Media Center

Press Release


  September 4, 2008

Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, speaking in Canada yesterday, called on the Member States’ defense ministers to begin a study of new situations shaping up in Latin America and the Caribbean as a result of rising crime. He said these unfolding developments call for new thinking and discussion as regards the possible roles of various institutions in fighting crime in the Americas.

Addressing the Eighth Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, in Banff, in the Canadian province of Alberta, Secretary General Insulza said he knows that this kind of cooperation involving defense agencies and public security institutions creates an undesirable situation, since “we are all aware of the specifics and differences between defense activities and public security activities.” He said, however, that such collaboration “is already taking place in many of our countries.”

In pressing the case for more cooperation, Insulza cited “the extent to which criminal organizations have reached with their deadly operations and capabilities, often outweighing the capacity of the police to contain or suppress them, and they must therefore unite their efforts in order to more efficiently combat criminal activities.”

Moreover, said Insulza, the issue needs to be examined very carefully in order to come up with a reasonable approach to help Member States bolster their capacity to fight crime and violence “without fundamentally altering institutions that are primarily responsible for national defense.”

The Secretary General told the Defense Ministers about multidimensional threats to security. He cited what he called three “components of insecurity,” namely, threats to state security, such as the possibility of external aggression; natural disasters, pandemic outbreaks and accidents of potentially catastrophic proportions; and transnational crime, ranging from human trafficking to illegal drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorism.

“Multidimensional threats to security call for a joint, coordinated response from institutions such as Defense Ministries, Foreign Affairs Ministries, Ministries of Security and Local Government Ministries. In addition, Insulza remarked, the involvement of civil society has become increasingly vital as support and complement to institutional effort.”

According to the OAS Secretary General, the inter-American security agenda drawn up at various hemispheric meetings —in particular the 2003 Special Conference on Security— “provides an appropriate framework for organizing and coordinating our efforts in this important area. Defense institutions as well as other government agencies and civil society must seek to complement one another by integrating their activities with a view to defeating the many and varied threats confronting our fellow citizens,” he stressed.

Elaborating on the concept of multidimensional security, the Secretary General said that the end of the Cold War helped defense players to also become active participants in “the harmonious and good relations between and among our nations, within an atmosphere of democracy and stability which, I believe, were facilitated by the very factors that are at the heart of the change in thinking from one that emphasized territorial security to one in which human beings are viewed as a direct focus of security.”

The first Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas was held in 1995 in Williamsburg, Virginia, in the United States. It was established as a forum through which to create a mechanism to discuss and examine such topics as confidence-building and security, peace-keeping operations, civilian-military cooperation, international drug and arms trafficking, terrorism and transnational organized crime.

When the Cold War ended and with democracy advancing in Latin America, the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas has emerged as the premier defense meeting in the hemisphere, the aim being to facilitate debate, analysis and the exchange of views and experiences on contemporary security issues in the Americas.

Reference: E-329/08