VPA Collaborates with Local and Int’l Agencies to Combat Small Arms Proliferation


The Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) is among several entities working to develop and implement an action plan to combat proliferation of small arms in Jamaica.
Other collaborative entities include: the Ministry of National Security, United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“The VPA is very pleased to be working with so many groups locally and internationally as we try to find solutions to the problem of small arms in our country,” said Chairman of VPA, Dr. Elizabeth Ward said.
However, she noted that the plan would require an adequate funding mechanism to ensure that the VPA is able to make a difference for the nation’s children, where they can grow up in a safe and violence free Jamaica, and live without fear.
Dr. Ward was speaking on March 7 at a press briefing on a multi-country consultation exploring the impact of the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons on children and their communities in Jamaica, the Caribbean and Central America. The press briefing was held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
“We have looked at the experience of other countries and legislative issues,” she pointed out. These include looking at international treaties; issues of border control and manufacturing among others. “We need to know what interventions can reduce the occurrence of the use of small arms,” she noted.Small arms are weapons designed for individual use such as firearms, revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, shot guns, carbines, assault rifles, squad automatic weapons, light machine guns, general purpose machine guns, medium machine guns, and hand grenades.
In Jamaica, with homicide rates at 54 per 100,000, Dr. Ward pointed out that more then 75 per cent of these homicides are caused by small weapons.”The medical expenses that result from these homicides and violence in general are tremendous. Looking at the Ministry of Health and Environment, the VPA saw that in 2006, more then $2.2 billion was spent on direct medical care of victims of violence,” the Chairman informed.
The loss in productivity was also cited as another negative impact. “The proliferation of small arms contributes to non-productive investment in our private security forces. Overall in the world, this is estimated to cost about $400 billion and in Jamaica, this expenditure is huge,” she also noted.
Armed conflict and social violence, Dr. Ward continued, reverses economic progress as both direct medical costs and productivity losses are now estimated in Jamaica to be running at 4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The World Bank states that if we could reduce our homicide rate to that of Costa Rica, we could increase our GDP by over 20 per cent. Kofi Annan [former United Nations Secretary General] stated that small arms proliferation is not just about security but it is an issue of human rights and development,” she stated.
The proliferation of small arms is a worldwide challenge and it is estimated that there are over 700 million to 800 million firearms in circulation today. The value of this trade is estimated at US$4 billion. “Small arms are the real weapons of mass destruction. Everyday they cause more than 1,300 deaths and at least 500,000 people are killed every year by small arms and some of them are children,” Dr. Ward said.

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