Thu | Aug 13, 2020

Judith Wedderburn | Leadership, commitment, consensus critical for unified fight against crime

Published:Tuesday | July 28, 2020 | 12:19 AM

Substantive agreement on the fundamental decisions and specific security-driven actions required to reduce crime has been achieved by stakeholders, including both major political parties, private-sector interests, and representatives of trade unions, the Church, academia and civil society. Sustaining this consensus requires that the conversation now engages Jamaicans across all social sectors, intentionally extending the conversation into a more inclusive, broad-based one, which builds confidence and trust in the process.

It is instructive that the stakeholders are guided by research findings, as well as the lived experiences of members of communities which have been underserved for decades, but continue to exist on the margins of wealth-creating institutions. It is recognised that what is now required is the implementation of community and social programmes which are effective and sustainable over the medium and long term, and that these also must be treated as priorities. Running in parallel with security-driven actions to reduce crime and violence, these interventions would focus on reducing existing social inequities, along the lines of class, gender, and the urban and rural divide.

Concrete actions that honour commitments made build trust. Each action adds up over time, affirming in the collective consciousness that yes, we are moving in the right direction. For example, such actions would ensure that decisions on social and community interventions are bipartisan, that beneficiaries of these interventions are identified on the basis of need, all equally entitled to the opportunities and resources provided by these interventions.

DRIVEN BY DATA AND EVIDENCE

Such actions would be driven by data and clear evidence of impact over the long term, and by national policy commitments to remove existing inequities. Prioritising community social interventions which are sustainable, targeted, effective and has bipartisan support will also benefit from a joined-up government approach, with each ministry, department and agency fully on board. Similarly, taking concrete actions that honour the commitments made by the stakeholders to strengthen legislation, such as the Proceeds of Crime Act, as well as actions which clearly demonstrate an intolerance of corruption and collusion are important steps in building trust. Of necessity, these commitments need to be honoured across political administrations in order to ensure the sustainability of the process going forward.

An underlying culture of criminality is characterised not only by high levels of crime and violence, but also by the persistence of corruption, collusion and money laundering. The stakeholders to the consensus affirm the importance of a joined-up approach in dealing with these troublesome inter-related issues, and, also, in addressing violence against women and children to lead to the ‘reordering of gender norms’. The objective is that families comprising women, men and children live in communities free from fear and violence, and are inspired to contribute to building a culture of pride in self, in family, in community, and in nation.

Going forward, therefore, concrete action has to be taken to establish the agreed multisectoral and non-partisan committee which has the responsibility and resources required for monitoring the implementation of the respective plans, measuring progress, and providing regular public updates.

Each step matters. We can count on our leaders in all sectors to be reliable, if they do what they say they are committed to, over and over again.

Judith Wedderburn is gender and development civil society advocate; board member of WMW Jamaica, and of Institute of Law and Economics. She has worked with diverse civil society organisations for decades. Send feedback to wed.jud@gmail.com.