle: Exploring New Platforms for Transformation’ challenges us to break out of the old moulds for addressing these issues and to come up with new and innovative solutions. One negative characteristic of the older initiatives was the lack of involvement of youth in developing and implementing solutions. This does not mean that the burden should be shifted and put on the shoulders of the Youth. The adults have a continuous role to play and must be held responsible and accountable. There is now greater awareness that youth must be given a platform to share their views on the challenge of youth violence and to address the components of an environment that would make them feel safe and secure and empowered to make positive choices. This forms a major focus of this forum as we begin by listening to the voices of a wide range of youth from across the Region, through a recently completed social media survey. I am encouraged that together, we will indeed begin to get the right tools to break the cycle of violence and pave the way for a transformed Region.
Violence eventually affects everyone, either directly or indirectly. A safe environment is particularly crucial for the development of our children both in the community and at school. It is recognised, for example, that the escalation of violence in schools has negative impact on students, teachers and the teaching and learning environment and learning itself. Violence in the home can both be influenced by the community and influence the community at the same time through negative definitions of social behaviour and a lack of non-violent conflict resolution skills. The cycle here can become self-perpetuating and needs to be broken.
Addressing violence in any of its forms is not a simple task. It requires sound partnerships and approaches which are multi-sectoral in nature. Important actors include policy-makers, youth, parents, educators, researchers, protective services, the justice sector, faith-based organizations, the private sector, and those members of civil society who give their time and effort through various non-governmental organizations. Each and every individual has a role to play. An all-inclusive approach is crucial. At the level of government, we are yet to perfect the art of meaningful cooperation and coordinated action between and among ministries and departments to achieve effective solutions to development challenges that confront us. Violence is just one of these.
This Forum focuses heavily on human development, a process largely built on the inter-relationship between and among people, opportunities and choices. It is a process which focuses on creating an environment and opportunities for people, individually and collectively, to develop to their full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives. The creation of an environment where people feel safe is therefore important to this process. As together, we explore new mechanisms for breaking the cycle of youth crime and violence, I would urge that we keep in mind the characterization of youth posited by the Commission on Youth Development, that sees them as assets, under-utilized resources and important partners in their own development and the development of our Region. In this regard, our task is to develop those resources and expend every effort to challenge and overcome the economic and social disabilities, including crime and violence that seek to hinder their full development. Youth development means development of the immediate family, the community and the Region. This Forum also provides ample opportunity for us to recognize the value of our regional integration process in seeking collective responses and working together for the benefit.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The convening of this Forum would not have been possible without important collaboration with two important Development Partners, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Kingdom of Spain, who provided resources to enable the physical presence of so many persons here. In addition, the Government of Spain has provided resources for a pilot project focused on reducing youth crime and youth violence in schools and communities, currently being undertaken in five Member States of the Community – Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago. Ministers of Education, education officials, principals, students and teachers from pilot schools in this project are present at this Forum and will share with you some of the new platforms being explored for transformation. This Forum is an integral component of that project. The plan is to evaluate that pilot and to roll out similar initiatives throughout the Community.
I wish to express our sincere appreciation to the Kingdom of Spain and to the Caribbean Development Bank.
I also wish to express appreciation to the media and to all who have worked so conscientiously to make this Forum a reality.
A special word of appreciation to the Directorate of Human and Social Development within the CARICOM Secretariat for organizing this Forum.
I am confident that at the conclusion of this Forum, valuable ideas and solutions for breaking the cycle of violence would have been explored, valuable networks would have been created to continue our collaboration, implementable plans would have been forged and we will all leave here even more determined to work together to break that cycle of youth crime and violence that threatens to engulf and consume so many.
I thank you and wish you success.