PR – Prime Minister, Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, has identified closer collaboration, particularly in security matters, as one of the critical lessons to be gleaned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Mitchell said, in light of traditional and emerging threats to regional security, the region must envision new ways in which to collaborate.
The Prime Minister was speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the CARICOM Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE) during the Ninth Caribbean-United States Security Cooperation High-Level Dialogue.
Delivering opening remarks at the meeting, Dr. Mitchell said the ultimate objective should be a safer region and a safer hemisphere.
He said, “While the global crisis has left many economies reeling from its impact and health care systems struggling to cope, threats to the region’s security, have continued unabated, and in some cases, show signs of increase. It is therefore important now more than ever, that we strengthen regional coordination as we seek to address our shared security challenges.”
Dr. Mitchell identified firearms trafficking as one of the security challenges facing the region. He noted too, the linkage between firearms trafficking and illicit drug trafficking as well as human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
The Grenadian leader and CONSLE Chair said, “The maritime domain has become an even more critical conduit to facilitating illicit trafficking. In this regard, it is important for us as partners to increase our cooperation and collaboration to enhance maritime domain awareness in the Caribbean Basin. Protecting the maritime domain is critical since it provides us with our income, our food, our leisure.”
Notwithstanding, the Prime Minister acknowledged that some strides have been made. He said, “I am pleased to report that we continue to be proactive and a number of activities have taken place in the region to address firearms trafficking, including capacity building in marking, stockpiling, tracing, double casting and ballistics and case management among other areas. Nationally, some countries are reviewing their firearms laws to ensure that those who run afoul will face appropriate punishment.”
On the matter of cybercrime and cybersecurity, Dr. Mitchell said the pandemic has highlighted the need for regional countries to boost their ICT capacity as they seek to effectively address these threats.
He said, “There is an urgent need, not only for the physical infrastructure to allow for digitisation, but also to enact the necessary legislation to protect such infrastructure. I am happy to report that at the regional level, a number of activities are being undertaken to help member states improve legislative frameworks, build capacity at the judicial level, sensitise the executive branch and increase capacity as it relates to cyber intelligence.”
Another critical point raised by the Prime Minister was the need to place a representative from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in the Southern Caribbean, to work hand in hand with national and regional authorities. At Thursday’s meeting, there was some movement on this initiative with the creation of a working group to examine this proposal.