10 Years of Multidimensional Security

The 2003 Declaration on Security in the Americas gave life to the concept of multidimensional security moving us beyond the traditional definitions of security, and placing integrated approaches, personal well-being and positive outcomes at the center of the OAS’s security agenda. When Secretary General José Miguel Insulza created the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security (SMS) in 2005, he was sending a strong message that new challenges needed new approaches if we want better results. Ten years later I believe we have built a robust and proactive Secretariat that is more than the sum of its parts.

During an interactive session on The Changing Security Landscape in Latin America at the World Economic Forum Latin America 2015 on May 6-8 in Riviera Maya, Mexico, General Óscar Naranjo said something to the group that was a pleasant surprise. He thought that the OAS member states were too modest in their appreciation of the importance of the creation of the concept of multidimensional security in the region. General Naranjo, one of the region’s leading security thinkers and actors believes that security is not about single issues, products or institutions, but requires an integrated and multidimensional approach. General Naranjo is not the only one to reference our approach to security. Mr. Lamberto Zannier, the Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, spoke on the “multidimensional challenges that require different tools, diversity of actors and institutions” at the International Conference on Strengthening Peace and Security Cooperation towards Democracy and Development on April 29-30. As they say, imitation is the finest form of flattery and the fact that other organizations, governments and individuals are adopting the principles and structures of our approach is both humbling and extremely reassuring for the future of security.

The Secretariat for Multidimensional Security is tasked with coordinating political, technical and practical cooperation among member states and other Inter-American and international organizations to analyze, prevent, confront and respond to emerging threats to national, regional and citizen security. It seeks to unify a range of disparate security strategies and initiatives into one comprehensive, multidimensional approach with the fundamental goal of safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of the Americas.

Politically speaking, the Secretariat receives mandates from the Summit of the Americas, the General Assembly, as well as our Permanent Council and its working groups. It is composed of a series of political organs, led by three ministerial bodies; the Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas (MISPA), the Meeting of Ministers of Justice or other Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas (REMJA), the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), and the Conference of Ministers of Defense of the Americas (CMDA).

To fulfill these mandates and other obligations, the Secretariat has three technical bodies; the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), and the Department of Public Security (DPS). These groups have developed their own set of networks to address key themes such as: border and maritime security, cyber security, money laundering and terrorism financing, arms and drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism, among others. These networks are made up of our country and issue specialists and are in my view our real force multipliers.

The key challenge for any Secretary for Multidimensional Security is to focus on practical solutions that connect the political, policy and technical platforms that we have at our disposal. The broad range of activities we carry out is united by a common approach that ensures a more sustainable and constructive response to the mandates that we have been given, and also remains true to results-based multilateralism and smart security, which offers: a) an objective, evidence-based diagnosis of the problem; b) creation of proposals based on national and regional needs and capabilities, implemented in alliance with all relevant actors; c) a multidimensional and multi-stakeholder focus ensuring systematic problem-solving; and d) a rigorous evaluation of outcomes.

I am firmly convinced that the solution to the problem of insecurity is not necessarily more security, more police, more troops, or harsher anti-crime legislation but rather intelligent investments and more efficient security. Security that emphasizes strong, transparent, and collaborative institutions and a culture of respect for the rule of law and the responsibilities and rights of citizenship. Security reform that is institution and evidence driven and citizen supported should be meticulously tailored to the specific needs and capabilities of each national security system, and must be sustainable in both the short and long-term. It should emphasize effective inter-institutional communication and cooperation at both the national, regional and international levels. Along these lines, SMS has achieved numerous accomplishments that have produced influential results.

– 2013 Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas
The Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas was a trailblazer in many ways, bringing together not only subject matter experts and research from CICAD but also youth, indigenous people, the private sector, NGOs, communities, police, politicians, bureaucrats, sub-regional representatives, and mothers. This changed the narrative from the stale exegesis presented in the past. It was an inclusive and forward-looking document that emphasized that the problem of drugs affects us all, but differently. That it is a complex and diverse issue that requires a balanced approach of healthcare, community security, and education to be effective in mitigating the damage caused by drugs. It also broke the taboo of discussing the implications of sentencing reforms, alternatives to incarceration, and experiments with cannabis.

– Defining and dealing with gangs and gang violence
My own involvement with gang violence mediation in El Salvador led to a truce between gangs in the country and an immediate reduction in homicide rates. It also opened dialogue and space for discussion surrounding conflict mediation, and violence and conflict related to unconventional and non-state actors. Most recently, this led to an experts meeting hosted by the OAS on Searching for Common Approaches to Deal with Unconventional Conflicts and Violence in the Americas. This meeting resulted in a final report outlining lessons learned and best practices, as well as a network of practitioners surrounding the issue of unconventional conflict and violence. DPS has also produced a substantive report on the Definition and Classification of Gangs that provided important knowledge and understanding for future and further work related to gangs in the region.

– De-mining and firearms reduction
With over 80 percent of homicides in the region committed with firearms, SMS launched two very successful firearms control initiatives- the OAS Program of Assistance for the Control of Arms and Munitions (PACAM), and the project Promoting Firearms Marking in Latin America and the Caribbean. These two initiatives have accounted for the marking of over 300,000 firearms, as well as the destruction of over 35,000 firearms and nearly 1 million rounds of ammunition. In de-mining efforts, the OAS, through the Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (AICMA), as well as other initiatives and actions, maintains projects devoted to creating a landmine-free region, providing education, assistance to victims, as well as targeting stockpile destruction and passing resolutions for a landmine-free Hemisphere.

– Cyber Security
Following the adoption of the Comprehensive Inter-American Cyber Security Strategy we have worked with Member States to develop the tools and frameworks necessary to strengthen cyber security. Our priority is to create a culture of cyber security awareness across public, private, and user communities. Currently, the Cyber Security Program has promoted the creation of Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs), whose numbers have risen from six to nineteen in the last decade with other countries establishing national cyber security policies and strategies as well. The Cyber Security program also conducts cyber security crisis management exercises and training activities, and has partnered with multiple private and public bodies to strengthen cyber security throughout the region, providing the space for partnerships, cooperation, and the sharing of information and practices. Most recently, CICTE concluded its 2015 annual meeting with a call to combat terrorist threats specifically aimed at critical infrastructure. The meeting produced a declaration on Protection of Critical Infrastructure from Emerging Threats, reaffirming the OAS’s commitment to combating terrorist threats targeting critical infrastructure and cyber security weaknesses.

– Nurturing the growth of AMERIPOL
The constant professionalization and bench marking of our police is essential to improving security outcomes, but it is also important for our democracies and governance. In addition to being the first responders to citizens in need, police also serve as the image of a country, jurisdiction or government. Get it wrong and the cost to society and law and order can be very high. The Police Community of the Americas (AMERIPOL), is an important vehicle for technical coordination, integration, and the reduction of police asymmetries in our region and so its institutionalization must continue. I have focused on improving AMERIPOL’s influence and accountability as I believe the cultural change that is required has to be owned and driven by the police themselves. AMERIPOL’s development is also crucial to effectively respond to the globalization of crime. To prevent, target, and disrupt globalized and transnational organized crime there must exist regional and sub-regional police cooperation and confidence building mechanisms. I see our efforts to develop the Inter-American Network for Police Development and Professionalization program as a strong complement to AMERIPOL as it will bring in key civilian and academic stakeholders

Let me close by saying that in the past ten years the Secretariat has come a long way from words to actions. As I am sure my Brazilian predecessor and first Secretary for Multidimensional Security, Alexandre Addor Neto would agree, it has been a privilege to work with an incredibly talented and dedicated group of professionals – staff that want to make a difference – from almost all of our member states. I have personally learned a lot over the past five years as dealing with issues related to security is not an easy task and there are no short cuts. However, I am optimistic that if we keep working together and focusing on an integrated and multidimensional approach we will continue to make a difference.

To view the Wilson Center’s publication, please click the following link: 10 Years of Multidimensional Security.

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