On 4 December 2020, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat, carried out a webinar on ‘Firearms in Schools: A Regional Overview’ for Caribbean States. The webinar also marked the official launch of UNLIREC’s recent study on ‘Firearms in Latin American and Caribbean Schools: Approaches, Challenges and Responses’ for Caribbean States.

Over the past few decades, media reports of incidents involving firearms in schools have been increasingly recurring in many countries of the region. These incidents which include both the presence and use of firearms inside schools have led to injuries and fatalities as a result of intentional and accidental gunshots. This phenomenon poses enormous challenges in ensuring safe learning spaces for children and adolescents in the region.

Given this regional context and with the objective of better understanding the approach, challenges and responses to this phenomenon, UNLIREC undertook the aforementioned study. UNLIREC thanks the governments, international organizations, civil society organizations and experts who contributed to the data collection for this study.

During the webinar, UNLIREC presented a regional overview of the phenomenon, main findings of the study, and the different responses being implemented to tackle the presence and use of firearms in schools in the region. Meanwhile, a representative of the CARICOM Secretariat presented on the advancement of its School Violence Prevention Programme, the key priorities of schools and communities of the CARICOM Member States and shared effective regional strategies being implemented to prevent violence against children in schools and homes. Both UNLIREC and CARICOM concurred on the need of enhanced inter-agency coordination and data-sharing as important steps to prevent the presence and use of firearms in schools in the Caribbean.

More than 115 persons, including 48 women, from education, law enforcement, defense and administrative sectors from different Caribbean States and international organizations actively participated in the webinar. Through this webinar, UNLIREC facilitated a regional dialogue by providing an opportunity for the participants to ask questions, share comments and exchange experiences related to the phenomenon of firearms in schools.

This webinar forms part of a larger project on firearms in Latin American and Caribbean schools made possible thanks to the financial support of the Government of Sweden.

UNLIREC, as the regional organ of the UN Office for Disarmament, seeks to advance the cause of practical disarmament and promote enhanced public security in Latin America and the Caribbean. This effort is aligned with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda “Securing our Common Future”, Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security.