Underestimated and Overlooked: Reducing the Cost of Crime and Violence for Improved Financing for Development in the Caribbean

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The objective to ‘combat all forms of organised crime’ has been recognised as one of the 169 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG Target 16.4), demonstrating the unmistakable interrelationship between security and development. Organised crime, which we define using the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, involves a group of three or more persons that was not randomly formed, operating during a period of time in order to obtain directly or indirectly a financial or other material benefit. It is a persistent issue in the Caribbean (UNODC 2003).

A study by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime has demonstrated that organised crime could directly and significantly impact the ability to achieve 23 out of the 169 SDG targets, almost 15 per cent of them (Reitano et al. 2015). It is clear from this analysis that organised crime is a cross-cutting issue that will considerably impact SDG achievement.

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Organised crime in the Commonwealth Caribbean holds back the region and acts as a barrier to improved governance and economic prosperity, as well as undermining state institutions and weakening the ability of the state to ensure the rule of law. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated many of the vulnerabilities already present in Commonwealth small states in the Caribbean, affecting the tourism industry, increasing unemployment and creating a bleak economic forecast.

Given the resource-constrained nature of Caribbean small states, addressing crime will need a clear and logical process, as resources are finite and allocations in one area will result in losses in others. Addressing some of the consequences of organised crime and tackling its root causes will free up crucial fiscal space in the region, given the large private, governmental and social costs they pose.