Caribbean Civil Society Calls for Safer Communities

July 14 2011, 1:57 PM  by Øistein Thorsen

The easy access of small arms and light weapons and high crimes rates has severely crippled the economic and social development of Caribbean states. Our quality of life has been negatively impacted by armed criminality and violence, particularly for women and youths, who are both direct and indirect victims. The proliferation of arms that has accompanied the drug trade in the region contributes to the stealthily rising numbers of homicides and incidents of gender based violence. 
 
Women have been forced to maintain the fabric of the family that has been tethering at the seams when husbands, fathers and sons are victims or perpetrators of gun crimes. This week, 8 lobbyists, from the Caribbean are attending the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations (ATT PrepCom) in New York. The team of lobbyists comprised of 5 women and 3 men are dialoging with diplomats and participating in various committees related to ATT negotiations. We are working for a better future with safer communities and the ATT will help to stem flow of illegal weapons to the Caribbean and minimize the risk of diversion.
 
This has been a welcomed opportunity by the Caribbean Coalition for the Reduction in Armed Violence (CDRAV), since this is the first UN meeting that a group larger than 3 persons has been able to participate and contribute to the discussions at the international level. We have been able to take the opportunities presented at this forum to work with other civil society groups from the Caribbean, the Pacific, Africa and around the world. Our participation in this ATT PrepCom allows us to build on the ongoing dialogue previously started at the regional level with – CARICOM and its Member States to endorse a comprehensive legally binding ATT. We are keen to see an ATT that also includes small arms and light weapons and ammunitions, in addition to a monitoring framework for the implementation of the treaty. We would welcome the establishment of National and International Implementation mechanisms that would assists state parties to meet their obligations under the Treaty.
 
We believe that such an international instrument will help our countries in the fight against the proliferation of illicit arms and to focus our limited resources on the development of people subsequently reducing current investments in security and armed violence prevention. The views expressed by manufacturing states who are principal exporters also helps us to understand better their positions and learn a great deal about the process of negotiations within the UN. As such, we are working with our permanent missions here in New York to highlight the importance of an ATT. The instrument is important for CARICOM states, while not being manufacturers or major importers of arms; have to suffer the impact of illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons and ammunitions in their societies. Citizen security and safety has been one of the greatest challenges to sustainable human development.