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High crime rate hampering Caribbean economic development – UN

By January 21, 2014No Comments


imageA United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report notes that 8.5 per cent of the global population resides in Latin America and the Caribbean and yet 27 per cent of the world murders take place in the region.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday January 20, 2014, CMC – A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report on the region has found that high levels of violent crime are hindering development in the Caribbean.

The report notes that 8.5 per cent of the global population resides in Latin America and the Caribbean and yet 27 per cent of the world murders take place in the region.

The report is critical of what it termed the hardline “Iron Fist” policies of Caribbean countries to deal with crime, describing them as “short-sighted … policies, which have proven ineffective and, at times, detrimental to the rule of law”.

The report released last week, notes that cracking down hard on criminals is not enough if corruption within the police is seen to be an issue and they are not seen as a “legitimate” force. Challenges facing the justice system include improving police performance and effectiveness; eradicating corruption and promoting legitimacy; and stamping out abuses of power in order to build legitimacy and protect human rights.

The Caribbean Human Development Report (HDR) 2012: Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security, commissioned by the UNDP as the first HDR on the Caribbean, analyses the impact of insecurity and violence on human development, within the development context of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Most importantly, the Caribbean HDR provides evidence based recommendations on how to better address insecurity and violence in the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean countries.

The Caribbean is diverse, comprising several geographic groupings, including island countries and nations on the mainland. Seven countries were selected for research, in order to represent variations in geography, population size, level of development, and the degree and character of the problem of insecurity.

The selected countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The UNDP said the consultations involved more than 450 people including experts, practitioners and a variety of institutional actors and interested parties from across the region. The report also relies on secondary data from official sources and academic research.

“The Caribbean HDR presents the opportunity for the people of the region to learn more about each other and to enhance collective learning and solutions.  It does not attempt to explore every aspect of the security situation in the sub-region or to replicate or to improve on previous efforts, but rather, to extend them,” said the UNDP.

It said there were unavoidable overlaps between the HDR and earlier reports dealing with the issue of crime and insecurity, but there is a deliberate attempt to minimize these.

“The Caribbean HDR limits the discussion of drug-trafficking and organized crime to their national traits and the violence they generate,” it added.

The report points to the failings in the justice system. Delays and backlogs in processing criminal cases contributes to low conviction rates, while pre-trial detention is “over-used” and exacerbates prison over-crowding.

Prison capacity is described as “overwhelmed”, and faults in the system have had a negative effect on the “capacity for fairness, effectiveness, transparency and accountability”.

The UNDP said that more than 1,200 people in the seven Caribbean islands were surveyed to gauge the perception of crime and justice in the region, with many of the respondents indicating that they live in fear of violent crime and had little confidence in the police.

Almost 10 per cent of those questioned had been victims of crime in the 12 months up to the survey. The numbers ranged from a low of six per cent in Jamaica to a high of 11 per cent in Antigua, Barbuda, St. Lucia and Barbados.

The number of rapes is higher than the world average, and 30 per cent of females surveyed said they lived in fear of being sexually assaulted. Twelve per cent of woman and nine per cent of men feared domestic violence. The percentage of those who had actually experienced domestic violence ranged between six per cent in Jamaica and 17 per cent in Guyana.

The survey also found that the levels of confidence in the police were low.

In Trinidad and Tobago only 4.6 per cent of respondents said they had “a great deal of confidence in the police” while Barbadians had the highest level of confidence within the region, with 16.7 per cent agreeing with that statement.

The report found that the region has a particular problem with drug trafficking and the violence and corruption that surrounds the trade.

“The Caribbean is a critical transit route between drug producers and large-scale consumers. An improved worldwide policy addressing the problem of addictive drugs could contribute considerably to reducing levels of violence and social disruption in the Caribbean,” the reported added.


IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.