BALTIMORE, USA — As the US government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), continues to support regional governments to reduce youth crime and violence across the Eastern Caribbean, two St Kitts-Nevis officials working with at-risk youth have benefitted significantly from participation in the Fifth National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence held from June 27-29, in Baltimore, Maryland.
USAID mission director Christopher Cushing led a US government-sponsored regional delegation to the three-day summit. The delegation included St Kitts and Nevis’ permanent secretary in the ministry of health, community, gender affairs and social services Janelle Lewis, and that country’s director of youth Pierre Liburd.
St Kitts and Nevis’ ambassador to the United States, Dr Thelma Phillip-Browne, and USAID program management specialist Chloe Noble also participated in the forum.
Cushing said the regional participants welcomed the opportunity to engage with their international counterparts who work with at-risk youth and those in conflict with the law.
“The summit provided great opportunities for networking and the sharing of best practices,” Cushing said. “There was excellent dialogue among participants, which provided knowledge-sharing that will enrich our thinking and approaches within the Caribbean region. The forum was quite timely, given the fact that USAID is preparing to partner on new youth development and juvenile justice initiatives in the region.”
The summit, themed A Hopeful Future: Sustaining Our Work to End Youth Violence, attracted over 600 national and international delegates and was hosted by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Representatives of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which seeks to ensure that all youth, including minority boys, are provided with opportunities to improve their lives and overcome barriers to success, also participated in the forum.
The meeting highlighted the work of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a network of 15 communities and federal agencies that share information and build local capacity to prevent and reduce youth violence; the Community-based Violence Prevention Program, which works to stop gun violence in 16 cities; and the Defending Childhood Initiative, which seeks to prevent trauma resulting from children’s exposure to violence.
Participants benefitted from myriad presentations and over 30 concurrent workshops over the three days on a range of topics like violence reduction from the community, institutional, health and state levels.
During the final session, participants heard from key Baltimore officials including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Health Commissioner Leana Wen. Executive director of the My Brother’s Keeper White House Task Force Michael D. Smith also hosted a panel titled ‘My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge’.
Along with representatives from various cities in the USA, several national figures attended the summit including US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary of Education John King and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.