Caribbean nations appeal to UN to aid in fight against violent crime

By Tony Best

NEW YORK, United States, Tuesday October, 11, 2011 – Battling the scourge of rising crime and violence and some of the world’s highest murders rates, Caribbean nations are appealing to the United Nation for help.

They are urging the world body to help them stem the unrelenting flow of guns and ammunition to the region.

From the Bahamas, Jamaica and St. Kitts-Nevis, countries with some of the world’s highest homicide rates, Trinidad and Tobago, which already has a state of emergency in place because of crime, and Antigua to Barbados and St. Lucia, the plea to the world body is essentially the same: act quickly to pass an effective global small arms treaty that would make it much more difficult for rich North American and European countries to export deadly weapons that are fueling crime.

Take the case of the Bahamas. Its Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, T. Brent Symonette, was particularly plainspoken about crime and violence at home and the pressing need for international action.

“We are presently confronted by high levels of crime, too many of which involve the use of small arms and light weapons,” Symonette told the General Assembly. “We are keenly aware of the global threats posed by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, which is linked to other aspects of transnational organized crime, including illicit trafficking in drugs.

“The Bahamas, both nationally and internationally is acting so as to reduce the threats posed to our society by the criminal element,” he added. Nationally we are continuing a program of reform of our criminal laws, modernizing and expanding our court system and strengthening targeted programs to address social ills. Regionally, with sister member states of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) we are undertaking a number of measures to combat the challenges posed by crime and violence through the region’s crime and security framework.”

That’s why the Bahamas was “committed to the implementation” of any UN program of action designed “to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and weapons,” he added.

Symonette’s counterpart in Jamaica was just as direct.

As he explained it, “Jamaica, like its Caricom partners, continues to face severe threats to our long term socio-economic development from the illicit trade in narcotic drugs, small arms and light weapons and ammunition,” was the way Dr.  Ken Baugh put it. “We will remain resolute in our fight against the menace both locally and abroad. We have achieved marked reduction in crime and criminal activities over the past year, with our multi-faceted strategy to stem the problems as well as through the implementation of social intervention and social transformation initiatives to stem the problem of crime and violence.”

But international action was badly needed, Dr. Baugh said.

“We firmly believe, however, that we will not see the full impact of these efforts without an international regime that regulates the sale and transfer of conventional weapons, in particular, small arms and light weapons and ammunition,” he warned.

Trinidad and Tobago, the only country in the Caribbean with a state of emergency to fight crime, described as “ambitious” the UN plan to hold a conference next July to negotiate a small arms treaty.

As Dr. Surujrattan Rambachan, the Republic’s Foreign Minister saw it, the “illegal proliferation of conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons which have been diverted from the legal market to the illicit trade” was a major problem.

Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts-Nevis and didn’t skirt the issue.

Baldwin Spencer, Antigua & Barbuda’s Prime Minister, went to the heart of the matter when he described handguns as “weapons of mass destruction” which “have wrought devastating impact on the countries of our (Caribbean) region over the last decade,” causing a “rise in crime and violence.”  As he saw it, the “weapons have had a significant adverse impact on the socio-economic and human development and security” of the Caribbean.

That explains why the World Bank ranked Caribbean island-nations and coastal states as a region with the “higher murder rates than another region of the world.” As a matter of fact 70 per cent of those murders” involved the use of small arms and light weapons, “Spencer pointed out.

When it came for Barbados to speak, its leader, Freundel Stuart, said that his country had “experienced firsthand the deleterious effects” of the trade in such weapons and he pledged full support for next year’s conference whose “ultimate objective” must be a legally binding, robust and comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty “which imposes the highest possible standards for the transfer of conventional weapons, including small arms, light weapons and ammunition.”

St. Lucia agreed with its Caribbean neighbors.

Its Ambassador, Donatus St. Aimee, explained that the island-nation was “grappling with security threats engendered by the illicit trade in firearms and narcotics” and the “associated rise in crime and violence” which were having a “significant adverse impact on the socio-economic and human development of our countries.”

St. Lucia, he went on, intended to “spare no effort” in working towards the armed trade treaty.

St. Kitts-Nevis’ Deputy Prime Minister, Sam Condor, used the word “imperative” to describe the action by the UN to solve the problem of “easy access” to small arms” in the Caribbean. (Source: Carib News) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)