$3.5b from EU to target 100 volatile communities
From left) Executive director, Violence Prevention Alliance, Dr Deanna Ashley; permanent secretary, Ministry of National Security,Courtney Williams; Marianne Van Steen, EU ambassador, Dr Horace Chang, deputy prime minister and minister of nationalsecurity; and Commisisoner of Police Major General Antony Anderson participate in Thursday's function at which $3.5 billion washanded over to the Government to provide social services to volatile communities across the island. (Photo: Jason Tulloch)

THE European Union (EU) on Thursday handed over $3.5 billion (€20 million) to the Ministry of National Security to assist with crucial social services to residents of more than 100 volatile communities across the island, through the Citizen Security Plan.

During the launch of the Citizen Security Plan on the lawns of Jamaica House in St Andrew Thursday, EU Ambassador to Jamaica Marianne Van Steen pointed out that stakeholders are seeking to reform the approach to dealing with crime and violence. She said the current spike of violent crimes “is more than regrettable” and pledged support for the Jamaican Government's plan to start having ministries work better together when executing social programmes.

The event was attended by Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang; Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson, other local stakeholders and representatives of various embassies of EU member states.

“With this, the agencies will deliver core social services and initiatives mainly in the most vulnerable communities of this island. Our support also goes to provide highly specialised technical assistance in the form of experts, research and training to improve the delivery mechanisms, coordination quality and effectiveness of interventions for entire populations.

“The EU has also allocated part of these funds to support civil society participation in the implementation of the citizen security initiative. This includes a support we would like to give to the monitoring and oversight mechanism of the 2021 crime consensus. This component will keep the Government accountable and keep the citizens of Jamaica informed of all the efforts being undertaken,” said the EU ambassador.

Van Steen said the National Crime Consensus signed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, former Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips and other key leaders last August paved the way for EU members to vote that Jamaica should receive the donation. That memorandum of understanding outlined steps that must be taken for a sustainable reduction in crime, inclusive of milestones and agreements on a monitoring and reporting mechanism.

“It paved the way for us to propose this programme to our friends back in Europe. We consider that an extraordinary step forward. Therefore, it is important to recall and revive the spirit of that consensus and move together to make vision 2030 a reality. Homicides, particularly against women and children, are at very worrying levels. I would like to use this opportunity to remember all the victims, children, young men and everyone who has been a victim or is still suffering from injuries and family loss or psychological trauma. This programme is for them,” said the ambassador.

National Security Minister Horace Chang said the funds will allow institutions such as HEART to give young people and their parents in volatile communities a second chance at life.

“We are not going to have success in retraining our young people in a sustainable manner until the education system works. We must have HEART and other system that give them a second chance, catering to the 15 to 30 year olds. That age group is a recruiting area where we get our killers from and they are the victims as well.

“The Government must spend money in providing training opportunities and ensuring we can provide a productive occupation for all of them. We have to ensure that in every challenged family in difficult communities and in particularly the 125 that have been identified statistically by the Planning Institute of Jamaica. We must identify every single mother, every child in poverty and ensure they get quality public health care from they are still in the womb,” said Chang.

He said the donation is significant because Government is currently pivoting how it executes its operations and plan projects.

“This is first big funding that is different from straight project funding and it is funded through the Government of Jamaica budget as budget support and directed to the various institutions involved in the execution of the activities.

“The failure of education leads to some of the things like social apathy and that leads to violence. A lack of inclusivity in the society leads to violence. The foundation on which we build has to be the public institutions that serve the poor. The Government did not stop any programme. The programmes came to the end of a cycle,” the minister said.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

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