The Norwood area in St. James and Denham Town in Kingston stand to benefit from Jamaica’s first community violence audit to support the prevention and reduction of gun violence under a United Nations Jamaica joint programme.
The more than $70-million national initiative ‘Reducing Small Arms and Light Weapons Joint Programme, also known as SALIENT Jamaica, aims to dismantle the factors that make it possible for the illicit trafficking of firearms and ammunitions into the country as well as address the root causes of violence.
This will be tackled over a 12-month period, which began in January via interventions in several areas to include legislation, strategy, training, investigations, law enforcement and data collection.
SALIENT Jamaica also seeks to reduce violence through policy reform and behaviour modification training in schools.
For the community violence audit in Norwood and Denham Town, which is a pilot initiative of SALIENT Jamaica, the findings are expected be a catalyst for more targeted violence prevention and reduction programmes in these and similar communities.
Additionally, the audit intends to strengthen policies and set up a working group to tackle firearms in schools, train educators to help students manage their emotions and to resolve conflict, and deliver life skills training for youth.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, attended SALIENT Jamaica’s launch at the Jamaica Evangelistic Centre in Norwood Heights, St. James, on Friday (June 17).
He indicated that the project at this time is critical as “over 85 per cent of our homicides are committed with firearms [and] Jamaica has the highest rate of homicide of any democracy.”
He said reducing the supply of arms in Jamaica is crucial to reducing violence in the country and will require a multipronged approach to include local and international partners.
“Violence and crime do damage to our economy. It is not only what we lose and what it cost us, but there is no measure of the level of lost opportunities that criminals, violence and corruption pose on this country,” Dr. Chang said.
“This programme aligns with Jamaica’s goal as outlined and that is a society which is secure, cohesive and just,” he added.
The investment for the national joint programme is from the SALIENT Fund established by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Organization for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). SALIENT will be implemented by UNDP, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with the Ministry of National Security.
SALIENT Jamaica will incorporate several key activities to improve control of small arms and reduce access to firearms and ammunition, nationally.
These include reviewing legislation and institutions to strengthen legal controls of small arms and light weapons; developing a national arms control strategy; advancing Jamaica’s ratification of the CIFTA Convention; strengthening national, regional and international cooperation to stem flow of arms and light weapons; and specialised training for security forces and relevant departments and agencies.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Garry Conille, indicated that the UN is committed to working with Jamaica to turn the tide on the illegal use of small arms and the homicide epidemic.
“I, therefore, join the Government in calling on Jamaicans everywhere to see themselves as change agents, to reject the urge to participate in the illegal trade of guns and, instead, to actively participate in the transformation required to build peace in this small island,” Dr. Conille explained.