Ministers have welcomed the Commonwealth’s “timely” intervention to assist St Kitts and Nevis in developing community dialogues as part of the Government’s “holistic approach to crime reduction”.
Yesterday saw the opening ceremony of a two-day forum entitled Women and Youth Participation in Community Dialogue: South-South approach for Peace and Security in the Caribbean.
The event is a Commonwealth collaboration with the Government of St Kitts and Nevis to tackle the challenges of crime and gang violence in the country.
It was attended by the country’s foreign affairs minister and Nevis Premier, Mark Brantley; Minister of State for Health, Community Development, Gender Affairs and Community Development, Wendy Phipps, and Junior Minister of Health and Gender Affairs in the Nevis Island Administration, Hazel Brandy-Williams.
Speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Timothy Harris, Senator Phipps said: “This consultation is taking place at a time when security has never featured so prominently on our regional developmental agenda.
“Community dialogue is an interactive and participatory process that is necessary to ensure we do not rely solely on punitive justice to achieve peace, stability and wellbeing in our country.”
Around 100 delegates have gathered for the forum, including representatives from civil society and faith-based organisations, as well as from political parties and educational institutions.
There are also a number of participants from across the region, as many small states in the Caribbean face similar issues relating to crime and violence.
Foreign Minister Mark Brantley said: “South-South cooperation highlights ways that developing countries are collaborating among themselves, through solidarity, peer-to-peer learning and collective self-reliance.
“This workshop building on this approach is both essential and urgent.”
Over the next two days participants will share and discuss strategies for creating dialogues, with a particular focus on how women and young people can lead these efforts.
Health and gender affairs junior minister for the Nevis Island Administration, Hazel Brandy-Williams, said: “Stereotypes surrounding gender and age should not hinder women or youth participation as partners in the development of policies, norms and standards relating to peace and security.”
Addressing delegates via video-link, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “This forum is a specific and direct response to CHOGM mandates so it is a pleasure for the Commonwealth Secretariat to be working alongside the Government of St Kitts and Nevis and other Caribbean representatives to harness the capabilities of local communities and find solutions through meaningful dialogues to issues that threaten peace and security.”
Both Mark Brantley and Wendy Phipps thanked the Indian Government for opening a window of funding opportunity for Commonwealth countries to benefit from needed south-south good practice.
On behalf of Prime Minister Harris, Minister Phipps conveyed that the Government, in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, will be initiating discussions with India to access the funding window with a view to strengthening and establishing national mechanisms for community dialogue.