The UN agencies issued their appeal as the world observes the Global Week of Action against Gun Violence, and as Jamaica confronts what has been reported as one of the bloodiest periods of gang- and gun-related homicides in the nation’s history.
UNDP and UNICEF expressed deep concern for the effect of the spiraling murder rate on children and their communities, and ultimately the country’s economic development. The agencies said small arms, which include machine guns, shotguns, assault rifles and other deadly firearms, are the dominant weapons used in the violence sweeping the island.
They noted that while measures to remove the illegal guns from communities are necessary, their illegal trade needs to be urgently controlled. At the same time, coordinated, long-term social investment targeting the most vulnerable communities must be immediately strengthened.
The UN agencies drew attention to the recently published report, “The Impact of Small Arms on Children and Adolescents in Central America and the Caribbean”, which indicates that the Latin America and Caribbean region has the highest rates of armed violence in the world and 42% of all homicides globally.
The report states further that small arms are widely available in the region and the trade in arms is highly lucrative, with a $USD 3.5 – 10.1 million market for the legal trade and much more for the illegal trade.
UNICEF Representative Bertrand Bainvel and UNDP Representative Minh Pham noted with deep regret that over the past five years in Jamaica, more than 300 children, mostly boys, have been murdered, and that in the last three years, firearms have been responsible for almost half of all murders of children.
They stressed that as a signatory to the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, Jamaica is obligated to implement a number of measures to control and eradicate armed violence.
The UN agencies commended the Government for the important steps it has already taken to address the illicit trade in firearms, and pledged their support to the Jamaican Government in devising and implementing sustainable measures for small arms reduction and control and in strengthening other interventions to prevent and mitigate the impact of armed violence.
The Representatives, referring to the statement of Sergio Duarte, UN High Representative on Disarmament Affairs, on the occasion of the Global Week of Action against Gun Violence, stressed that Governments must be able to exercise legitimate authority and provide safety, security, socio-economic opportunities and development to their citizens. This, they emphasized, is crucial to preventing citizens from seeking to guarantee their security through alternative forms of self-protection, retributive justice, or resorting to armed violence.
Over the last two months, UNICEF and UNDP, in collaboration with the Ministry of National Security, the Violence Prevention Alliance and other partners, have hosted multi-country and national consultations on small arms and light weapons to examine what works throughout the Caribbean and Central America and to map priority actions for Jamaica.
Based on the outcomes of these meetings and on lessons learned from existing violence prevention and reduction programmes supported by UNDP and UNICEF, the agencies are underscoring the need for a regional approach to stem the trafficking of small arms, and for holistic measures that not only address gun control but also the structural causes of violence and crime. They both recommend a stronger focus on scaling up social interventions aimed at reducing disparities, creating sustainable livelihoods for youth, men and women, and at improving conflict resolution, parenting and life skills.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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