Helen Clark: Launch of the Caribbean Human Development Report 2012

08 Feb 2012

Remarks for UNDP Administrator Helen Clark
Launch of the Caribbean Human Development Report 2012: “Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security”
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, February 8, 2012

It is a pleasure to launch the 2012 Caribbean Human Development Report (HDR), “Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security” in Port of Spain. 

This is the first Human Development Report covering this region.  It focuses on patterns and perceptions of citizen security in the Caribbean, and analyzes the impact of insecurity and violence on human development.

Human development, as outlined in the first global HDR launched by UNDP in 1990, is about enlarging people’s freedoms, choices, and capabilities.  High levels of human development generally enable a nation’s people to live longer, healthier lives, be educated, and have a decent standard of living.  Citizen security is intrinsically linked to achieving these ends. 

Violence and fear of victimization disrupts people’s daily lives and may destroy life itself. It limits people’s movement in their communities, and has a direct and indirect impact on health and well-being.  In turn, a lack of opportunities and choices, reflected in high rates of unemployment, poverty, and growing inequality, may result in more violence and crime – creating a negative cycle of under-development and insecurity.   

For countries in this region and elsewhere, high levels of violence and crime jeopardize development progress.   They stifle economic growth, by, for example, adversely affecting the investment climate and tourism numbers.  They increase the cost of law enforcement and of health care for victims – thereby crowding out expenditure on development.    

UNDP is committed to helping countries break out of cycles of violence and insecurity, through efforts which create virtuous cycles of peace, prosperity, and development.  Data collected and analyzed in reports like this one are critical for the evidence-based policymaking which enables such transformations to occur.      

This report uses data on citizen insecurity from seven of the English and Dutch-speaking countries of the region –Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.  It proposes new ways of tackling violence, crime, and security, by moving from a focus on state security to one centred on citizen security.  The report suggests that such an approach would address the multiple causes of increases in violent crime, including social, economic, and political exclusion and its manifestations.  

While the report has been written to inform policy-making and debate in the Caribbean, it builds on a strong tradition of global, regional, and national HDRs, commissioned by UNDP, which have promoted a people-centred approach to development.  Its analysis and recommendations are broad in scope, relevant to a number of settings, and can contribute to the current global dialogue on citizen security.

What have we learnt from the research findings in the report?

The data collected for this report confirm perceptions that citizen insecurity is rising in the region. While the incidence of non-violent crime has remained low by international standards, violent crime, particularly homicides, has surged, and in some cases matches that of some of the most insecure places in the world.

Trinidad and Tobago had relatively low and stable homicide rates from 1990 to 2000, but has seen a substantial rise since. In countries with the highest rates of violence, organized crime and gang violence present great challenges, and citizen security has become a pressing policy issue.

The report suggests that sexual violence and domestic violence are also of concern in the region.  Some eleven per cent of survey respondents reported being victims of violence in the home, with women experiencing all forms of violence at higher rates than men.  Around thirty per cent of women surveyed feared being sexually assaulted.

The data collected suggest that there is a great degree of variation in the rates and structure of crime and violence within the Caribbean.  Country responses need to be tailored to address these specific characteristics. While most countries show low rates of victimization, there are pockets of violent crime which drive the regional averages upwards. Identifying those pockets and the communities affected is critical for designing effective policy solutions.   

How to move from a focus on state security to a focus on citizen security?

A number of countries in the region have taken important steps to address the problem of citizen insecurity. Examples highlighted in the report demonstrate how changes in public institutions - particularly in the police and the judicial systems - can make a difference.

Citizens’ sense of security is greatest where the level of confidence in the institutions of law enforcement and justice is high. The report finds that what matters most for people is having confidence in the capacity of the state to protect its citizens and to deliver justice fairly and transparently.

Overall, Caribbean countries need to build more institutional capacity to respond effectively to the problems of street gangs and organized crime, as well as to gender-based violence.  The report argues that security efforts are more effective when the rights of people are respected, and when communities are involved as active agents in and co-producers of their own security.

UNDP has successfully supported citizen security projects in a number of countries in the region.  In Jamaica, for example, UNDP worked on campaigns to prevent armed violence among young people, and promote arms control.  We can learn from good practices from the region and beyond and build on them.

An important contribution of this report is that it not only outlines the scope and nature of the problem of citizen insecurity, but also provides recommendations for tackling it, based on broad consultations with stakeholders from state institutions, academia, and NGOs.

Allow me to highlight a few of these recommendations aimed at protecting citizens, preventing further violence and crime, and reforming institutions to re-build trust and confidence:

Protection

  • Protection efforts should focus on groups most at risk of crime victimization and least adequately protected by the state under current legislation.

The report makes a number of suggestions, for example: establishing better monitoring systems to prevent child abuse, and providing greater support to families living in areas characterized by high levels of violence.  It also calls for reviews of current legislation which may discriminate against indigenous persons and sexual minorities, or facilitate intolerance and violence against these groups.  

Women and girls are also identified as more vulnerable to certain violence because of gender inequities.  While women are less likely than men to be victims of crimes generally, the data suggest that they are more likely to be victims of rape and sexual assault as well as of domestic violence.  Changing this reality requires better legal protection and the establishment or strengthening of gender-based anti-violence units in police forces. 

Prevention

  • The report calls for new approaches to reducing gang violence and organized crime, focused on empowering young people and offering alternative futures for them and their communities, while also building the infrastructure and institutional capacity to respond effectively to street gangs and organized crime.

Youth unemployment; poor educational opportunities; social exclusion; and exposure to violence at home, in school, and in communities must be addressed, the report argues, to empower young people.  A number of suggestions on how to do that are made in the report. They include gender-differentiated after-school programmes, the promotion of voluntary community service, and the establishment of youth-friendly spaces. 

More specifically, to address gang violence, the report calls for primary prevention programmes for people who are at risk of joining gangs, and setting up programmes to assist members to leave gangs. 

Building social cohesion in communities through policies which give people, particularly young people, a sense of being valued and belonging to community and country regardless of ethnic, sex, class or other differences is very important.    

Reform

  • New approaches to citizen security should focus on reform of the justice and police systems, and enlist communities as valuable partners in reducing violence.  

To build the necessary trust and confidence of communities, a number of specific recommendations are made - from tackling the bottlenecks in criminal justice systems, which cause delays in processing cases, to fighting corruption in judicial systems, and reviewing sentencing policies to minimize the use of imprisonment.  Alternative sanctions are recommended for juveniles, first time offenders, and older and non-violent offenders.

In summary, the ultimate goal of human development is to expand peoples’ choices and give all people the opportunity to lead lives which they value. This report, informed by the human development paradigm, contributes to our understanding of citizen insecurity, and proposes alternative ways of thinking about and tackling crime and violence in the Caribbean.

Important work is being done in the region to promote citizen security, but more can be done to build safer societies and promote people’s choices.

Strengthening citizen security will require placing more emphasis on policies which aim to pre-empt, prevent, and protect.  It will require the active engagement of citizens, more responsive and accountable institutions, and a renewed focus on building social cohesion.

This evidence-based report offers recommendations which can be taken up by communities, civil society organisations, and various levels of government in the nations and territories of the Caribbean. UNDP stands ready to support in these efforts.

Leadership
Helen

Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme on 17 April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues.


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