Jamaica PM calls for more international support to fight crime in the Caribbean

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Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller addresses the United Nations Security Council and the UN Headquarters in New York yesterday. In the background at left is Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator A.J Nicholson QC, while at right is Jamaica’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Courtenay Rattray. (Photo: UN)

NEW YORK, United States, Friday July 31, 2015 – Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller told the United Nations yesterday that Caribbean countries need greater international support to fight global organized criminals and reduce crime, particularly gun-related murders.

Addressing the UN Security Council in New York, she said these small countries also require comprehensive debt relief and tangible development financing to increase their capacity to invest a greater share of their national budgets in effective crime fighting, border control and other domestic, regional and global peace and security initiatives.

She was at the time giving the Caribbean perspective at a special open debate on peace and security challenges facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Simpson Miller pointed out that transnational organized crime represents the gravest threat to peace and security in the CARICOM region.

“Extensive, open coastlines facilitate various forms of illicit trafficking in drugs, arms, ammunition and people, particularly our women and children,” the Jamaican leader said, adding that the guns-for-drugs trade remains a principal strategy of the international criminal network.

“It is well known that we do not manufacture weapons or drive the demand for drugs, yet they find their way to our shores. It must be emphasized that these activities account for the high levels of gun-related crime that our countries are experiencing.”

Simpson Miller said it was cause for alarm that in 2013, 70 per cent of all homicides in the Caribbean featured the use of a firearm.

She added that countries in the region, well aware that these threats combine to undermine law and order and impede economic growth and social development, have been taking steps to arrest the situation within the constraints of their limited resources.

However, she said, domestic policy responses – though significant – are insufficient because of the small size and porous borders of these nations, as well as the fact that they are prone to natural hazards and external shocks.

“The success of many SIDS in respect of stemming the drug trade has been nothing short of remarkable given our resource constraints. While we have achieved some promising results in tackling these threats, there is more that needs to be done,” she said.

“However, a limited financial base, weak technical capacity and inadequate concrete global support continue to hamper our efforts. Stronger global partnerships and more efficient forms of cooperation are needed to help SIDS in the fight against the scourge of transnational organized crime.”

The Jamaica leader also pointed out that countries’ import dependency, reliance on external markets, technology transfer, international capital flows and foreign expertise, as well as the constraints of high debt burdens, also serve to reduce their ability to mount effective national responses to domestic, regional and global peace and security challenges.

She also noted that limited natural and human resource bases in Caribbean small states and persistent and significant external trade imbalances, fiscal deficits and unsustainable public debt levels – averaging 70.5 per cent in the region – have also constrained economic growth in the region.

This is compounded by these nations’ middle income designation, which limits their ability to access critical development financing.

Simpson Miller therefore supported a proposal by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), for debt relief for countries in this region.

“Comprehensive debt relief for Caribbean SIDS that would gradually write off 100 per cent of their multi-lateral debt stock is timely. In our view, this proposal is worthy of serious consideration and support from the international community,” she said.

This, the Jamaican prime minister added, is critical for building resilience in the face of climate change and to overcome the constraints imposed by small size, resource scarcity, geography and inappropriate global classification based mainly on per capita income.

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