Trouble in Paradise: Contraband, WMD, and Security Council Resolution 1540

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By Alex Reed – Caribbean geography is both a blessing and a curse.  Proximity to the United States makes the Caribbean a natural trans-shipment point for the Americas, yielding direct economic benefits for the region’s constituent governments.  However, this proximity has also turned the Caribbean into one of the primary smuggling routes for drugs and small arms, fomenting violence and undermining the region’s development activities. For Caribbean governments, there is no greater security challenge. But the resources to stem the flow of contraband and curb its attendant violence among the region’s struggling economies are limited. Fortunately, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 may provide an unorthodox solution to the Caribbean’s woes.

Resolution 1540, passed by the Security Council in 2004, calls on all states to develop legislative frameworks and specific capacities to prevent the development, trafficking, and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) materials, components, and delivery systems through their territories.   Those states unable to implement Resolution 1540 are encouraged to submit requests for capacity-building assistance to donor states, which are encouraged under the Resolution to respond.  Fortunately, the tools used to counter WMD smuggling are dual-use and can be modified to crack down on illicit networks specializing in drugs and small arms.  Thus, Resolution 1540 provides an opportunity for Caribbean states to accomplish their primary security and development goals while piggy-backing on the nonproliferation security goals of the developed world.

To help Caribbean states implement the Resolution, the Stimson Center, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) co-hosted a two-day experts’ workshop in Kingston, Jamaica on export controls and maritime security.  Thanks to the generous support of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the US Department of Energy, representatives from eleven Caribbean governments joined various other regional and industry representatives to discuss the benefits and relevance of 1540 implementation.

Following a tour of the Port of Kingston, several participants realized that their countries had significant work to do to catch up with Jamaica in terms of port security.  Because Jamaica has long been a stop along smuggling routes, its government, often with support from the US, invested significant resources into counter-trafficking and port security measures.  The two organizations operating at the Port of Kingston both have sophisticated monitoring systems in place, as well as advanced cargo and vessel screening procedures. Resolution 1540 can be a conduit for the resources necessary to complete similar security upgrades in other Caribbean ports so that the region remains a competitive link in the global supply chain.  Donor countries with well-established ports, such as the United States, Canada, Singapore, and Germany, can provide assistance to improve port security that will help counter WMD, drugs, and arms smuggling.  For example, a donor could provide a remote operable submarine to scan for parasitic attachments to ships carrying legitimate cargo, regardless of the illicit goods that are being trafficked.  Technical assistance offered for 1540 implementation can also help improve regional coordination to combat smuggling.  As importantly, capacity-building assistance will help these governments comply with other international standards for port safety and security, thus ensuring that their development plans that rely upon transshipment into the United States will not be threatened.

As foreign assistance dollars are strained by the global economic slowdown, leveraging all available resources from both the security and development sectors will be critical to achieve the Caribbean’s goals.  Closer collaboration with the development community, and when necessary, a diversion of resources to development needs will provide long-term security benefits. Additionally, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) should consider allowing certain forms of 1540 aid to count under the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) guidelines, the de facto standard for categorizing official development aid.  Several donor countries have expressed interest in contributing to 1540 implementation, yet have been unable to provide assistance due to legislative requirements that their assistance fall into DAC categories.  The goal is not to address security issues with development funds, but rather to leverage efficiently the development and security benefits of 1540 implementation from either funding stream.

Resolution 1540 implementation can help Caribbean states with their security and development objectives, and it can also open new revenue streams.  An efficient customs service with the capacities necessary to catch cheaters will collect greater customs revenue, allowing governments to finance customs upgrades with the knowledge that they will receive a financial return on investment.  Additionally, upgrades at ports will make companies and governments less hesitant to use those facilities, leading to higher levels of trade (and thus more customs revenue) and cruise-ship tourism.  Bolstering export control capacities will also create secondary benefits for the Caribbean.  Beyond trade facilitation, the governance capacities practiced in implementing export controls can have positive spillover effects to other areas of economic development.

Implementation of Resolution 1540 will take considerable effort from Caribbean governments, but they must not lose sight of the development benefits that accrue from helping to stop WMD proliferation.  The opportunity to build critical capacities is now available.  The Caribbean and its donor partners must seize it.

Photo Credit: Dmitriy Nikonov, Center for International Trade and Security, University of Georgia

Alex Reed is a Research Associate with the Cooperative Nonproliferation Program at the Stimson Center.

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