Assistant Secretary General Speech


May 26, 2022 - Washington, DC

Hon. Dr. Horace Anthony Chang, Minister of National Security of Jamaica, and Chair of the CARICOM Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE).
Ambassador Anthony W. J. Phillips-Spencer, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago and Chair of the Committee on Hemispheric Security
Ambassador Lynn Young, Permanent Representative of Belize and Chair of the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors in Washington D.C.
Distinguished invited speakers
Distinguished Permanent Representatives and Permanent Observers
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

It is a pleasure to join you this morning at this important session of the Committee on Hemispheric Security to consider the theme, “Countering the challenges of Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime and Improving Cybersecurity to advance the Resilience of Small-Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States of the Caribbean.” I commend the Chair of the CHS for convening this timely meeting as our region continues to face the challenges posed by transnational organized crime and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we all know, the unique characteristics of Small Island and Low-Lying Developing Coastal States of the Caribbean make them vulnerable to risks and threats of a transnational nature, such as “rapid-onset” and “slow -onset” disasters, climate change, exogenous shocks, and now, pandemics. As a result, the national security situation of these States has become more than simply a law enforcement issue and must now be viewed from a multi-dimensional perspective taking into consideration varying socio-economic, environmental, and health factors.

These nations, in spite of their own domestic advances, continue to face mutually reinforcing, structural and transnational security challenges to achieving social, economic, and even, environmental resilience, due to the pernicious effects of corruption, illicit activities, such as cybercrime, and other threats to national critical infrastructure and information systems, as well as intellectual property.

To respond effectively to these threats and challenges, the OAS must harness its own resources and expertise, along with those capabilities already found in the region, to support the Governments of these States in identifying and addressing their security risks. Today, multidimensional security requires a holistic approach, one which no country acting alone, irrespective of strength or size, is capable of fully combating without the assistance of regional partners like the OAS, The Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS), The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) among others. There is no doubt that international cooperation and effective multi-lateral engagement are integral to countering and overcoming transnational security threats and building resilience.

In this backdrop, the Caribbean has long been concerned by the impact of climate change and natural disasters on its development. In recent times, a global pandemic and a military invasion in Europe have only compounded the challenges we face as a region.

As relatively small countries, highly dependent on the global order and international trade, we are far from immune to external shocks such as unstable global fuel markets, inflation, and supply chain challenges.

As we seek to build resilience in the face of these many challenges, we must focus on planning and anticipation by reinforcing the social fabric with education, skills building, and social protection. We must also plan for reinforcing and building resilience into our rule-of-law systems, which are essential to maintaining order and justice in the face of serious, and sometimes suddenly emerging challenges to the development and well-being of our people.

We have seen that destabilizing events and conditions, whether they are caused by climate change, a global pandemic, or political unrest, lead to increased social vulnerabilities which criminal actors, including organized crime, have capitalized on, in increasingly complex ways, including through the criminal use of information and communication technologies.

For this reason, an essential component of any resiliency strategy is the strengthening of national capacity to target, disrupt, degrade, and defeat the transnational organized crime networks that operate in our jurisdictions. Effective strategies to accomplish this involve the coordinated use of financial intelligence, special investigative techniques, anti-money laundering, and asset recovery. In this regard, I am very proud to say that the OAS Secretariat for Multidimensional Security’s Department against Transnational Organized Crime is a fully capable partner that has been providing effective technical assistance to member states in all these areas, as you will hear in greater detail later in today’s session.

Likewise, for nearly two decades, the OAS, through the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) and the Cyber Security Program has continued to develop and further strengthen cyber-security capacity and resilience in the Caribbean region.

In that regard, I wish to highlight just a few cybersecurity initiatives developed to strengthen cybersecurity resilience in the Caribbean:
• In 2020, we supported the Government of Belize in the drafting and development of its National Cybersecurity strategy.
• Since 2019, we have been working with the Government of Barbados on their National Cybersecurity Strategy (NCS) with a view to strengthening the island’s cybersecurity capabilities. In 2020, the first draft of their National Cybersecurity Strategy was completed.
• We have also provided support to the Government of Jamaica in the review of their 2015 National Cybersecurity Strategy and the development of a new strategy through virtual consultations and workshops with international experts.
• The Governments of Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago, have also participated in our online courses including the Cybersecurity Leadership and Strategy Executive Certificate Program. Participants of the course engaged with academic scholars, industry leaders, and cybersecurity experts in assessing the most critical cyber threats facing the public and private sectors in the 21st century. Participants also shared information on best practices on organizational structures, operative processes, and legal considerations in the prevention and management of cybersecurity.

Ladies and gentlemen, as Caribbean countries scan the horizon for partners and resources to help confront these challenges, we are pleased to see them take full advantage of what the OAS, and the Committee on Hemispheric Security has to offer, as a convener and catalyst for partnerships and cooperation.

Today, we will hear expert presentations on work already underway, additional measures to be taken, and lessons learned in our continued collective pursuit of building resilience in the Caribbean region in the face of the challenges posed by transnational organized crime and other global factors.

Today’s session will provide an important opportunity for continued dialogue as we look ahead to the post-COVID-19 global architecture. Gathered today is an impressive grouping of strategic partners and I have no doubt that through concerted action and meaningful engagement and follow up, we will embark on a path towards creating actionable programs which will redound to the benefit of all of our populations. I look forward to the discussions and concrete outcomes emanating from today’s meeting.