Addressing Armed Violence: A Look at Small Island Developing States

Pistols and AmmoBy Shmuel Levin

The Diplomat

The Caribbean and the Pacific each offer a unique and contrasting perspective toward addressing armed violence. Despite sharing similar challenges as Small Island Developing States (SIDS), each region faces very different circumstances on the ground. In light of this, each region has taken a different approach toward addressing armed violence. The Pacific stands apart as a global leader in implementing disarmament initiatives on a regional level. In contrast, the Caribbean has demonstrated the potential of harnessing international frameworks to address regional concerns. Together, both regions provide insight for each other, other island nations, and the international community at large, in addressing armed violence.

When it comes to addressing armed violence and illicit weapons flows, both the Caribbean and the Pacific share a number of common capacity and geographical challenges. Both regions face capacity challenges as the result of having relatively small populations and limited resources. As the minister for foreign affairs and foreign trade of Barbados has noted, the vulnerability of SIDS and the threats to peace and security divert already limited resources away from national development.

Similarly, both regions share common geographical challenges as the result of having to patrol vast oceans and long maritime borders. While the Pacific does not face the same challenges from illicit trade as in the Caribbean, its large maritime environment is still susceptible to unmanaged transit and trans-shipment. Furthermore, capacity and geographical challenges are often interlinked because patrolling large maritime borders requires extensive resources.

Despite these commonalities, the Caribbean and the Pacific face very different circumstances on the ground. Some parts of the Pacific have been plagued by armed violence. Overall, however, firearm homicide rates remain significantly lower in the Pacific than in most other regions of the world. The Pacific has not seen a major conflict since the 1990s and arms trafficking and illicit drug routes generally bypass the region.

By contrast, as a result of its geographical location, the Caribbean has become a node of illicit weapons flows. The Caribbean forms a hub through which illicit drugs are trafficked from their production sites in South American countries. These trafficking routes are fought over by various crime syndicates who routinely seek guns to secure and facilitate the lucrative trade. This means that as narcotics are smuggled out via the Caribbean, illicit weapons are in turn smuggled back in. As a result, Caribbean states experience the world’s highest levels of non-conflict related armed violence. Seventy percent of murders in the region involve small arms.

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Picture: Jackson-Lewis1717 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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