KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Deputy Prime Minister Girlyn Miguel has noted that while the Caribbean Community does not produce guns or bullets its high murder rate continues to affect member states’ social and economic development.
“More than the obvious and heartrending scenes of murder and the tears of parents who have lost their children, there is the developmental impact of these weapons,” she said Thursday at the Third Regional Workshop on Negotiations for the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.
“The United [Nations] Office on Drugs and Crime has estimated that, the economies of Jamaica and Haiti would grow by an additional 5.4 per cent if they could simply reduce their murder rates to that of Costa Rica,” Miguel said, according to a transcript of her remarks sent to the media by the Office of the Prime Minister.
“Other CARICOM states would grow by roughly 2 per cent. In this period of global recession and flat or negative economic growth, we cannot ignore the economic impact of the unregulated flow and use of arms in our region,” she further said.
Miguel said that four of the 10 ten countries with the highest murder rates in the world are CARICOM states, while the 15-member regional bloc is also home to 13 of the top 30 such countries.
“The police will tell you that over 70 per cent of those murders were committed with firearms and ammunition that entered our countries illegally, that are largely untraceable, and originated in developed countries that manufacture, advertise and export these tools of death and destruction,” Miguel said.
“Though CARICOM does not build a single gun or forge a single bullet, our region is awash with them. The arrival of every such weapon on our shores; the hospitalization and burial of every victim of gun violence; is an exclamation point on our collective regional demand for an arms trade treaty,” she told workshop participants.
Miguel said the creation of a robust and legally binding arms trade treaty, and the effective control of small arms and light weapons, remains a central focus and aim of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) government.
She quoted Gonsalves’ 2008 address at the General Debate of the U.N. General Assembly, in which he said St. Vincent’s geographical location puts its residents “in the path of increasingly intense storms [and] between the supply and demand that fuels much of the West’s narcotics trade.”
Gonsalves told world leader that as a result of this, scarce resources were increasingly being diverted to stem the tide of drugs and small arms flowing through our region.
He said that to Vincentians, “disarmament does not mean the eradication of nuclear … but the elimination of small arms, which threaten to shoot holes in the fabric of our democracy and compromise the values of our civilisation.
“We are assailed by guns, which we do not build; and by deadly narcotics such as cocaine, which we do not produce. The United Nations must act to protect the innocent victims of the world from the scourge of small arms and light weapons,” Gonsalves said in the 2008 speech quoted by Miguel.
Miguel said that while Gonsalves has repeated the call at successive General Assembly Debates and in other fora, it is not a call of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) alone.
She said that in 2007 “Security” was added as the fourth pillar of the CARICOM integration movement, in light of the region’s increasing vulnerability to the transfer and use of armaments.
Successive Prime Ministers of Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago, “have all placed this issue at the heart of our developmental agenda.
“In recent months, Prime Minister Kamla Persaud-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago has been particularly outspoken on the need to place security and arms control at the forefront of all regional discussions,” Miguel said.
She said that internationally there are instances in which children foment revolt, defend dictatorships, or terrorise towns with antiaircraft guns, mounted on the back of pickup trucks.
She mentioned disputed borders lined with mines and munitions that kill and maim hundreds of innocents and “terrorists, advancing their nefarious designs through the use of ill-gotten conventional and unconventional weaponry”.
“How did all of these deadly devices miraculously end up in the wrong hands? Do we not have a responsibility and an obligation, as peace-loving citizens of the world, to do our part to ensure the safety and security of our fellow man?” Miguel said.
“These armaments invariably wreak the most havoc and visit the most suffering on the poorest and most vulnerable peoples of the world. Have not those poor vulnerable people experienced enough suffering?” she further stated, noting that the workshop was geared at resolving these issues.