The social, psychological and economic cost of crime and violence in the Region was too high, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque said on Thursday.
He was speaking at the opening ceremony for the Twenty-Ninth Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) (Youth and Culture) at the CARICOM headquarters in Turkeyen Guyana.
The Secretary-General said even though it was known that it was a minority of youth in the Region who had fallen victims to a life of crime, it was an important minority that urgently needed to be addressed. He said that the just-concluded Regional Forum on Youth Crime and Violence was intended to do just that since participants explored mechanisms for greater collaboration among relevant Institutions and Development Partners, and shared good practices in implementing sustainable measures to prevent youth crime and violence.
The CARICOM Secretary-General said he had interacted with some of the Region’s finest young people who serve as professionals in various fields, as youth leaders, as activists and as academics. According to him he had seen and heard, first hand, that there were exceptional young people all over the Community who were committed and passionate, and who were contributing in meaningful ways to national development and Regional integration.
I have been truly inspired on many, many occasions and pay tribute today to all those outstanding young people across our Community,” he said.
The theme of this Meeting of COHSOD is ‘Leveraging CARICOM’s Human and Cultural Assets for the Development of the Community’. Addressing the theme, Ambassador LaRocque said it spoke pointedly to the tremendous opportunity for the Community to develop its youth and cultural assets. He said that the CARICOM Heads of Government reflected on this theme at their Twenty-Sixth Inter-Sessional Meeting in the Bahamas in 2015 and observed that a strategy that combined the cultural and sporting assets with the Region’s innovative youthful human resource, and with new technologies, would open up opportunities for a new and sustainable development pathway that leveraged the Community’s strengths.
The Secretary-General also used the occasion as an opportunity to highlight the Creativity for Employment and Business Opportunity (CEBO), which he said had been recognised as a Regional best-practice model. He commended CEBO for developing entrepreneurial skills among the youth of the Region.
Regarding the Community’s cultural industries, the Secretary-General said that the Heads of Government had recognised this as a priority area for job creation and growth. He said that at their Meeting in the Bahamas in 2015, they acknowledged the potential of the cultural and creative industries in contributing to the development of the Region and reaffirmed the significance of the sector as a driver of social development and cohesion, cultural identity and diversity, and youth engagement. He said this was further underlined when he attended CARIFESTA XII which was hosted successfully by Haiti in August 2015.
I experienced first hand in Haiti, the tremendous value of culture in strengthening our Regional integration movement, in building Community spirit and understanding. So many young Caribbean artists who visited Haiti for the first time developed a new appreciation of the rich history, pride and resilience of the Haitian people. And Haiti, I think, is forever changed in terms of feeling like a valued Member of the Community,” the CARICOM Secretary-General said.