Youth crime and violence can and must be prevented – Min. Norton

─ CARICOM Secretary-General pledges support for youths

DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Youth from across the Caribbean Region are currently engaged in a summit aimed at formulating solutions related to ‘Youth Violence Prevention’. Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr. George Norton, speaking at the opening of the summit, told the young adults that violence and crime must and can be prevented.

The two-day conference being held at the Marriott Hotel, is aimed at examining and redefining violence prevention as it was found that the region has the highest rate of victimization, by homicide, assault, and threat, in the world. The summit is being held under the theme “Youth as Partners and Innovators.”

Minister Norton highlighted that young people are not only perpetrators of violence, but they are also victims. He added that with this fact in mind, it is important they be involved, at every level of decision making, especially with issues relating to their wellbeing.

“It is imperative that participation of youth in issues of peace and security is pursued, hence youths must be at the centre of any discussion and or resolutions that seek to address issues relating to peace and security of our nations… All across the world, young people are involved in activities that can destroy themselves and society. However, I reiterate to emphasize that youth violence can and must be prevented.”

In Guyana, the minister highlighted that the government has implemented and continues to implement programmes aimed at empowering young people, so that they can be agents of change.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque said over the years, the region has been working to address the issue of violence among youths. However, he noted that all efforts would be futile, if the issue is not addressed in the homes.

“The first intervention must be in the home. It is there that our youth are first socialised. It is there that we must tackle the concept of toxic masculinity which comes out of a false notion of what it takes… It is in our streets, our communities, our towns and our villages that we must focus the development of social resilience. We must demonstrate that gangs, crime and violence are not the answers to the path of success and self-actualization” Ambassador LaRocque stressed.

He pointed out that such forums provide the opportunity for youths to be fully involved, providing solutions to problems that affect them directly. Ambassador LaRocque also pledged to be an advocate alongside the youth in their quest to address the issue.

Youth in participation were very optimistic about the outcome of the summit. Ajani Labourne out of St. Lucia said that many times, decision makers watch from the outside and make decisions based on perception. However, he said that this summit will not only provide the decision makers with a different view, but also give a voice to those affected.

“This forum is really essential in getting down to the bottom. I think that this is the issue and why young people are the ones perpetrating crime, but also it gives the young people the understanding that they are key partners and they can also come up with solutions for those problems,” Labourne stated.

Guyana’s very own Marva Langevine, recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award, said that as a youth advocate and a teacher she believes such a summit is important in addressing the ills among young people. According to Langevine, grief counselling is something she hopes forms part of the strategy to be formalised at the end of the summit.

“Young people need to know how to cope with grief and various things that they go through and I really think that it would be able to help them be their best selves and contribute meaningfully to their community and stay away from crime and violence” she explained.

The summit is being hosted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, UNICEF, the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat, the St. Lucia-based Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Commission, and the Caribbean Learning for Youth Networking and Change Sessions (LYNCS) Network.

Isaiah Braithwaite.

Images: Jules Gibson.

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