On Thursday 28th May, the United States Department of State hosted a one-day Ministerial meeting with representatives from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Dominican Republic, observer nations and regional institutions to launch the inaugural Caribbean-United States Security Cooperation dialogue. The Delegation of St Vincent and the Grenadines was led by H.E. La Celia A. Prince, Ambassador of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United States of America.
From the U.S. side, the feature addresses were delivered by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela and U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder.
In his address, Attorney General Holder spoke of his closeness to the region, citing his own Caribbean roots, as the American-born son of a Barbadian father. The Attorney General stressed that it is the desire of President Obama, and indeed his own aspiration as the first Caribbean-American Attorney General of the United States, to see closer ties with Caribbean nations, particularly with respect to security-related matters. The Caribbean basin, commonly referred to as the United States’ Third Border, has unfortunately become a transit point for drug trafficking and organised crime activities taking place between North and South America. The Attorney General emphasized the commitment of the United States to this new initiative, noting that those criminal activities threaten the entire Western Hemisphere, from the United States in the north, all the way south through the Caribbean, Central and South America. “Drug trafficking and organised crime are not an isolated problem,” he noted. “None of us, alone, can ward off violence. Criminals know no borders. They respect no flag. They embrace no rule of law but their own.”
The Ministerial meeting formally established the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) through a Declaration of Principles establishing a framework for partnership and improving security and safety of the Caribbean region. The partnership takes into account linkages between social justice and security; the need for a substantial reduction of illicit trafficking; increasing citizen safety and fostering community and law enforcement cooperation as some of its key goals. The meeting marked the climax of more than a year of consultations between the Caribbean nations and the United States.
The partnership agreement was described as one that is not static, but which will evolve to meet changing priorities within the member countries of the CBSI. It takes into consideration the multidimensional nature of the region’s security concerns and aims to develop and draw upon the capacity of the region to address common security and other related social challenges.
Some of the cooperation activities will include elements of law enforcement cooperation, judicial reform, and targeted initiatives in the areas of development and education that are aimed at providing at-risk youth within the region with improved prospects for social and economic inclusion.