The highest murder and assault rates in the world are undermining economic growth in the Caribbean region, according to a report published today by the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which blames the illicit drug trade and calls for international measures to address the problem.
According to the report “Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean,” increased crime severely hinders financing, causes a decline in worker productivity and makes governments, business and individuals spend precious resources on security measures.
“The report clearly shows that crime and violence are development issues,” according to Caroline Anstey, World Bank Director for the Caribbean, who called for assistance from the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD), which promotes democratic governance and the market economy.
“Donors and OECD countries need to work together with Caribbean countries to reduce the current levels in the region,” she said.
The primary cause of skyrocketing crime in the region is illicit drug traffic, particularly in cocaine, and the proliferation of guns that accompanies that trade. Since Caribbean countries are transit points and not producers of cocaine, the report states, interdiction needs to be complemented by other strategies outside the region.
Policies should also focus on limiting the availability of firearms and on providing meaningful work alternatives to youth, according to the report.
“Although there is no one ideal approach for crime and violence prevention, interventions such as slum-upgrading projects, youth development initiatives and criminal justice system reform can contribute to reducing crime and violence,” Francis Maertens, Director of UNODC’s Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs said.