Most of a new US$165M American aid package to the Caribbean Community (Caricom) will be going towards reducing youth crime and violence in several member states.
“The crime issue is something that we just have to address collectively and not merely from a security standpoint but from all angles and to the extent that this project is going to facilitate and assist in areas with community intervention with the youth, it’s a welcomed addition,” Caricom Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque yesterday said after the signing of the US$165M agreement with the United States.
The funds have been allocated under USAID’s 2015 to 2019 Regional Development Cooperation Strategy and USAID’s Eastern and Southern Caribbean Mission Direc-tor Christopher Cushing and LaRocque signed the five-year Development Objective Agreements (DOAGs) yesterday.
The funds will be used in Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, and Guyana, and an estimated $89M will go towards reducing youth crime and violence in targeted communities. Some $52M is earmarked for achieving epidemic control of HIV/AIDS among key populations, while the remaining $31M will go towards supporting initiatives to mitigate against climate change dangers.
LaRocque, speaking at the signing, welcomed the funds and underscored the importance of not only tackling crime but climate change mitigation and controlling the spread of HIV and AIDS. He also stressed that the region and, by extension, the world must be prepared as “climate change is not something that is coming, it is here,” and he pointed to Caricom member states recently affected.
“These agreements are rendering assistance in areas that have been identified as critical to the well-being of our citizens. Combatting the challenges posed by climate change, HIV/AIDS, and crime and violence, with reference to youth participation, is right at the forefront of the issues facing our Commu-nity today,” he stated.
“Crime and security is a very pressing issue in the Community, very, very pressing. Climate change is another very pressing issue [and] health. If you look at our strategic plan, all three of them find themselves among the top priorities to be addressed in our Community,” he later added.
United States Ambassa-dor to Guyana Perry Holloway said that his government was pleased to partner with Caricom to help improve the lives and livelihood of vulnerable groups, including youths and socially marginalised populations. “The past successes of the US government have been largely due to the support of our partners, Caricom, by virtue of its commitment to improving the economic, social, cultural and technological advancement of its people and they remain a beacon in this regard,” he said.
Holloway also stressed the importance of youth development and mentioned USAID’s Skills and Knowledge for Youth Employment (SKYE) programme here in this regard. “Yesterday (Monday), I attended an event and it was very heartening to see so many young people having their own business because we hear about the brain drain being a problem, not only in Guyana but other countries in Caricom, and it is so good to see that there are some youths staying behind and they are investing in their country,” he noted.