Español Français Português


Security of small island states






5 April 2000
Original: English


1. Introductory Remarks by Ambassador Flavio Dario Espinal, Chairman of the Committee on Hemispheric Security

Ambassador Espinal welcomed delegations and guests to the meeting. He made reference to the conclusions of the High-level Meeting on the Special Security Concerns of Small States held in San Salvador, El Salvador in February 1998 and the 1999 General Assembly resolution AG/RES-1640 and said that these served (XX1X-0/99) as the basis for another look at the issue of the special security concerns of small island states.

The Chairman reminded that the issue of Security was multi-dimensional, comprising social, economic, environmental, ecological and military aspects and that there was a close correlation between security and the maintenance of democratic institutions. He further noted that during 2000 the issue of hemispheric security will be discussed within the concept of ‘human security’.

The Chair indicated that the meeting would follow the format outlined in the Order of Business, document CP/CSH-220/00, as approved by the Committee at its meeting held on January 28, 2000 (Appendix 1) and thanked CARICOM delegations for the Annotated Agenda made available for the purpose of the meeting.

2. Election of Rapporteur

Mr. Philip St. Hill, Alternate Representative, Permanent Mission of Barbados was elected by acclamation to be Rapporteur for the meeting on a motion proposed by the delegation of Antigua and Barbuda and seconded by the delegation of Barbados.

3. Remarks by the Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Christopher Thomas, on actions by the OAS in promoting and advancing the special security concerns of small island states

The Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas presented document CP/csh-274/00 Report on the Activities Conducted by the General Secretariat in Response to the Special Security Concerns of Small Island States which he said was consistent with AG/RES-1640 (XX1X-0/99).

Ambassador Thomas explained that special problems associated with small Island states were identified since 1980 and concerns formally expressed since 1996. He summarized the OAS thrust as linking trade and economic development with security and highlighted the following areas in which action had been undertaken:

(i) Trade: the Trade Unit undertook activities to lessen the impact of globalization, including the preparation of a study on the relationship between Trade and Financial Liberalization. The Unit is also providing support to smaller economies in their work for the FTAA.

(ii) Tourism: The Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism is undertaking two (2) multilateral projects: “Caribbean Tourism Competitiveness and Sustainability (CTCS)” and “Caribbean Heritage Foundation”: the first comprising three components (a) assistance to small hotel (b) technology transfers and (c) tourism awareness and the second dedicated to the support and advancement of awareness, preservation and tourism potential of the rich and cultural heritage of the Caribbean

(iii) Environment: between 1994 and 1999 the Secretariat undertook the Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project funded by USAID in the sum of $5.0 million and executed mitigation projects in Antigua and St. Kitts following hurricane Georges. It also created the Inter-American Committee on Natural Disasters Reduction (IACNDR) which it is hoped would provide assistance to disaster affected countries and contribute further to vulnerability reduction.

(iv) Democracy: action taken by the UPD includes: (i) promotion of democratic values and practices (ii) support for legislative institutions and processes (iii) providing electoral assistance and (iv) facilitating civil society participation.

(v) CICAD (Drugs): OAS’ action in this area includes, inter alia: (a) the training of drug interdiction personnel (b) providing equipment to assist in anti-narcotics efforts and (c) assisting countries in their National Anti-Drug Programs.

The Assistant Secretary General concluded that in relation to security issues:

(a) OAS’ efforts were not exhausted; (b) concerns must be targeted; and (c) current efforts ought to be incorporated into existing programs.

He noted that the OAS must develop its own niche in responding to security concerns and said that, given OAS’ limited resources, networking, co-operation and efforts to secure international funding must be pursued.

4. Presentations and Interventions

The Director of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. George Alleyne, contended that, within the context of security, internal health issues were just as important as external influences. He said that while figures for fertility rates, live births and life expectancy compared favourably with the hemisphere, figures relating to AIDS in small states were dangerously out of sync with those of the hemisphere and were among the highest in the world.

The Director identified health as an important contributor to economic growth and a major component of human and social capital. He said that the cost of maintaining health infrastructure was more for small states and that this added to their vulnerability. Dr. Alleyne emphasized that co-operation in health among states was paramount towards reducing vulnerability and that PAHO was providing active support in this regard.

The Permanent Representative of Barbados, Ambassador Courtney Blackman, addressed the issue of the financial vulnerability of small island states. He said that a major concern was the tendency by economists in International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to treat all markets as homogenous and recommend the application of strict macro- economic theory in proposing solutions for small states. Ambassador Blackman noted that financial markets in small states were characterized by few buyers and sellers, a limited number of products and weak institutional arrangements which limit their capacity to absorb external shocks. These markets then become vulnerable to default on foreign debt, inflation, balance of payments difficulties and currency devaluations. The Ambassador suggested that:

- regional integration of financial markets would be good though not terribly effective; - debt forgiveness would help these small economies; - Central Banks in small states should strive for a healthy build-up of foreign exchange reserves as a buffer against volatile commodity price movements and erratic capital flows.

Professor Tyrone Fergusson of the University of the West Indies emphasised the need for a new approach to management of the new security environment. He reviewed the major views expressed at a Workshop on “Strengthening the Strategic Capacity of CARICOM Member States in National Security Policy Issues” held November 22 – December 03, 1999 at UWI which acknowledged the multidimensional scope of security issues and recognised:

- the need for sustained economic activity over time; - the close relation between eco-system vulnerability and economic vulnerability; - the need for presence and visibility in the international environment; - the importance of allocating resources for institutions and training in intelligence gathering and assessment.

The Professor said that the Workshop had concluded that there was need for a new approach to the management of the new multidimensional security. He noted that since there were no historical management models to follow, “the management of security has to be decisively and measurably re-formulated to capture the fundamental essence of the various security threats and the consequences that flow from them.” Professor Fergusson concluded that:

- the principle of co-operative security should be given primary focus; - there is need for coherent sub-regional processes of management; - international organizations are at the heart of security management for small states; - there is need for an on-going project by the regional academy to distill and co-ordinate the initiatives of regional and international institutions/organizations. The Permanent Representative of Guyana, Ambassador Odeen Ishmael, addressed the meeting on the burden of national debt on the economies of small states. He said that donors and multilateral financial institutions should agree to a maximum debt servicing level of 10% of export earnings, especially for heavily indebted poor countries so that they may be able to release more funds into their own economies for their development.

In a later intervention, Ambassador Ishmael expressed concern over the growth of violent crimes and the proliferation of criminal activity in the region, augmented by the deportation of criminal aliens from developed countries. He appealed for the help of developed countries to train police and customs officials to respond to the challenge posed by smart and well-connected criminals.

The Alternate Representative of Venezuela, Mr. Ricardo Mario Rodriguez stressed the importance of international co-operation in the security of small island states. He said that the small states of the Caribbean must pursue greater co-operation and focus with the countries of Latin America to enhance their economic well-being instead of always seeking assistance outside of the region. Mr. Rodriguez suggested the following as viable courses of action:

(i) a study to determine action for the joining of Caribbean and Latin American markets; (ii) military co-operation, especially in anti-drug programs; (iii) CARICOM participation in the Meetings of Defence Ministers of the Hemisphere; (iv) greater CARICOM participation in Hemispheric Security issues at the OAS.

The Permanent Representative of Grenada, Ambassador Denis Antoine, expressed concern that, in today’s global economic environment, small states were being treated like small businesses in a hostile business environment. He appealed for multinational financial institutions, development agencies and other significant partners to expand and deepen their range of intervention in addressing the economic, social and environmental concerns of small states and identified training, tourism, drug trafficking, natural disaster mitigation and information technology among areas in which assistance is needed.

The Alternate Representative of St. Kitts and Nevis, Mr. Kevin Isaac, highlighted the damaging impact of natural disasters on the economies and environment of the region’s small states. He said that hurricanes, landslides, volcanic eruptions and sea-level rises had negative impacts on economic growth and stability in the region but manifested itself particularly in everyday difficulties experienced by people and families.

Dr. Veejay Kalavakonda, Financial Analyst of the World Bank, made a presentation on the vulnerability of small states to the actions and weaknesses of the disaster response insurance sector in the region which resulted in recovery difficulties for those who suffer losses. He identified (a) poorly capitalized companies totally dependent on international re-insurers (b) lack of risk-based pricing for individual households and (c) lack of regulatory framework and building codes among the vulnerability factors. Dr. Kalavakonda recommended the following as action which needs to be taken to reduce this vulnerability:

- upgrading regulatory framework for the environment - restructuring the insurance market - creating a catastrophe pool - insuring Government assets - undertaking a study to determine the possibility of compulsory disaster insurance.

The Alternate Representative of Barbados, Mr. David Bulbulia, highlighted the need for the Caribbean Sea to be declared a Zone of Peace. He said that there was an essential connection between the land area of the Caribbean small islands and the sea surrounding them to the extent that the sea represented a fundamental part of living space. Mr. Bulbulia reminded that in April 1999 the Heads of State and Government of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) agreed to pursue efforts to have the Caribbean Sea designated as a Special Area within the context of sustainable development and said that this necessitated an integrated management approach to this resource. He appealed for greater efforts to prevent the shipment of nuclear waste through the region’s waters similar to efforts made for drug interdiction.

Several interventions focussed on the issue of international trade, especially relating to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), World Trade Organization (WTO) and European Union Trading Arrangement (EU) and how they could have negative impact on small states.

The Alternate Representative of Jamaica, Ms. Vilma McNish, stressed that issues relating to the integration of smaller economies into the FTAA must be addressed and resolved in order to create a seamless hemispheric economy. She said that small size has implications for growth and the capacity to adjust to economic change. As such, smaller economies, which will constitute the majority of the FTAA participants, should be granted special differentiated treatment in order to avoid their marginalization in the proccess. She also questioned whether conventional confidence and security building measures were valid for dealing with the security environment of the Caribbean region and suggested that consideration be given to expanding and designing a more comprehensive approach to confidence building that would include the special security concerns of small island states.

Ms. Andrea Ewart of the University of Miami highlighted the disadvantages small states suffer when they are forced to abide by World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. She said that small states continue to face obstacles that reduce their ability to protect their economic security and interests. Ms. Ewart noted that small states are hampered by lack of adequate resources to marshal experts in trade law and lack of market power to make retaliatory measures meaningful. Consequently, small states were left without the ability to effectively participate in the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM). In order to ensure that small states are given due consideration, Ms. Ewart proposed a procedural approach to “special and differential treatment” under which parties in dispute would be required to resolve issues through consultations rather than proceed to the Panel phase.

The Alternate Representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ms. Cecily Norris, highlighted the threat which trade liberalization presented for the economic base of small states. Using the current WTO bananas dispute as an example, Ms. Norris said that farmers and other citizens were now tempted to become involved in marijuana production and the transshipment of illegal drugs to earn income previously obtained from bananas. She observed that the democratic traditions of the Caribbean were being threatened by this adverse development.

Mr. Sidya Ould El Hadj of the Caribbean Development Co-operation Committee of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC/CDCC) said that, notwithstanding moderate rates of growth experienced by Caribbean countries during the 1990s, the characteristic which underpins all others and which determines to a large extent the economic and social progress of these countries is that of size. Size, he said, severely constrains production possibilities given concomitant limited human, natural and financial resources. These countries are therefore highly dependent on imports for both production and consumption while having to provide roads, ports, airports, schools, hospital and telecommunications facilities for their populations. Mr. El Hadj concluded that while the increasingly liberalized world economy is potentially beneficial to small states, they needed assistance and time to better manage the structural disadvantages and vulnerabilities of their economies.

Dr. Patrick Albert Lewis, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, mentioned a range of concerns which constituted the vulnerability of small states. These include: natural disasters, erosion of markets, criminal deportees from the United States, the drug problem and its propensity to lead to corruption, transhipment of hazardous waste through the Caribbean Sea, the marginalization of small states by the impact of globalization and unjust criteria (i.e. GNP) used by multilateral financial institutions to determine the conditions under which they are able to access financing and the level of financing they will receive. Dr. Lewis contended that fundamental to the preservation of peace and democracy is the elimination of critical poverty through the enactment of programs geared to sustainable development. He appealed for co-operation among OAS member states and for the OAS to react more swiftly to the new realities in the hemisphere.

Dr. Carlyle Corbin of the University of the U.S. Virgin Islands gave a presentation on the situation facing the non-independent small states of the Caribbean and concluded that “Most non-autonomous areas of the hemisphere suffer many of the economic security concerns of other small island states and many have the added consideration of a ‘democratic deficit’ inherent in unfinished political and constitutional arrangements”.

Dr. Ivan L. King of the Institute of Public Policy at George Mason University suggested that untapped national resources, particularly the religious/spiritual heritage of the societies, could be brought to bear upon conflict situations and be the basis for involving youth in the obstruction of crime. He said there was need to tap in on the moral fibre resource of our societies.

The Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States, Ambassador Ronald D. Godard, highlighted the efforts being made by the United States within the context of the Summit of the Americas. He said that the US was pleased with the progress and co-operative spirit which has characterized efforts to address issues of security concerns to Caribbean states and mentioned the following:

- the creation of the Inter-American Committee on National Disasters Reduction (IACNDR); - hurricane relief assistance provided by the U.S. to countries which suffered the ravages of hurricanes Mitch and Georges, together with funds specifically for environmental management and disaster mitigation; - the provision of technical assistance so that small states may be able to fulfil the obligations of the FTAA; - consideration of the position of small states in the WTO bananas dispute; - intent to create a co-operative programme to address the matter of the transportation of nuclear waste; - the establishment of a communications network among OAS member states as a valuable tool of urgent communications, especially in cases of natural disasters.

The Alternate Representative of Trinidad and Tobago, Mrs. Sandra Honore-Brathwaite, expressed her delegation’s agreement with and support for issues and initiatives to address the security concerns and reduce the vulnerability of small states. She expressed particular support for Jamaica’s proposal that more time and consideration be given to small states for their incorporation into the FTAA. In response to Caribbean/Latin American relations, Mrs. Honore-Brathwaite said that, notwithstanding historical trading antecedents in the Caribbean, many agreements have been signed with Latin American countries to promote integration in the region.

The Alternative Representative of El Salvador, Mr. Luis Menendez Castro, said that the countries of Central America identified with the concerns expressed by the small island states since Central America had similar ones. He said that these concerns cannot be resolved in any superficial manner or through intellectual exercise but required definite action from the OAS and other countries in the region.

The Alternate Representative of Argentina, Mr. Martin Gomez Bustillo, voiced its support for special attention to be given to small states as part of the integration process and given the multidimensional aspects of security. The delegation noted that hemispheric security is best achieved only when the distinct realities of each country are taken into consideration. With particular reference to natural disasters, the delegation drew attention to Argentina’s White Helmets initiative which represents part of its efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the hemisphere.

The Alternate Representative of Costa Rica, Mr. Luis Guardia, expressed support for the small island states concerns noting that Costa Rica has similar economic conditions. He also said that Costa Rica identifies with the concerns expressed in relation to threats posed by hurricanes, earthquakes and narco-trafficking.

The Alternate Representative of Chile, Mr. Carlos Crohare, called for definitive responses to be made to the concerns expressed regarding small states. He expressed particular support for Jamaica’s view for a revision of confidence and security building measures to include the specific concerns of small island states.

The Permanent Representative of Brazil, Ambassador Carlos Leite Barbosa, confirmed Brazil’s support for appropriate responses to be given to the concerns of the small island states. He identified natural disaster, narco-trafficking and transnational criminal activities among the greatest threat to the islands and said that their multi-dimensional impact necessitated that attention be given to them. The Ambassador recalled that at the High-Level Meeting held in San Salvador in 1998, the Secretary General had mentioned the need for a re-definition of the concept of hemispheric security. He said that the IV Meeting of Defence Ministers scheduled for October 2000 in Brazil will provide another opportunity for the issue of the security of small island states to be discussed.

The Alternate Representative of Canada, Dr. Renata Wielgosz, said that Canada is sensitive to the inherent link between globalization and security concerns, particularly as it relates to economic-related threats and destabilizing social consequences. It is for this reason, she said, that Canada sees the need for “ a new humanism to accompany globalization”. Dr. Wielgosz affirmed Canada’s intention to work with its hemispheric partners to ensure that solid progress is made regarding the concerns of small island states in preparation for the 2000 OAS General Assembly and the next Summit of the Americas.

The Representative of the United Kingdom pledged her country’s support to assist small states in reducing their vulnerability. She said that the U.K. has always had close connections with the Caribbean and was keen on pursuing action to enhance this relationship. The Representative commended the OAS for its efforts, noting that in areas such as the anti-drug program, the Organization was well ahead of the world.

The Representative of the European Union, Ambassador Peterson, said that the EU will continue its assistance to small island states through the Lome Convention and the development of a joint agenda to promote democratic values and human rights.

Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. Croft of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force gave a presentation on the Regional Security System (RSS). He emphasized that the RSS was not a Police Force, Defence Force or standing army. Rather, it was a system having a Council of Ministers of Security as its central policy-making body. Lieutenant Colonel Croft explained that the system functions to promote co-operation among member states, inter alia, in national emergencies, search and rescue, immigration control, fishery protection, customs and excise control, drug trafficking and the protection of off-shore installations and exclusive economic zones. Acknowledging that the RSS operates within the constraints of limited resources, old ships and equipment and high fuel and maintenance costs, the Officer said that the greatest value of the RSS was in its deterrent effect.

Major General Thompson, Chairman of the Inter-American Defence Board (IADB), reviewed some of the actions taken by the IADB in efforts to build confidence and security in the hemisphere. He reported on a special activity conducted in the Dominican Republic in February 2000 which simulated hurricanes Mitch and Georges and in which CARICOM countries participated. The General commended the small island states of the region for establishing high standards in the area of security co-operation.

5. Summary of Concerns

The security concerns of the small island states of the Caribbean expressed during the meeting are summarized as follows:

(a) threats to economies posed by the process of globalization, prematurely exposing them to a fierce and unsympathetic international arena; (b) financial vulnerability caused by the actions and recommendations of international financial institutions and the latter’s application of strict macro-economic criteria to their small economies; (c) the burden of debt servicing rendering these small states unable to use national product and foreign exchange earnings for national development; (d) the constant threat and impact of natural disasters which destroy the ecology and the environment and result in regular re-direction of already scarce resources to rebuild and attend to issues of basic survival; (e) threats posed by rising sea-levels and the abuse of the marine environment, especially as it relates to pollution and the transport of nuclear and other hazardous waste; (f) the ever-present and expanding drug trade, especially its potential to (i) cause crime, violence and corruption (ii) destroy the region’s human resource base (iii) divert substantial resources needed for legitimate areas of development and (iv) increasing the region’s insecurity.

6. Recommendations

The meeting recommended that the OAS should continue to:

(i) facilitate co-operative activities among small states, between them and other countries of the region and solicit the co-operation and assistance of the international community in efforts to reduce the vulnerability of small island states; (ii) work closely with the University of the West Indies in furthering the policy development of a multi-dimensional security modality for small island states; (iii) provide technical and logistical support to small island states in matters related to trade, tourism, economic development and the digital information revolution; (iv) respond to natural disasters in small island states by mobilizing post-disaster recovery assistance and resources, including action by the Inter-American Committee on Natural Disasters Reduction (IACNDR) and the involvement of the media; (v) work closely with multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, the World Bank, the Commonwealth, the European Union, the World Trade Organization and CARICOM, among others, in furthering the management of security of the small island states; (vi) strengthen the Confidence and Security Building Mechanisms (CSBMs) especially between the small island states and other states in the hemisphere; (vii) continue to study the issue of the special security concerns of the small island states and to present a resolution to the XXX Regular Session of the General Assembly asserting the need to design a management model to address the security needs of the small island states; (viii) examine as well as elaborate the role of non-state actors and civil society participation in the security process of small island states; (ix) publish a verbatim record of the meeting of February 29, 2000, and circulate the same to the agencies and institutions which have demonstrated an interest.

Philip St. Hill Alternate Representative of Barbados to the OAS March 06, 2000




1. Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas, Assistant Secretary General of the OAS 2. Sir Courtney Blackman, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Barbados 3. Professor Tyrone Ferguson, University of the West Indies 4. Ambassador Odeen Ishmael, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the OAS 5. Delegation of Saint Kitts and Nevis 6. Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. Croft, Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force 7. Alex Hall Hall, Alternate Observer of the United Kingdom to the OAS 8. Major General John G. Thompson, Chairman, Inter-American Defense Board 9. Delegation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 10. Ms. Vilma McNish, Minister, Alternate Representative of Jamaica to the OAS 11. Ms. Vilma McNish, Minister, Alternate Representative of Jamaica to the OAS 12. Ambassador Ronald D. Goddard, Alternate Representative of the United States to the OAS 13. Power Point presentation by Vijay Kalavakonda, Financial Analyst, World Bank 14. Ambassador Patrick A. Lewis, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations 15. Ambassador Odeen Ishmael, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the OAS 16. Delegation of Barbados 17. Mr. Sidya Ould El Hadj, ECLAC/CDCC 18. Delegación de Argentina 19. Embaixador Leite Barbosa, Representante Permanente do Brasil junto à Organização dos Estados Americanos 20. Dr. Ivan L. King, George Mason University 21. Adrea Ewart, School of Law, University of Miami 22. Dr. Carlyle Corbin, Consultant, Non-Independent Countries of the Caribbean – ECLAC/CDC




Copyright © 2024 All rights reserved. Organization of American States