Media Center



June 6, 2011 - San Salvador, El Salvador

Mr. Chairman, permit me to extend my sincerest thanks and congratulations to the Government and people of EI Salvador on the hosting of this, the 41st Regular Session of the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States. The theme, "Citizen Security in the Americas" is one that is not only thought-provoking, as it has generated much debate and discussion, but one that is very relevant to current prevailing circumstances in the hemisphere as a whole and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in particular. Permit me as well Mr. Chairman, a few moments to extend a word of welcome to the Republic of Honduras. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is happy to welcome the Republic of Honduras back to the fold of OAS Member States, and we look forward to the day when this august hemispheric body would be comprised of all the independent and sovereign states of these Americas.

Mr. Chairman, "Citizen Security in the Americas" is indeed a relevant topic of discussion. In these times; when existing levels of crime, violence and insecurity are exacerbated by harsh global economic and financial conditions and uncertainty as to when this would see a true turnaround; when the prices of petroleum and its derivatives are high and demand threatens to drive them even higher; when energy production as a consequence is burdensome and the technologies for alternative sources of energy are either too costly in real economic terms or in terms of their impact on the environment; when food crops are being used as primary material for supplementary fuel; when the food crisis becomes more acute with every passing day; when the average murder rate per annum per population of 100,000 within CARICOM stands more than 30; Mr. Chairman, the security of the hemisphere's citizens is jeopardy.

The OAS, when it adopted in the Declaration of Bridgetown in 2002 accepted the multidimensional nature of security in the hemisphere and has worked assiduously to build, foster and strengthen mechanisms for cooperation in several areas that directly and indirectly impact on the hemisphere's security. It is high time that the issue of the deportation of criminals from countries where they honed and perfected their craft to countries that are ill-equipped to deal with them receives some serious attention within this organisation. There is a real need to establish collaborative mechanisms that facilitate these deportations in a structured way that fosters rehabilitation and makes successful, productive reintegration into society possible.

Mr. Chairman, during the negotiations on the Draft Declaration of San Salvador, there was much discussion and debate on the definition and scope of "citizen security". We concur with the view that it is one aspect, though a very central one, of public security. While the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is quite clear as to the definition of the term "citizen", the Government fully recognises its responsibility to coordinate/ensure/manage the security of the state and all those within its borders, citizens and visitors alike.

In working towards this goal, four things have become very clear: 1. the security of the citizenry is at the centre of all security initiatives by the State; 2. the overarching responsibility for citizen security lies with the State; 3. the State cannot achieve citizen security in isolation of the citizenry; and 4. development and security are inextricably linked Citizen Security requires a holistic approach if it is to achieve any success. It must contain strategies to effectively detect crime and punish criminals, aspects of prevention of criminality, rehabilitation of offenders and their eventual reintegration into society. The strategies must also involve the participation of our citizens at various levels if they are to be successful and the State cannot shirk its leadership and management responsibility throughout.

Mr. Chairman, it is with this in mind that the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in partnership with other Governments and regional and international Intergovernmental Organisation such as the Regional Security System (RSS) and the OAS, continues to ensure the ongoing training and professional growth of members of the police force; building their awareness of, not only of the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but also international best practices and techniques in criminal investigation and evidence procurement. The police service has also been restructured so as to provide incentives for committed officers.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutors has also been afforded special training on the proper presentation of evidence and on the use of new technologies in the presentation of testimony from witnesses in special circumstances. This is expected to result in an increase of successful prosecutions in the long term.

Mr. Chairman, in the area of punishment, a new prison has been built that permits the housing of convicted offenders in a humane environment which facilitates the reintegration of the same into society once they have completed their sentence.

On the fronts of prevention and reintegration into society, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in partnership with the Republic of China on Taiwan has embarked on a project build and equip learning centres in every constituency throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These centres provide training in ICT and other aspects of technical and vocational education, imparting skills to the young and making them more employable.

Other programmes that target the youth such as the Police Youth Groups, the Cadets, Girl Guides, other uniformed organisations, the Pan Against Crime initiative, along with general support to Community Based Organisations (CBOs); Entrepreneurship Support Mechanisms and Civil Society in general through the provision of annual subventions and other technical assistance through the Community Development Officers seek to instil a sense of responsibility and community spirit in young people. They help to prevent at-risk-youth from falling through the gaps while assisting with the successful reintegration of juvenile offenders into society.

Mr. Chairman, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is of the view that while Citizen Security is focused on the provision of a safe and secure environment for our citizens to carry out any legitimate undertaking that they may deem fit, that it cannot be achieved without their participation.

They participate in many ways, from the design of community security strategies such as neighbourhood watches, to their cooperation with law enforcement officials through the provision of information that leads directly to the apprehension of criminals and their successful prosecution.

The holistic approach undertaken by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not limited strictly to the area of security. There is also a very heavy component of social programmes that compliment these security efforts.

The Education Revolution in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has taken root and the fruits have also started to bear. A comprehensive policy that contemplates Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary, Post Secondary and Adult Education; the professional development of educators and the establishment of minimum standards prepare the users of the system to be effective members of the labour force and to contribute to national development.

This policy has resulted in more Vincentians than ever before, at any single moment, pursuing studies at the graduate and post graduate levels thanks in part to assistance provided by our international partners in development, among which are numbered several of the OAS Member and Observer States and the OAS itself through the scholarship programme.

The greater earning potential of individuals has had a direct impact on the country.

These initiatives may, at first glance, seem to have little or nothing to do with security, but their results and impacts on our security are already being seen and felt. Recent figures have shown that poverty and extreme poverty have both been decreased by more than half. There is already an overall decrease in crime. A healthier, more educated population is expected to be more productive in the long term, take advantage of opportunities for advancement when they arise and even begin to generate their own set of opportunities. The immediate effects however, are that at-risk-youth are rescued from the brink as they become occupied with productive activities; offenders when properly rehabilitated can be successfully reintegrated into society and become productive members once again; recidivism declines and there are less first time offenders.

There have been some challenges and serious setbacks however; the global economic crisis has affected us too and the effects continue to linger and to impact on current development efforts and threaten the future ones. The cost of energy is also prohibitive, although we have been able to have some relief thanks to the Petro Caribe initiative by Venezuela. Viable alternatives continue to elude us as the startup costs of these do not make them anymore accessible or attractive. The passage of Hurricane Tomas in November of last year devastated the agricultural sector, destroying upwards of 90% of all the agricultural crops in the country at that time and recent rains resulting in flash floods devastated the infrastructure in the northern part of mainland St. Vincent.

Mr. Chairman, the hemisphere is harrowed by natural and man-made disasters which have severe and catastrophic impacts on the citizens of the hemisphere in terms of human and material losses.

Earthquakes have proven their particularly destructive power and the strength and frequency hurricanes, floods, droughts and tornadoes that occur in and out of season are a result of our poor stewardship of our environment. Climate change is no fairy tale and the solution to the threats that it represents can more quickly and realistically achieved through international cooperation in addressing both the causes and effects simultaneously This confluence of events threatens the advances made, and admittedly, we are incapable of countering them on our own. Our strategy has always been one of collaboration and cooperation at all levels to ensure that we are able to respond effectively to every challenge and to ensure the safety and security of all within our borders. As stated by Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St.

Vincent and the Grenadines in his address to the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis, "Only through principled and pragmatic multilateralism can we collectively weather the storms that buffet our [ ... ] civilisation".

Mr. Chairman, Citizen Security in st. Vincent and the Grenadines is not just a matter of "our business" it is has an impact on hemispheric security as a whole. Among the leading contributors to insecurity throughout the hemisphere are drug trafficking and firearms smuggling which, more often than not, are linked and are controlled by criminal gangs and other criminal organisations whose operations transcend national borders. st. Vincent and the Grenadines is regrettably a producer of Marijuana. A recent raid by the Regional Security System along with elements of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force netted and destroyed more than 700,000 Marijuana plants and even more seedlings. Continued regional cooperation will be necessary to control this problem as oft times, the cultivators are gangs that are populated and led by foreigners.

The Caribbean sub-region is also a trans-shipment point for cocaine and some synthetic drugs whose production and point of origin is in South America and whose ultimate destination is in the developed north. The protection of this commodity, so coveted in the north is such that the traffickers arm themselves and fuel the smuggling of firearms in the region as well. As much as there needs to be a more serious and concerted effort to control this at the source and to reduce the demand, there is need to focus on the shipping routes as well. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, [like most of the CARICOM subregion], has hundreds of miles of coastline and territorial waters and very scarce human and technical resources to give adequate coverage to same. The support from the United States under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) is very much appreciated in this regard although concerns remain about the amounts allocated and the continuity of the programme, given the area covered and the number of participating countries.

On April 15 2011, St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed a General Cooperation Agreement with the OAS, therefore becoming the ]'h OAS Member State to take part in the project, "Promoting Firearms Marking in Latin America and the Caribbean", which is also being funded by the United States.. This agreement will permit us to mark and trace firearms that are used in the commission of crimes and when this information is shared with other countries, it is hoped that smuggling routes could be identified and networks destroyed. Mr. Chairman, on that note, it pleases me to be able to announce that St. Vincent and the Grenadines will soon be ratifying the Inter-American Convention Against Trafficking in Arms (CIFTA) as a further demonstration of our commitment to doing our part in ensuring hemispheric security.

Mr. Chairman, as desirable as it is, citizen security is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. It must be founded principally on the rule of law and respect for human dignity and human rights. There must be space to facilitate the input of citizens in the design of comprehensive policies and the guarantee of the recourse to justice in every instance. We would do a disservice to our populations to dictate to them in this regard and it would be totally remiss of us to assume that as any individual state we can go it all alone. Continued and enhanced cooperation on security issues is necessary to ensure the safety and security of the hemisphere.

I thank you.