Assistant Secretary General Speech


April 7, 2016 - Washington, DC

CHS Meeting to Discuss the Special Security Concerns of Small Island States

Hon. Major General Edmund Dillon, Minister of National Security of Trinidad and Tobago

H.E. Ambassador Marco Vinicio Albuja, Permanent Representative of

Ecuador and Chair of the Committee on Hemispheric Security

H.E. Ambassador Patrick Andrews, Permanent Representative of Belize and

Chair of the CARICOM Caucus

Distinguished invited speakers

Distinguished Permanent Representatives

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

It is an honor for me to be here this morning to address you at this important session of the Committee on Hemispheric Security, focusing on the special security concerns of Small Island States, and in particular on the challenges posed by transnational organized crime. Today, we will hear from various presenters regarding measures taken and lessons learned, and we will have an important opportunity for dialogue regarding the way forward.

Ladies and gentlemen, we convene here today, acutely aware that, transnational organized crime is one of the most complex and destabilizing threats that countries in our hemisphere are now facing.

Delegates to this committee are no doubt aware that the security threats facing the Caribbean are largely linked to regional geopolitical conditions. Their geographic location places countries in the Caribbean along a major drug trade route between key drug producing countries and primary consumer markets. In addition, their extensive coastlines and vast territorial waters present a significant challenge for law enforcement in terms of patrolling.

Apart from the drug trade, the region also faces significant problems with trafficking of illegal firearms. According to the 2012 OAS Report on Citizen Security, 68 percent of homicides in the Caribbean are committed with firearms. Additionally, illegal firearms play a key role in facilitating other forms of serious crime, including armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking and even trafficking in persons. Furthermore, in many instances, the same illicit trafficking networks have allowed criminal organizations to acquire firepower equal to, or even greater than, the public security forces facing them.

Perhaps even more dangerous than the firepower wielded by these criminal groups, is the economic power they gain from their lucrative crimes. Their involvement in the facilitation of illicit trafficking provides them with the financial means to corrupt government officials and even interfere in political/democratic processes, further promoting institutional weakness and government instability. Drug money also allows them to gain significant influence among marginalized youth, some of whom become attracted by the financial success and the lifestyle of drug dealers. Considering that half of our population is below 30 years of age, this form of influence should not be disregarded, especially as youth unemployment rates remain double the national rates of unemployment.

The same networks that facilitate massive flows of illicit drugs via land, air and sea can be used to smuggle just about anything (and anyone) into almost any country. The existence of these networks constitutes a serious threat to the national security of all our countries. Of further concern is that the very lucrative “business model” of transnational organized crime is now being used by insurgents and terrorists to finance their efforts, with explosive and destabilizing effect. I will discuss this nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism later in my presentation.

Cuando se trata de la lucha contra la delincuencia organizada transnacional, todos tenemos responsabilidad, una responsabilidad compartida. A pesar de que sus efectos dañinos pueden manifestarse de forma diferente en cada país, todos somos afectados negativamente por este flagelo. Nuestros países deben, por lo tanto, no sólo buscar la implementación de medidas para hacer frente a sus propios desafíos de seguridad, sino también colaborar con los Estados vecinos que pueden estar enfrentando problemas similares.

Es en este espíritu que deseo recalcar brevemente ciertas actividades de la OEA en la lucha contra la delincuencia organizada transnacional y también mencionar algunas de las lecciones aprendidas de nuestros esfuerzos. En primer lugar, permítanme reiterar que la OEA está comprometida con un enfoque multidimensional y coordinado para hacer frente a estos retos de seguridad, dentro de un marco de pleno respeto a los derechos humanos y la gobernabilidad democrática. Estamos convencidos de que esta es la mejor manera de reducir la violencia y garantizar la seguridad ciudadana.

La Secretaría General de la OEA, a través de la Secretaría de Seguridad Multidimensional y sus departamentos, ejecuta varios programas y proyectos que buscan aportar a los esfuerzos de nuestros Estados Miembros para hacer frente a la delincuencia organizada transnacional en sus diversas manifestaciones y consecuencias. La Secretaría de Seguridad Multidimensional ha preparado un informe sobre sus iniciativas en apoyo a las Preocupaciones Especiales de Seguridad de los Pequeños Estados Insulares del Caribe para el período 2015-2016 que será distribuido a los Estados Miembros. Permítanme resaltar algunos de los programas más destacados que hemos implementado.

In order to help Caribbean member states address the consequences of drug addiction, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) is implementing a training and certification program for drug and violence prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. Known as PROCCER Caribbean, this program is designed to develop and strengthen member state’s institutions, policies, and strategies regarding treatment and rehabilitation for individuals with problems stemming from drug abuse and violence. Under this program, the OAS has trained over 800 prevention practitioners and treatment service providers throughout CARICOM.

As a result of the success of the PROCCER-Caribbean Project, member states have asked CICAD to develop a targeted training program for persons working with high-risk adolescents, especially those in conflict with the law. This program called PROCCER –Adolescents was developed in 2014 and so far two pilot programs (in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago) have been conducted. CICAD is working to bring this specialized training to additional Caribbean OAS member states.

CICAD is also implementing a Drug Treatment Court Program in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Barbados and Belize, the objective of which is to promote alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders as a way to reduce prison populations and find better ways to treat drug-dependent individuals.

CICAD also provides specialized training courses and workshops for judges, prosecutors and law enforcement in anti-money laundering and is working with CARICOM member states to establish a Caribbean Asset Recovery Network. The Network would facilitate the process of illicit asset identification, freezing and seizure.

One lesson that we have learned is that repressive “tough on crime” approaches do not work. We have found that violence prevention, community policing, and rehabilitation and reinsertion are far more effective policy approaches.

At the OAS, we fully appreciate the significance of the 2013 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Crime and Security Strategy, which continues to guide CARICOM’s coordinated crime-fighting efforts. In 2014 we signed an MOU with CARICOM IMPACS reaffirming our commitment to cooperate and coordinate our efforts within the framework of the 2013 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Crime and Security Strategy.

I now wish to refer to a topic I mentioned earlier in my presentation, that is the nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism. Recent attacks in Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Ottawa, and San Bernadino demonstrate the serious threat that terrorism poses to security in the Americas and the world. We are reminded that this scourge has no borders. We are also keenly aware that terrorist organizations employ similar organized crime activities such as money laundering, trafficking of arms, and human smuggling, to finance and carry out their cowardly acts.

We have been fortunate that acts of terrorism have yet to reach our Caribbean shores, but we must continue to be vigilant of this clear and present danger.

With that said, I wish to highlight the role of The Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) in assisting member states to prevent, combat and eliminate terrorism. Within CARICOM, under its border controls program, CITCE has provided training in Aviation Security, Passenger Interdiction, and Travel Document Examination and Fraud Prevention. CICTE also provided training courses to Caribbean officials in anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing.

With Cybercrime becoming an increasingly important income earner for transnational organized criminal groups, the OAS, through the CICTE Cyber Security program has been very active in providing much needed technical assistance, training and policy guidance to Caribbean Member States in this relatively new field.

I also wish to remind member states of the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism signed in 2002. This Convention provides the blue print for our work in the area of terrorism. I encourage member states that have yet to do so, to seek to ratify the Convention so that we can continue to strengthen hemispheric cooperation to prevent, combat, and eliminate terrorism.

In the title of this session of the Committee on Hemispheric Security, the organizers invite us to contemplate the way forward. In this regard, I am pleased to inform of two initiatives currently underway that member states should factor into their consideration of the way forward. First, delegates will no doubt recall that earlier this year, in response to requests from member states, Secretary General Almagro issued an executive order creating a new Department against Transnational Organized Crime within the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security. This new department is currently being formed and should be operational in 2 to 3 months time. The new department will spearhead and coordinate the organization’s efforts and technical assistance in the areas related to transnational organized crime, such as anti-money laundering, border controls, firearms control, counter trafficking in persons, among others.

The second initiative relates to the Committee on Hemispheric Security, which, under the shared chairmanship of Peru and Ecuador, has decided this year to focus on the various security issues and threats associated with transnational organized crime. In this context, delegations have agreed to revisit the Hemispheric Plan of Action Against Transnational Organized Crime of 2006 with a view to updating it if required. We in the Secretariat stand read to implement any mandates that Member States may choose to include in the Plan of Action.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see from these two initiatives currently underway, the OAS Secretariat is poised to take a new, reenergized approach to the way transnational organized crime is addressed in the Inter-American system. This is a topic on which we have placed great emphasis as our work in combating transnational organized crime continues to expand and deepen. But we can only achieve success if we work together. It is my sincere wish that today’s presentations and dialogue will help us to identify our common challenges and develop coordinated approaches to tackling them.

In conclusion, I take this opportunity to reassure you that the OAS will continue to collaborate with our member states and strategic partners to expand our programs and develop new initiatives. Today, as you consider the road ahead, I urge you all to take full advantage of the cooperation infrastructure of the OAS and the commitment of our staff to stand shoulder to shoulder with you to face this most serious threat.

I thank you