The Member States of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have long been plagued by high rates of violent crime, disproportionately affecting young people between the ages of 15 and 29.
The OECS Commission, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), continues to take bold steps targeted at reducing crime and empowering young people through its latest project, Opportunities to Advance and Support Youth for Success (OASYS).
With a planned budget of USD $5,340,223.00, OASYS will run from October 2022 to October 2026, and will focus on three expected outcomes.
These include the diversion of children and youth from the formal Court systems, empowerment of children and youth in conflict with the law through opportunities that support rehabilitation and prepare them for a successful future, and successful reintegration of youth into their families and communities.
The participating Member States are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The OECS Commission has already made progress towards reducing crime and violence in the region through its Juvenile Justice Reform Project, which resulted in child justice legislation being passed in five out of the six participating Member States, and over 500 children being diverted and supported through capacity building and the creation of mechanisms for the implementation of Child Justice Legislation.
However, some gaps still remained, including issues around data, sustainability, communications, and child and youth-friendly Courts. The intention of the Grant Agreement between the OECS Commission and USAID for implementation of OASYS, is a bridging of the gaps while simultaneously creating more opportunities for the rehabilitative landscape for Youth Justice.
During the project launch, the OECS Commission stated that OASYS is aligned with the seven strategic pillars of the OECS Youth Empowerment Strategy (OECS YES), namely, Child and Youth Protection, Education and Training, Employment and Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Culture, Healthy Lifestyles and Sports, Environment and Sustainable Development, and Citizenship and Identity.
It is noteworthy that OASYS is part of the wider USAID Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), which seeks to build Caribbean partners’ capacity to disrupt illicit trafficking and transnational crime, advancing Caribbean and U.S. citizen security.
The other projects under the CBSI initiative that directly benefit OECS Member States include Youth Resilience, Inclusion and Empowerment (Y-RIE) and CariSECURE 2.0.
The OECS Commission and USAID are taking a critical step towards reducing crime and violence in the region and empowering young people to reach their full potential. According to the Director General of the OECS Commission, Dr. Didacus Jules,
“The launch of OASYS marks a critical next step in this journey, building on the work done during the JJRP to provide young people in conflict with the law with the support and opportunities they need to lead successful and fulfilling lives. We are grateful for the support of USAID and look forward to even more progress.”
SOURCE: Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. Headline stock image: Young inmates at the Bordelais Correctional Facility