It is ironic how we talk about governance and security challenges for small island states when in relative terms we are speaking about massive maritime and air borders. In fact, Caribbean countries with relatively small populations are facing the challenges of globalization and a hyper-connected world that are disproportionate to their capacity to respond. Their relatively small economies are dependant (more than most) on being open; bringing in tourists, managing large Diasporas, and the need to import what they don’t or can’t produce. Furthermore, they are highly susceptible to climate events and global economic conditions while international assistance, for the most part, is declining and inconsistent.
As if these challenges were not enough, Caribbean countries are now confronted with multiple threats to national and citizen security that are generated by drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. Recent drug seizures indicate an increase in flows of South American narcotics through the Caribbean. Eventually this may lead to collateral issues like increased availability of illegal firearms and an increase in cash flow for Caribbean gangs, subsequently facilitating the drug trade. The violent competition between rival gangs is likely to continue. These factors place unprecedented burdens on our security institutions and legal systems, and also impact economic and political stability at an enormous cost to development.
What can we do:
To confront these challenges CARICOM Member States agreed to adopt a coordinated approach, leveraging of CARICOM, hemispheric and international expertise and cooperation to chart a common way forward. In 2013, CARICOM Heads adopted the CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy (CCSS), a strategy that reflects over a decade of constant, incremental advancement in regional security dialogue, collaboration and coordination.
Within the context the CCSS, the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the OAS (SMS/OAS) has been coordinating with CARICOM IMPACS to assist with the achievement of the Caribbean strategy.
The SMS/OAS work strategy can be summed up by the term Smart Security, which essentially, is the product of over a decade of in-depth analysis of the security situation and security policy in the hemisphere. What has been learned is that effectiveness in confronting security challenges has less to do with “quick-fix” heavy-handed anti-crime legislation and more to do with the building of strong, professional, security institutions that approach security challenges from an objective, evidence-based, multidimensional and multi stakeholder perspective, and that also rigorously evaluate their results and indicators.
Listed below are some of the areas where the OAS/SMS can bring its expertise to bear:
- Police Training and Professionalization: The quality of police officers is as or more important than the quantity. Professional police services, with proper standards and structure, who are well recruited, well trained and certified, and remunerated commensurate to the risk and vocation, are far more likely to have a positive relationship with the community, be less corrupt and solve more crimes.
- Drug Policy: the use of drug courts and alternative sentencing for certain non-violent drug offenders. This could help to address the serious problem of prison overcrowding, as well as reducing the economic and social costs associated with incarceration.
- Anti-Gang Policy: focused on prevention that includes keeping kids out of gangs in the first place, increasing youth and community resilience, ensuring effective rehabilitation and reintegration of former offenders back into society to lead useful and productive lives.
- Improved Firearms Trafficking Controls: the expansion of ballistic information networks is critical, and as is firearm marking, improved stockpile management and proper destruction of obsolete/surplus firearms.
- Coordinated border controls and improved port and airport security to help stem the flow of illegal firearms and drugs. Leveraging systems like ASYCUDA World and APIS can improve awareness and control of the inflows and outflows of people and goods. Also, training for airport security officers and port officers to better detect irregularities in documents, cargo and human behavior increases their effectiveness.
- Crime: Increased investment and training of Financial Intelligence Units and prosecutors to equip them in the detection and prosecution of financial crimes and money laundering.
- Improved/Updated Tourism Security Training: not only aimed at building capacity but also focused on fostering integrated public-private sector strategies and partnerships.