Focus on Citizen Security at UNDP workshop

Media engage in discussions with UNDP representatives.

The Caribbean Human Development Report on Citizen Security is one of the most far-reaching compilations of its kind. So says Wesley Gibbings, President of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM). At a training workshop organized for Caribbean media at United Nations House in Barbados from November 7-9, UN representatives said the reasoning behind their intensified focus on the report was to further “illuminate other dimensions of the problems.”
The United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Human Development Report on Citizen Security was released in February 2012 and the report analyzed seven Dutch and English speaking Caribbean islands (Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, Guyana and Surinam) and highlighted crime challenges faced not only in the mentioned islands, but also throughout the region.
The report’s impact was hugely significant and the purpose of the UNDP’s media engagement was an effort to keep the issues alive. Facilitators made it clear they weren’t particularly looking for media coverage; the report was just meant to draw attention to the issues.
“You might get it and your readers might not,” Pamela Proverbs, Director of PRMR Inc noted. “The point of this report is to make change, to actually make things better. Things get better over time, not by magic . . . especially when there’s a lot of media scrutiny.”

Paula Mohamed, UNDP Programme Manager added:  “You get the sense that there is a silence in the region. This is all really an attempt to bring on people’s opinion on what is happening. Could it be because of globalization, so many things happening at once? Caribbean societies were once known for their voice, the way they tackled issues. It’s a governance dilemma and we’re seeing how we can help in that particular area.”

Issues highlighted in the report range from victimization, to Risk and Building Youth Resilience to Reforming the Justice System and overall generating positive change.
Participants spoke of entrepreneurship as a basis for development. In that particular discussion questions were raised about the Caribbean mentality toward entrepreneurship. Why was it hard for some to see the bigger picture? What shapes this mindset? Did the apprehension to dreaming big arise as a result of people being constantly turned down or discouraged once they attempted to step out of their comfort zone?
“In the region there’s this mentality, you get a job, you die on the job,” Ian Bourne from the Bajan Reporter remarked. “You don’t try to do anything for yourself. I’m not sure for the other islands but there’s a lot that needs to be done in terms of entrepreneurship for development in Barbados.”

Journalist Ian Bourne from the Bajan Reporter (C) shares his perspective.

“Why is it so hard to develop entrepreneurial culture in region? You fit this box, you fit here . . . you don’t really cross that. This report is trying to get at the heart of those types of questions,”  UNDP Barbados representative Michelle Gyles-McDonnough contributed. “Victimization surveys are an urgent call of citizens to deal with issues. What is that other piece to take into account to move forward? Social justice is heart to everyone in the Caribbean, but there is that deep seeded feeling that issues rather than being addressed are entrenched. What are the implications of that for movement of people and region forward? You have to have growth to have development.”

UNDP Barbados representative Michelle Gyles-McDonnough.

Crime was ranked as the second most important problem (after unemployment) by residents in four Caribbean countries in the UNDP report. When estimated in terms of the place of crime in the rank order of major problems facing respective countries, feelings of insecurity ranged from a high of 42 percent in St Lucia to six percent in Barbados. The report explained that rapid changes in the security situation and in the patterns of offending may generate greater insecurity than the magnitude of the crime rate. Facilitators noted that the Caribbean was at crossroads. facing danger far in excess of declining confidence, whether political or in terms of security. Mention is made in the report of perceived confidence in the police to control crime; St Lucia 59.4 percent (some amount of confidence versus just over 11 percent for “a great deal of confidence”.

“We’re all so used to trailing politicians. There is tendency to see politics as more newsworthy. It’s not a murder story, not a kidnapping, but still very much essential and significant,” Anthony Harriott, Resource Person UWI Jamaica noted.
In terms of crime, Domestic Violence was also brought into focus.
“The mentality of police in the region when it comes to domestic violence is, “Me ain’t getting’ involved in man and woman story.” It’s ridiculous. We always hear these tragic stories. Should the person wait until they’re dead and resurrected to be taken seriously?” one reporter questioned. “The police will tell you plain and simple they aren’t coming. Their view is “the next day they back together” or “that’s their private business.” It makes these people feel they have the right to treat another person that way. They totally ignore domestic issues in a lot of instances. That needs to change.”

The key message out of the report is that Caribbean people need to stop taking human rights issues for granted. Facilitators encouraged reporters to consider the press as a monitor of situations and circumstances. “Is what you’re doing working, if not why? If there are issues of police abuse, how is it dealt with?” Sometimes when it seems crime is going down its not so, it’s just the reporting that may be lessened, because of intimidation of witnesses and so forth.
“As journalists you cannot give up,” Bennette Roach from the Montserrat Reporter expressed. “Even if two out of ten get followed through and something is done, it’s worth the while. You don’t want it to be a case where no one reports on these serious issues.”

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