- Honourable Ministers and Heads of Delegation
- Mrs Alison Drayton, Assistant Secretary-General CARICOM
- Lt. Col. Michael Jones, Executive Director, CARICOM IMPACS;
- Commodore Errington Shurland, Executive Director, Regional Security System
- Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen, It is my esteemed honour to address you in my capacity as Chairman of the Council of Ministers of National Security and Law Enforcement at this our 24th meeting. It is indeed a pleasure to not only welcome you to Jamaica but also to our first in person meeting since the onset of the COVID pandemic.
Allow me to express sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Secretariat and IMPACS team, as well as my local technical team, for the coordination and logistical arrangements for this meeting in Jamaica.
Honourable Ministers, it is pivotal for us as CARICOM Member States to meet at this time, given the complex and extensive challenges that are facing the region. There are indeed several burning issues in the security arena that need our attention as a collective. This meeting will allow us to examine solutions to these challenges with a singular focus, as well as to explore ways to strengthen existing frameworks and partnerships.
At our 23rd meeting in February 2022, there were four (4) areas identified that are of common security interest to Member States. These are: Firearms Trafficking, Cyber Security, Trafficking in Persons and Maritime Security. These areas of focus will continue to be underpinned by the critical areas of information & intelligence sharing and border security.
These common threats have the potential to dismantle any gains we make as a region in achieving our sustainable development goals. Trafficking in Persons, for example, results in the most vulnerable in our region being exploited into forced labour, sexual servitude, and debt bondage. The latest UN Office on Drugs and Crime Global Report on Trafficking in Persons shows that around one-third of all detected victims are children, a share that has tripled over the past 15 years. Indeed, we can all agree that renewed and reinvigorated action against this crime is needed more than ever, as economic hardship, conflict, and health and climate emergencies globally are increasing and compounding vulnerabilities to trafficking, exploitation and abuse.
The issue of illicit firearms trafficking was identified as a tier one threat in the CARICOM Regional Security Strategy and as one of the main drivers of criminality levels in the region. It has the potential to cripple the already fragile socio-economic developmental progress in CARICOM and the advancement of the CSME. None of our countries manufacture firearms and yet the ill effects of their proliferation and the contribution to gang violence and transnational criminal activities permeates our respective territories and are responsible for more than 70% of homicides in CARICOM. It is within this context that it is important to disrupt and prevent illegal firearms and ammunition passing through our borders.
Honourable Ministers, while I recognize and appreciate the individual efforts made in addressing these security threats, the critical areas identified have been our greatest challenges as a region. At the national level, this has led to increased budgetary allocation and investments and manpower, in an already tight fiscal space. As Ministers of National Security and security experts, we not only have a duty but a responsibility to ensure that our resources are efficiently and appropriately managed; research, analysis and monitoring of activities/initiatives are effectively conducted; and that there is real tangible value in the partnerships we forge at the national and regional levels. We must therefore, seek to strengthen our relationships across Member States, so that the existing silos can be addressed.
Distinguished delegates, as we deliberate today and engage in key areas of mutual interest, let us not forget our commitments to address our regional security priority areas, which include ensuring the sustainability and viability of CARICOM IMPACS and to strengthening our regional intelligence and information sharing systems and infrastructure.
We understand our unique vulnerabilities and the threats posed by transnational organized criminal activities and their impact on the people, the environment and economies. These challenges therefore, require strong partnerships, collaboration and strategic deployment of resources to achieve the best outcomes.
As we begin our deliberations, I would like to reiterate our commitments to:
- Maritime domain awareness and the sustainability of the region’s blue economy.
- Building critical strategic partnerships and collaboration to share information and intelligence data to disrupt organised criminal networks.
- Support the establishment of the CARICOM Crime Gun Intelligence Unit and to ensure that the Unit is outfitted with highly trained staff.
- Deepen our coordination and cooperation efforts to more effectively address security challenges in the region; and to ensure the implementation of activities/initiatives for sustainable results.
- Collectively advance our efforts to address – Firearms Trafficking, Cyber Security, Trafficking in Persons and Maritime Security.
I wish to take the opportunity to once thank again the Government of the United States through their various programmes in helping the region to address our unique security challenges. The truth is, the Region can only achieve meaningful results in addressing security priority areas by working with key strategic partners. As a strategic partner in the fight against transnational organised crime, and in helping to secure the region as the third border of the U.S., your efforts are acknowledged and will be essential in changing the security landscape.
As we approach the end of 2022, we must seek to continue to strengthen our resolve to remain undeterred by these challenges and the many constraints that have been imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Honourable Ministers, we need long-term Caribbean-led thinking about how best to co-exist in a world in which new security threats are emerging. I look forward to meaningful and robust discussions on the Agenda Items and the implementation of these activities.
I thank you.