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OAS Secretary General Calls on Governments of the Americas to "strengthen institutional capacities through cooperation to advance public safety"

  November 17, 2011

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, called today on governments in the hemisphere during the inauguration of the Third Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas (MISPA III) in Port of Spain to "strengthen institutional capacities through horizontal exchange and cooperation for the advancement of public safety in the countries of the region."

The Secretary General opened the meeting with the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamala Persad-Bissessar, and the country’s National Security Minister, John Sandy. The two-day OAS gathering in the Caribbean country features police management in the Americas as its main topic of debate.

Addressing the ministerial meeting, the head of the OAS highlighted the need for institutionalizing MISPA meetings, "for public safety has become of the highest priority to most of our countries." He noted that for this reason, "the challenge we face as an organization is to contribute, continuously and effectively, to our Member States’ efforts in this critical area."

The Secretary General noted that "the ministerial discussion on public security will be an opportunity to advance the recommendations resulting from it to the Heads of State attending the next VI Summit of the Americas to be held in April 2012 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia."

Referring to the topic of police management, the head of the hemispheric institution explained that "police forces are tasked with the great responsibility of being the primary representatives of the State in guaranteeing compliance with the rule of law, within a community in a large or small community," for which he stressed that “the importance of fostering institutional capacity development to ensure effective response by the police in a democratic framework cannot be underestimated."

"In the same way in which the shared commitment of the international community is needed to tackle the threats posed by criminal networks at the national level, advancing public security requires the involvement of the whole society. Citizens’ trust in police officers is required to facilitate ownership and continuous dialogue, which will allow for the timely reporting of criminal activity," said the Secretary General. The task of governments, he added, is "to secure the selection, training, evaluation and promotion processes required to ensure a professional police force whose officials are dignified, respected, and provided with the living and working conditions they deserve."

During his speech, the highest representative of the OAS thanked the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for hosting the MISPA and invited public security authorities to "work on this journey that begins today and to devote their attention to sharing knowledge, experiences and concerns in the complex task of designing, implementing and evaluating policies and strategies to ensure that the lives, dignity, freedom and property of persons are protected and respected."

In this context, the Secretary General referred, in addition, to the progress recently achieved on the subject, such as the Cooperation Agreement signed between the OAS General Secretariat and the Presidency of AMERIPOL during the last General Assembly, which, he said, "offers a valuable mechanism for the transfer of knowledge to facilitate overcoming the asymmetries between the police forces of our countries." He added that "there has been progress also in some countries in reducing homicide rates, especially some in the Andean region and Southern Cone, and progress in the use of technologies."

The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamala Persad-Bissessar, for her part, expressed her government’s satisfaction with hosting MISPA III and urged her counterparts in the region to partner with her country, "as with other States of the OAS, to fight against the criminal elements in our society." "Cooperation, unity and commitment are the best instruments to address the complexity, severity and urgency of public security in the hemisphere," she said.

Before the ministers present, the head of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago underscored “the recognition of the need to reorient and transform police forces to play a new role in public safety." "A role that can be achieved," she continued, "when there is full observation of the laws of human rights, when information is shared between police organizations and when there is effective community partnerships and participation."

In her concluding remarks, the Prime Minister called on the authorities to guide their discussions "with the mind and the heart," and recalled that "we are all responsible: every citizen, every one of us is responsible for making the Americas a more human and safer region."

The third edition of MISPA takes place with the aim of discussing and providing recommendations on the state of policing in the hemisphere, a key issue towards achieving progress and improving security for the citizens of the Americas. Previous editions were held in Mexico in 2007 and in the Dominican Republic in 2009.

A gallery of photos of the event are available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-962/11