CARICOM Chair: Region must continue to address crime and violence as public health issue

 CARICOM Chair: Region must continue to address crime and violence as public health issue

Even as the Region focuses on recovery post-COVID-19 and the health and socioeconomic wellbeing of its people, it must remain committed to addressing crime and violence as a public health issue, according to CARICOM Chair, Prime Minister Keith Rowley.

Speaking on Wednesday at the opening of the Thirty-Second Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago said pandemic-induced shut-downs have contributed to increases in domestic violence cases. He said there were also “unconscionable acts of violence against women and children in our Community”.

In his remarks, Prime Minister Rowley, who holds responsibility for security in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet, also spoke of illicit trafficking in goods and persons in the Region and said there had to be a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing those challenges.

“Another issue of great concern to our Community, is the deepening sense of insecurity triggered by the scourge of illicit trafficking in goods and persons in our Region. Such threats to Law Enforcement and Security, specifically the illicit trafficking in persons, have been particularly disconcerting as the Community continues its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. These illicit activities and their violent spill-over effects further intensify citizen insecurity throughout our Region.

 “We have acknowledged that to address these challenges, it is insufficient to rely on Law Enforcement alone and that a multi-disciplinary approach, which engages various sectors of our Community, must be adopted,” the CARICOM Chair said.

He added that he hoped the Community could soon refocus its attention and efforts to convene a high-level summit of Member States and regional multi-sectoral partners to treat with crime and violence as a public health issue in the Region. At the last Intersessional Meeting, Prime Minister Rowley had committed to hosting the summit in April last year in Trinidad and Tobago, but, because of the pandemic, the meeting was not convened.

The Chairman of CARICOM also zeroed in on the high incidences of mortality due to non-communicable diseases and called for the redoubling of efforts to explore the relationship with food and nutrition security.

“It is my hope that our deliberations on Advancing the Regional Agenda on Food and Nutrition Security can assist in this regard while also addressing the Region’s significant food import bill,” Dr. Rowley said.

Food and nutrition security has become increasingly challenged by a number of factors including the COVID-19 pandemic with its disruptions to productivity and access to healthy foods.