Assistant Secretary General Speech


April 25, 2019 - Washington, DC

• His Excellency, Ambassador Anthony Phillips-Spencer, Chair of the Committee on Hemispheric Security, the Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the OAS;

• Senator, the Honorable Dr. Winston Garraway, Minister of State Grenada and Representative of the Chair of the CARICOM Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE);

• Dr. Jean Alain Rodríguez Sánchez, Attorney General of the Dominican Republic;

• Ambassador H. E. Warren Everson Hull, Chair of the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors in Washington D.C., Permanent Representative of St. Kitts and Nevis;

• Ms. Tonya T. Ayow, Assistant Director, Support Services CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS);

• Mr. Arnaldo Posadas, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Focal Point for justice and citizen security programs in the Caribbean;

• Ms. Chisa Mikami (Ms.), Resident Representative, a.i., United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Barbados and the OECS;

• Mr. Brian Quigley, OAS Secretariat for Multidimensional Security;

• Distinguished Permanent Representatives and Alternate Representatives;

• Representatives from our Permanente Observer Missions

• Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning

I am honored to participate in this important meeting organized to address a dire issue facing the small island and low-lying developing states of the Caribbean, namely, how should we confront the illicit trafficking of firearms, a global phenomenon whose impact is manifested at the community level through the armed violence and suffering visited on our people every day.

In the Caribbean region, approximately 65% of intentional homicides involve firearms. The multidimensional nature of the problem of armed violence is evident to all of us, and almost every element of this epidemic is a symptom of another problem. In fact, it is a textbook definition of a pervasive condition, where the multiple socio-economic drivers are in themselves difficult problems to resolve. Economic inequality, under-investment, illicit drugs, armed violence, and a weakening of the social fabric are just some of the elements at play. But clearly, in our societies today, illicit firearms trafficking has an accelerant or catalytic effect on the levels and destructiveness of armed violence.

The illicit trafficking of firearms enhances the firepower of certain criminal actors involved in drug trafficking and other serious crimes, often to levels that challenge both the capacity of the State to respond, as well as its monopoly on legitimate use of force. The violence spurred thereby generates insecurity and instability, fear and tension, in our communities, and impact our economic and social development significantly, disproportionately affecting our most vulnerable populations.

One of the major challenges hampering efforts to develop better, more efficient and more effective policy responses to the problem, is the lack of high quality data on which to base those policies. In this regard, I would like to urge member states to complete and submit the United Nations Illicit Arms Flow Questionnaire and the Questionnaire on the Implementation and Effectiveness of the CIFTA. An analysis of the data collected by these questionnaires would help the Secretariat to compile a report that would contribute to Member States’ efficient use of limited investigative and prosecutorial resources.

Furthermore, as we work toward stemming the international flows of illicit firearms into our region, we must also take steps to protect our national firearms inventories from diversion, theft and loss since stolen firearms pose a substantial threat to public safety and law enforcement.

It is important to note that as we bring more resources to bear against this scourge, we have made important progress. We applaud the work that CARICOM IMPACS has been doing in this area. CARICOM’s establishment of the Regional Integrated Ballistic Information Network (RIBIN), coupled with other important advances in forensic capacity have laid important ground-work for the successful prosecution of the perpetrators of armed violence in our societies.

The Role of the OAS

I would like now to highlight the work that the OAS is doing within the framework of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA), wherein Member States, with the support of the General Secretariat, have developed 7 model laws, 2 model regulations and 3 guides regarding firearms control. These resources are ready and available for Member States to consider as they review and update their national firearms legislation and regulations. Also, at the Fourth Conference of States Parties held in Mexico City in April 2018, Member States adopted a renewed Course of Action to guide the implementation of the CIFTA during the period 2018 to 2022. The Course of Action contains numerous measures that when implemented will serve to reduce illicit trafficking in firearms and ammunition.

Additionally, the General Secretariat has provided and will continue to provide technical assistance in Firearms Marking; the effective management of stockpiles; the destruction of obsolete and excess firearms and ammunition; and the development of national legislation; to the extent attainable using available resources.

Another noteworthy event at the Inter-American level was the decision taken by the OAS General Assembly last year to proclaim April 5 of each year as the Inter-American Day to Counter the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms. In fact this very issue was included in the Agenda of the OAS Permanent Council on April 23, 2019, and delegations spoke at length about it. In this context, I urge Member States to use this annual occasion to publicly engage with relevant national and international partners, including civil society, to raise awareness in our societies, to reinforce our commitment, redouble our efforts, strengthen our cooperation, and to join our forces and our resources to prevent and reduce the illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms, ammunition, explosives and other related materials.


Ladies and gentlemen:

I wish to extend a special thanks to CARICOM IMPACS, UNDP, the Inter-American Development Bank and our own Secretariat for Multidimensional Security, for the reports they will be presenting this morning, after which we will no doubt have a clearer picture of the progress we have made and the challenges that remain for our region. I take this opportunity to encourage a fulsome dialogue among delegations on this matter of utmost importance to our Caribbean Region and, on behalf of the General Secretariat, I reaffirm our commitment to continue supporting our Member States in their efforts to reduce the deleterious impact of armed violence in our Caribbean region.

There remains much to be done, but we look ahead with optimism and confidence that together we can reverse these violent trends and restore the social fabric of our Caribbean communities. Our people deserve no less.

Thank you.