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A Public Health Crisis: Small Arms Trafficking and Violence in the Caribbean

Tuesday 18 June 2024  |  1:15pm - 2:30pm ET

United Nations HQ, CR.11 | New York, USA

Side Event (PDF) to the Fourth Review Conference of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms discussing:

  • What are the regional characteristics of small arms proliferation in the Caribbean, including in terms of its impact on public health and sustainable development?
  • What roles can the public health sector play in preventing firearms-related violence?
  • What are possible synergies between the public health approach to violence prevention and more security-focused initiatives?

The Caribbean region suffers from homicide rates three times the world average, and the majority of these deaths involve the use of a firearm. In Haiti, escalating gang-related violence has heavily disrupted health operations, targeted health workers and facilities, and affected the supply of medicine. Research has found that treating a single firearm injury in the Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica can cost between 2 to 11 times these countries’ annual per capita health spending. Although much of the violence is perpetrated with handguns, the regional proliferation of rifles and of conversion devices that provide firearms with automatic fire capabilities have raised concerns that violence and its public health impacts could further deteriorate. In April 2023, the CARICOM heads of government declared crime and violence a public health issue. They argued that illegal firearms and organized criminal gangs fuelled an ‘epidemic’ of violence, and committed to a whole-of-society approach that would empower and engage young people, support communities and victims, while simultaneously tackling the flows of illicit small arms. CARICOM member states and the Dominican Republic also committed to a series of firearms-control measures under the Caribbean Firearms Roadmap. This side event will provide RevCon 4 delegates with an overview of these challenges and efforts, examine implications for sustainable development in the region, as well as discuss opportunities for better integrating preventative public health approaches and more security-centred measures.

Opening address by His Excellency Stan Smith, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of The Bahamas to the United Nations

Opening remarks by Oleg Dmitrijev, German Federal Foreign Office

Panel discussion moderated by Ambassador Smith:

  • Dr. Nicolas Florquin, Small Arms Survey - Regional small arms trafficking trends and privately made firearms
  • Dr. Natasha Sobers, George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Center (GA-CDRC) at the University of the West Indies - The implications of firearms-related injuries for the public health sector
  • Dr. Heather Armstrong, Caribbean Public Health Agency - A public health approach to reducing firearms violence
  • Mr. Callixtus Joseph, CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security - Synergies between law enforcement and public health interventions

Discussant: Prof. Simon Anderson, GA-CDRC at the University of the West Indies

Contact: Nicolas Florquin, Small Arms Survey (nicolas.florquin@smallarmssurvey.org)