October 28, 2020

The Editor Speaks: What really is the picture in the Caribbean?

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You only have to watch the syndicated US game show “Wheel of Fortune” to hear the words “Prize Puzzle” and the winner’s face and audience reaction when the prize is a trip to the Caribbean. Cruises to the Caribbean are the most popular in the world. The Caribbean as a whole is one of the most sought after places to take a vacation. The picture of clear blue skies, sweet breezes, warm sunshine, beautiful oceans, palm trees, coconuts, sipping Pina Polados at an outside bar in skimp clothing, soft yellow sand, etc. Wow. Idyllic. Paradise. Even heaven comes to mind.

We are so lucky to be living in one of the best of all the Caribbean islands. Peace and tranquility……..

That is the perception of the Caribbean and this is what it was. However, the latest report published by the United Nations Development Programme has revealed crime has become the main challenge threatening economies and livelihoods in Caribbean countries. The Caribbean Human Development Report 2012: “Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security” says “violence erodes the very foundation of the democratic processes in the region and imposes high social, economic and cultural costs.” Although only 8.5 percent of the world’s population live in the Caribbean, the region has 27 percent of the world’s homicides!

Our next-door neighbours, Jamaica, has the highest murder rate of any Caribbean country and only two countries in the world, El Salvador and Honduras have more. Staggering isn’t it? The total cost of gang-related crime on the Caribbean economy is between 2.8 percent and 4 percent of GDP.

The Report was launched in Trinidad last week and contains this startling conclusion:

“Violence and crime are therefore perceived by a majority of Latin American and Caribbean citizens as a top pressing challenge. The resulting alarm has often led to short-sighted, mano dura (iron fist) policies, which have proven ineffective and, at times, detrimental to the rule of law.”

The report goes on to say, “The situation varies much among and within countries. Broadly speaking, there are high- and low-crime countries in the region, and differences exist even within each of the sub-regions (i.e., South America, Central America, and the Caribbean). However perceived insecurity and citizens’ concern are independent of actual crime rates, so that mano dura policies are not exclusive of high-
crime countries.

Can we honestly say that we here in the Cayman Islands are outside the statistics and recommendations in this report? We were not one of the countries surveyed by the UN so nothing contained in it is applicable to us? Right? You are mistaken if you believe this. Have you read the blogs on all the media websites (including iNews Cayman) relating to our very own police force? Read on:

“Of primary concern with citizen security is the issue of public confidence in state capacity to protect citizens and ensure justice. If citizens lack confidence in the police, the judiciary and other public authorities, no amount of repression will restore security. The success of any law enforcement system depends on the willingness of the people to participate and contribute. For the state to enjoy the trust and commitment of the people, it must strive to eradicate exclusion, improve transparency and create opportunities that encourage a sense of belonging for all.”

A key message of the report is that “Caribbean countries need to focus on a model of security based on the human development approach, whereby citizen security is paramount, rather than on the traditional state security model, whereby the protection of the state is the chief aim. Indeed, the contrast between prevention on the one hand and repression and coercion on the other is ill conceived. Social inclusion to help prevent crime and violence and efficient and effective law enforcement are by no means incompatible or mutually exclusive. In a truly democratic society, broad based social inclusion and swift criminal justice–or ‘prevention’ and ‘coercion’—serve to reinforce and complement each other.”

“Violence limits people’s choices, threatens their physical integrity, and disrupts their daily lives,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.

How true. A full copy of the report can be found at: www.beta.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/corporate/HDR/Latin%20America%20and%20Caribbean%20HDR/C_bean_HDR_Jan25_2012_3MB.pdf

I urge everyone to read it.

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