Assistant Secretary General Speech


June 25, 2020 - Washington, DC

• His Excellency, Ambassador José Manuel Boza Orozco, Chair of the Committee on Hemispheric Security, the Permanent Representative of Peru to the OAS;

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

• His Excellency, Ambassador Noel Anderson Lynch, Chair of the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors in Washington D.C., Permanent Representative of Barbados;

• Captain Erington Shurland, Executive Director, Regional Security System (RSS);

• Ms. Elizabeth Riley, Executive Director (Ag.), Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA);

• Mr. Lucius Lake, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Border Control Agency, Office of the Prime Minister, Saint Lucia;

• Farah Urrutia, Secretary for OAS Secretariat for Multidimensional Security;

• Distinguished Permanent Representatives and Alternate Representatives;

• Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning,

I am honored to participate in this important meeting to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on multidimensional security vulnerabilities of the Small Island and low-lying coastal developing states of the Caribbean. This session will no doubt be informative and thought provoking, and most importantly, it will present us with an opportunity for dialogue regarding the way forward.

Every country in the world is currently facing the severe challenges presented by COVID-19. However, the impact of these challenges is magnified in Small Island states, which have limited resources that can ultimately undermine their resilience.

It has become evident that the current impact of this global pandemic will have long-term consequences as a result of increasing unemployment and poverty rates, creating more unequal societies in a region that has been recognized as having some of the highest socioeconomic disparities in the world.

It is undeniable that the economic and social crisis generated by COVID-19 has also presented new challenges related to security. We are now witnessing some of the immediate challenges that our security forces are facing such as, border closures, restriction of movement, and filling in roles of social and emergency services, which is exacerbating already weak social structures. The current Atlantic Hurricane season will put further strain on public health and disaster management in the event of a natural disaster.

Our Small Island states are often disproportionally affected by global emergencies. If left unchecked, the challenges presented by this global pandemic can further threaten peace and security in our region, and the world. These issues are as complex as they are perilous, and to bring a discussion of this nature to the Committee on Hemispheric Security is to use this Committee for exactly the purpose it was created.

At the OAS, we take great pride in maintaining a permanent forum dedicated to the consideration and discussion of matters of grave and even urgent security concern for the hemisphere, and where member states can seek to address those security challenges that are best resolved through international cooperation and dialogue. This Committee is one of the most important resources in our organization for maintaining and strengthening the peace and security of the Americas and we are very pleased to place this forum at the disposal of Small Island states as they seek cooperation to overcome the challenges before them.

During the pandemic, our organization has taken swift action to address and support our Member States. As you heard in yesterday’s Permanent Council meeting, the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security has been evaluating, strengthening and redesigning projects related to the Caribbean region to address their specific needs within the security framework.

Recognizing the adaptability of illicit actors in reacting to the impact of COVID-19 and their use of modified and innovative methods, The Department of Transnational Organized Crime (DTOC) has taken action to initiate informative dialogues on the prevention and management of the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing in this new context. It has also sought to increase coordination with the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security.

The Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) has hosted several webinars and virtual trainings focused on security in the tourism sector. Furthermore, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) has been hosting webinars and regional dialogues pertaining to best practices and lessons learned on drug policy and development in the Americas. These are just a few of the many initiatives our Secretariat is currently undertaking to serve our Member States, which Secretary Urrutia will expound on in today’s presentation.

I am wholly aware of the myriad challenges posed by this pandemic. But in the litany of challenges and obstacles that permeate our times, I want to urge that we make a collective effort to attempt to discern the opportunities that are woven into the fabric of these formidable crises that confront us. We need think outside the box. The economic security of our small nations is of paramount importance as we build more resilient societies. Micro small and medium sized enterprises (SMSEs) are the engines of economic growth for all of our countries and must be empowered to ensure their full recovery and long-term sustainability. An entrepreneurial spirit, particularly among our youth, must also be fully embraced and entrenched within our societies. Self-reliance and financial independence should form the cornerstone of our future economic resilience and prowess as we seek to diversify our economies in an effort to ‘build back better.’

I wish to extend a special thank you to our presenters this morning and our own Secretariat for Multidimensional Security for the reports they will be presenting this morning, which will provide a clearer picture of progress and challenges.

I take this opportunity to encourage a fulsome dialogue among delegations on this matter of utmost importance to our Caribbean region, and to reaffirm the General Secretariat’s unwavering commitment to supporting its Member States in the face of the current challenges this global pandemic has presented to existing multidimensional security concerns in the Caribbean.

Today, let us take full advantage of the collective wisdom of this Committee as we contemplate the future course of action, choosing always the path of dialogue and cooperation as it is the most propitious route to a more secure and prosperous tomorrow for all the peoples of the hemisphere.

Thank you.