Thursday, November 10, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Critical though it is, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) is not a quick fix for the many security challenges facing Caribbean countries and the United States, said Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham at the opening of the second annual Caribbean-United States Security Cooperation Dialogue Thursday.
The Bahamas is the first Caribbean country to host the dialogue–one of the most effective means of sharing knowledge and experience on threats and challenges faced by the region.
The matters being covered at the meeting include: firearms controls, prison reform, juvenile justice and greater public and private sector and civil society cooperation.
“At the core of all our endeavours must be our commitment to the mutually supportive cooperative partnership we have established that will foster greater regional coordination and ensure long-term sustainment of Caribbean-United States efforts,” said Ingraham in his keynote presentation during the opening ceremony held at the Atlantis Paradise Island resort.
“The test of effectiveness of our CBSI efforts will be the cumulative effect of what each of our countries achieve nationally, and what we accomplish [from] the mutually beneficial partnership into which the Caribbean and the United States have entered.”
The Prime Minister assured that The Bahamas is “a willing and committed partner” in the security initiative.
“We will actively participate and contribute towards ensuring that the CBSI can and does improve the common security challenges and the safety and security of the region and of the United States,” he said.
For US Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, the dialogue is an important way for countries to chart their progress over the past year, while also providing an opportunity for them to recommit to the continued cooperation essential to addressing transnational threats ranging from drug trafficking ad human smuggling to natural disasters and terrorist threats.
“The United States is firmly committed to Caribbean Basin Security and the three pillars contained in the Plan of Action, which are to substantially reduce illicit trafficking, increase public safety and promote social justice,” she said.
The US foreign assistance commitment to the partnership totals $139 million since 2010.
Furthermore, the US has operated the Container Security Initiative in a number of Caribbean countries, including The Bahamas, to pre-screen US bound shipping containers and detect dangerous cargo, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons and explosives.
The US has also provided customs assistance and training in some Caribbean basin countries geared towards improving security, while also helping to increase customs revenue collection.
Moreover, the Americans have worked with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to establish an Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) center in Barbados to identify individuals connected to criminal or terrorist organizations.
“This has become a model for regional corporation on aviation security and we hope to build on this work by expanding the CARICOM APIS programme to additional Caribbean nations,”?said Napolitano.
With more than one million miles of open ocean across the Caribbean, the US Secretary noted that policing these waters will continue to be a challenge.
“We must do more, together, to meet current and future security needs,” she said.
Through CBSI funding, the US Coast Guard and US government partners have committed to providing boats and related training–totaling $10.9 million–to Caribbean countries.
With the US Department of State and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security has worked with Caribbean partners through the CBSI to develop a fingerprint collection system that will help officials check criminals against terrorism and criminal databases.
In the future, Napolitano said the US hopes to expand its immigration and customs enforcement partner units in the Caribbean to help detect, deter and dismantle transnational criminal organizations. The units are currently active in only two Caribbean countries.
Napolitano acknowledged:?“Ultimately, our success will hinge on how well we continue to work together within the framework of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to advance common goals.
“We have made important progress since the creation of this dialogue, and I look forward, within CBSI, to continue our cooperation and engagement in the region.”