Developing Security in the Caribbean

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By Elizabeth Turpen – In conversations about development and security in the Caribbean context, the acronym “CWC” is most likely a reference to the Cricket World Cup of 2007, not the Chemical Weapons Convention. Such examples of vastly different points of reference were on display at a recent meeting held in Santo Domingo on implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 in the Caribbean.[1] The meeting worked to identify the development priorities that coincide with 1540 requirements. The discussion verified that 1540 provides a unique opportunity for a win-win outcome – meeting the North’s nonproliferation demands while also addressing some of the South’s dire development needs.

In April 2004, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1540, which aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and their delivery systems worldwide. The Security Council imposed a sweeping, unfunded counterproliferation mandate, requiring all states to criminalize proliferation, enact strict export and border controls, and secure all sensitive materials within their borders by non-state actors.

The Resolution encourages states with the capacity to provide assistance to do so, while calling on states in need of implementation aid to request assistance. This opens opportunities to use security assistance to meet development-related goals across the “Global South.” More importantly, it represents an opportunity for mutually beneficial North-South cooperation, but only if approached as a long-term investment in a shared future. Because WMD counterproliferation is not a priority for most states, 1540 requirements will garner the necessary political will only when assistance is seen as contributing to states’ social and economic priorities.

The discussion in Santo Domingo confirmed priority needs that link to 1540 in at least three areas: emergency management and disaster response; port/maritime security; and illicit trafficking. Each of these concerns presents an opportunity to create a virtuous circle by helping meet the specific needs of our Caribbean neighbors, while simultaneously achieving the Resolution’s security objectives.

First, the Caribbean Basin is the second most natural disaster prone region in the world. Recent trends indicate that the number of disasters has grown and the nature of hazards is diversifying, necessitating multi-hazard, integrated approaches. An improved Caribbean response plan requires three essential parts: civil-military protocols for humanitarian response; a disaster reduction response curriculum for military forces dealing with civilians; and robust communication capabilities and protocols for major crises. The response to natural disasters has clear overlap with WMD-related incidents. While WMD incident response is not explicitly required by the Resolution, there is much needed technical assistance and communications infrastructure to address WMD detection and interdiction capabilities that could be integrated into the assistance provided to emergency management authorities and first responders in the region.

Second, Caribbean states have significant yet vulnerable maritime links with the world. In aggregate, they comprise the tenth largest trading partner of the United States and an important destination for both tourists and business investments. Due to insufficient oversight and lack of any regional harmonization of security requirements, the shipping operations in the Basin are at risk of attack as well as unwittingly facilitating the proliferation of WMD. Recently enacted national and international regulations require ships and the port facilities to take appropriate measures to prevent security incidents. Failure of ports, vessels, and companies to achieve the specified compliance standards will result in sanctions that could lead to denial of vessel entry into ports of call. Not all states have the wherewithal to meet these new requirements, particularly in the Eastern Caribbean, giving rise to the prospect of economic dislocation within the region. A clear nexus exists with respect to facilitating compliance with new port and maritime measures and many aspects of the controls, interdiction, and border security requirements of Resolution 1540.

Lastly, illicit trafficking in the Caribbean Basin presents a formidable challenge. As the second most violent region in the world, with a homicide rate four times the global average, the scourge of arms and drug trafficking affects daily life. Illicit trafficking and its nexus with international crime continue to be deterrents to foreign direct investment in the Caribbean, thus impeding growth and economic advancement for these developing economies. The geographic proximity of many Caribbean states makes them a transit point for illegal migration, cocaine, and other contraband destined for North America. Here the synergies between addressing a prominent transnational priority and 1540 implementation are evident. The same human capacity, legal framework, and enforcement capabilities are required to address illicit trafficking in all its forms – WMD, small arms, and drugs.

An opportunity exists for mutually advantageous North-South cooperation in the Caribbean. This initial meeting in the region proved the validity of linking development priorities to a concrete US security agenda. Although this will require substantial investments and a long-term commitment, no other viable option exists for effective implementation of the Resolution. As Vice Chancellor of the Dominican Foreign Ministry Jose Manuel Trullols eloquently suggested at the outset of the meeting, such an approach would make “a transcendental contribution to international peace and security.”

[1] This meeting, held on February 29 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was organized by the Stimson Center’s Cooperative Nonproliferation Program, in collaboration with the Stanley Foundation, the office of the Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States and with generous support from the Government of Canada.

Elizabeth (Libby) Turpen, Ph.D. co-directs the Cooperative Nonproliferation Program, a multifaceted project designed to accelerate existing efforts and design innovative, new initiatives aimed at more rapidly and sustainably securing nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, materials, and expertise.


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