Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, says the Caribbean needs a more informed approach to tackle crime and violence, in order to improve regional security.
“It is a reality that our region, Latin America and the Caribbean, is a high-violence region. It is for this reason [we need] a more informed approach to combat crime and violence,” Holness said.
He was addressing the opening ceremony for the Caribbean Nations Security Conference (CANSEC) at the Hilton Hotel in Montego Bay, St. James, on Wednesday (June 7).
Prime Minister Holness, who addressed the conference virtually, underscored that “security is one of the greatest challenges affecting the lives of our people and the development prospects of our individual states”.
He noted that Latin America and the Caribbean has an average of 15 homicides per 100,000 of population, compared to a global average of approximately six per 100,000.
Holness pointed out that Jamaica has enhanced measures to interdict illegal weapons at the ports of entry, and while the measures continue to “bear fruit”, the high levels of homicides and shootings signal that more needs to be done.
“As we continue to work alongside our trusted US partners, we in the region look forward to significant strides in the control of the flow of weapons and ammunition,” he said.
CANSEC is being held to strengthen the island’s partnerships with the United States (US), Caribbean governments, as well as regional and multilateral institutions.
He noted that the conference represents an important opportunity for regional security practitioners, bilateral partners, stakeholders from regional organisations and academia to have “frank discussions” on the actions required to change the region’s present reality from a high-violence region to one that is “safe and secure”.
The event is being co-hosted by Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss-Gorman and US General Laura Richardson, Commander of the US Southern Command.
In her remarks, Rear Admiral Wemyss-Gorman outlined that many countries across the region are confronted with the rising negative impact of transnational organised crimes.
“It has always been our position within the Caribbean that, given our shared geographic space and shared challenges, a cohesive and coordinated approach is necessary to ensure our security and our development prospects. This remains true even more so today,” she said.
The CDS noted that it was against this backdrop that the conference was being held under the theme, ‘Strengthening Regional Security through Informed Action’.
“This year’s theme deliberately captures what is required of us as security and defence officials. We must strengthen our approach to longstanding, new and emerging threats impacting our region. Within this conference’s timeframe, our focus must be limited and to that end we must focus our attention on cybersecurity and cyberdefence, climate change and environmental threats,” CDS Wemyss-Gorman stated.
In attendance at the conference to hold bilateral talks were Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Horace Chang, and Police Commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson.
They were joined by several security and defence stakeholders from across the region.
The week-long conference, which commenced on Monday (June 5), is scheduled to conclude on Friday (June 9).