By Cathy Lashley
ST JOHN’S, Antigua (BGIS) -- Keeping Caribbean Community (CARICOM) territories secure is the number one priority for the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), Barbados attorney general and minister of home affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, made clear last Friday at the just concluded CARICOM heads of government conference held in Antigua.
Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite
As chairman of the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement, Brathwaite was invited to give an update about the work of IMPACS during the summit.
He said that some US$4.2 million had been made available under the 10th European Development Fund and, later this year, a number of crime and security initiatives would be started in the region.
Brathwaite stated: “The European Union has signalled that they want to partner with us for further initiatives over the next couple of years. Sometime, hopefully next year, under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, approximately US$80 million is being earmarked in terms of an initiative for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States to deal with at risk youth. Again, IMPACS will be the coordinating agency to ensure that there is smooth roll-out of that project which is very important to us as a region, given the challenges that we’re having with at risk youth.”
However, he noted that, in Barbados, attention would be placed not only on just addressing at risk youth, but within the family and to see what factors are causing the negative behaviours -- be it poverty or other factors.
Commenting on the upsurge in firearm usage across the region, the attorney general said: “Again, they (IMPACS) have been working not only with assisting territories with the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations which have been concluded, but certainly, in terms of acting as a coordinating agency and examining what’s happening across the various regions to see how guns have flown into the region. If they (guns) are moving from one territory to the other [we would have to see] how that is happening and advise member states what initiatives they should take to combat what seems to be an upsurge in gun usage across the region.”
Braithwaite reiterated that IMPACS was doing “a tremendous amount of work in the area of maintaining regional security and needed the financial backing of member states to continue the work”.
“There are some member states who said that they were not sure about the contribution of IMPACS. We have decided that for those members states the executive director and myself, if possible, will visit the prime minister in one or two member states and explain to them not only what IMPACS has been doing across the region, but what IMPACS has been doing in individual territories,” he disclosed.
IMPACS assists the region in many areas, such as reducing youth and gang violence, and the training of police officers. It also works closely with the Regional Security System.
However, Brathwaite noted that between 2009 and 2012, IMPACS had received only about 50 percent of contributions from CARICOM member states.
“Last year, it received around 59 percent and that has caused considerable damage to its ability to carry out its core functions. We’ve been trying to find some funding solutions. We appreciate the tremendous difficulties almost all states have, in terms of their financial challenges. That notwithstanding, we’ve been suggesting that ... if member states find it increasingly difficult to honour their obligations, [then] we need to find some creative ways for IMPACS to maybe even self-finance,” he said.
Noting that one solution was for member states to consider imposing a security levy, he said some countries thought that they could not afford to impose additional taxes on people flying into, or across the region because it might lead to a fall-off in visitor arrivals.
“Then there was the question of who manages the Fund. If funds are pooled, then there was a question of what happens in terms of disparity of the number of visitors that come to various member states. So, for lots of reasons, it (the suggestion) wasn’t adopted,” he revealed.
The attorney general added that, as a funding mechanism last year, St Kitts and Nevis had imposed a $10 fee on incoming visitors to the federation with much success.
He noted that instead of recording a fall-off in visitors to the island, an increase had been registered and it had enabled them to meet their obligations, not only to IMPACS, but to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Regional Security System, among others.
“But if member states didn’t collectively want to do it (give funds) [then] I’m suggesting that they can follow the St. Kitts model. …CDEMA is also faced with tremendous challenges... By the end of the month, if member states don’t indicate the extent of their contributions, then we have to start looking at CDEMA -- how does it continue operating at the level that it is and that is exactly the situation that IMPACS is faced with,” he said.