When Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) gather on 18-19 February 2020 for their Thirtieth Intersessional Meeting in Barbados, high on the agenda is the issue of Security. More specifically, the priority actions to strengthen regional law enforcement cooperation and coordination among CARICOM States.
Citizen’s security is at the heart of the CARICOM Security agenda. To this end, interventions, among other outcomes, seek to establish, strengthen and protect democratic civic order, as well as to eliminate violence and threats of violence among citizens to allow for safe and peaceful co-existence.
Strengthening regional law enforcement cooperation and collaboration for effective outcomes is one such intervention. CARICOM’s complex security landscape and the ever-changing regional and international realities necessitate robust and comprehensive cooperation and collaboration.
Insecurity in the Region?
A brief snapshot of crime and security as articulated in the Caribbean Community Security Strategy (CCSS), shows high rates of homicide and violent crimes; trafficking in guns, ammunition and illegal narcotics; organised crime rising cybercrime; and the growing power of transnational and organised crime networks.
The upshot of this includes, youth violence, gangs and gender-based violence, especially domestic and sexual violence against women and girls, among other ills. Increased cyber and financial crimes on an international scale mainly due to technological advancements.
Statistics indicate that the Caribbean region, while home to 8.5 per cent of the world’s population, disproportionately experiences about 27 per cent of the world’s homicides; some Caribbean countries rank among the highest in the world for the number of homicides per 100,000 people[i] .
The security threats caused by the impact of natural disasters is another issue contributing to the vulnerability of states. Hurricanes, tropical storms, floods and landslides damage critical infrastructure and negatively affect economies. Moreover , in the aftermath of these natural disasters security forces are often challenged to perform first responder duties, whilst addressing law and order issues such as looting, as the environment becomes conducive to various illicit activities.
In addition to public health challenges, viruses and diseases moving across borders given the interconnectedness of the Caribbean and the world, also present security and others challenges.
While fear and violence limit opportunities for people and are obstacles to human development, the exercise of human rights, and the strengthening of democratic governance.
In nutshell, the upshot of the aforementioned issues is economic growth undermined, social development impeded and environmental sustainability
Steps in the CARICON’s response to achieve Citizen Security
CARICOM is fighting back and in doing so recognises the need for a collaborative approach. It has put in place a number of interventions which show the seriousness that Community decision makers have accorded this issue.
These include reconfiguring the CARICOM architecture to add a fourth pillar: Security, since 2007; treating with security policy at the political level through the establishment of the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE) to coordinate policy across the Community; establishing a specialised regional institution, the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) with its sub-agencies to coordinate and to provide leadership of the technical and operational aspects of the CARICOM response; developing and implementing the 2008 Social and Development Crime Prevention Action Plan and 2013 CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy (CCSS) mainstreaming security in the Community Strategic Plan 2015-2019 which identifies Enhancing Citizen Security and Justice as a strategy of its Social Resilience Strategic Priority; among others
In December 2015, the CARICOM Region was among the first to adopt the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate global climate deal at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21), due to enter into force in 2020. Natural disasters are considered a perpetual imminent security threat to CARICOM states.
Regional security: A collaborative effort
The aforementioned process and aspects of the regional security response and architecture, are supplemented by national security institutions mandated to address the needs of the specific Member States. These include border protection agencies, coast guards, disaster management agencies, correctional/prison institutions and fire services, among others.
It includes as well coordinating and collaborative relationships with other countries in the region, regional institutions and agencies. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Caribbean Public Health Agencies (CARPHA), Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System (CASSOS), and the Regional Security System (RSS)/ are examples of the collaboration between both CARICOM institutions and institutions with which it enjoys functional relationships.
At the international level, CARICOM collaborates with countries and international bodies such the United States of America, European Union. Together with regional collaboration, CARICOM’s security response has collectively resulted in, among other outcomes, border security interventions including capacity building, ballistic and other training, information and intelligence sharing, an advanced cargo information system (ACIS) and advance passenger information system. Together, these initiatives are intended to enhance the safety and security of the peoples of the Region.
A more recent outcome aimed at citizen security and reflective of both regional and international collaboration is the recently concluded CARIFORUM Crime and Security Programme under the Tenth European Development Fund. This programme, a joint initiative of the of the European Union the Caribbean Forum of ACP States (CARIFORUM), promoted a systemic response to crime and violence in the Region.
The CARIFORUM Crime and Security Programme
With its goal stated as –
“To contribute to the overall safety of citizens and improvement of the security environment in the CARIFORUM Region”, a number of regional agencies collaborated to implement a programme of work.
These agencies included CARICOM-IMPACS, the RSS, the National Drug Control Directorate (Dominican Republic), the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF)n and the CARICOM Secretariat.
This programme targeted both at the individual and institutional levels, policy makers and practitioners; professionals working with adolescents and youth, the youth, including those vulnerable to crime, involuntary remigrants, children among other beneficiaries.
The outcomes resulted in strengthened human, technical and institutional capacity of drug demand reduction institutions, systems and networks culturally age appropriate gender sensitive treatment and rehabilitation services and interventions targeting particular vulnerable groups developed and delivered; research driven drug policies and interventions to guide the development of policies and programmes
It included capacity building to address risk behaviours, opportunities and institutional responses; capacity building to reduce eliminate intra-family violence; capacity building to reduce recidivism and to promote social inclusion and reintegration of offenders in CARICFORM states.
Drug supply and control initiatives with enhanced coordination and dialogue with Latin America, capacity built in intelligence resources in CARIFORUM; cooperation among CARICOM Intelligence Community and Latin America and the among others were also among the outcomes.
CARICOM’s approach to citizen security is based on a comprehensive, sustainable, participatory, and multidisciplinary approach. Protecting the life of the entire population, as well as safeguarding their integrity and patrimony, are fundamental principles of this approach.
[i] (9World Population Review 2019)