Press release 232/2010
(28 May 2010)


Ladies and gentlemen, I begin by thanking all State parties including the Joint Working Group for their efforts in ensuring that today’s High Level Security Cooperation Dialogue has become a reality after almost two years of planning. I make this contribution on behalf of the Caribbean, more so, the English-speaking States, on the theme of Maritime And Air Domain Awareness and Maritime Security, in the context of the strategic priority of substantially reducing illicit trafficking.

I am sure that all here present will agree that benefits accrue to and certain challenges are faced by Caribbean States arising out of the geo-strategic realities of the Region. The Caribbean Sea is both a barrier and a bridge—it separates nations, but it also facilitates the flow of illegal commerce and other illicit activities.

As a small twin-island state, Trinidad and Tobago has fully grasped the reality that it shares with its Caribbean neighbours. That reality makes it imperative that our security concerns be addressed on two fronts. While there must be a significant focus on the elimination of threats, there must also be parallel focus on developing a comprehensive awareness of our maritime and air domain.

Maritime Domain Awareness is defined as “the comprehensive understanding of the global maritime domain that can impact upon the security, safety, economy, and environment.” It is the first step toward increased maritime security. An awareness of our maritime domain will reveal, inter alia:

  • the use of maritime routes by organised criminal networks for the proliferation of small arms and weapons,
  • the increase in the illegal movement of drugs, human beings and arms as well as the growing flow of illegal immigrants,
  • problems associated with ineffective maritime governance and border control, in particular, porous maritime borders,
  • the need for adequate aerial and maritime surveillance mechanisms.
It should be noted that many of the challenges identified above are not exclusively maritime challenges. As with other security issues, the approach to such challenges must be multidimensional and multisectoral. Effective coordination and collaboration amongst a range of national players with support from regional and international partners are required, based on a regional maritime security strategy. This is what our countries have been seeking to achieve. For the last year, the Joint Working Group for this Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) has identified as a strategic priority the matter of substantially reducing illicit trafficking.

The Caribbean, because of its geographical position is considered a prime transshipment location, for drugs destined to points in Europe and North America. Indeed, the Prime Minister of Belize in addressing the 5th Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain in April, 2009, described the drug problem as a “black plague” on the region, and by extension the world.

Additionally, in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Annual Report for 2009, Executive Director Antonio Maria-Costa warned that: “States in the Caribbean, Central America and West Africa as well as the border regions of Mexico are caught in the crossfire between the world’s biggest coca producers and the biggest consumers in North America and Europe.” Our porous borders are not only penetrated by the illegal trafficking of narcotics, but also arms, ammunition and, to some extent, persons.

This reality has mandated the Member States of CARICOM to collectively build, institutionalize and operationalize a Regional Framework for the Management of crime and security, that was tested and proven to be effective at the 2007 Cricket World Cup Tournament. In the process of implementing this Security Management Framework, it has become increasingly clear that the challenges faced by Caribbean States in their efforts to secure their borders cannot be effectively addressed without the collective action of all countries in this hemisphere. The role that this management framework can play under the CBSI is already clearly defined in the document entitled “the Joint Caribbean-US Framework for Security Cooperation Engagement”.

Since 2004, the Member States of the Caribbean Community, in addressing the issue of maritime security, have pursued the implementation of a regional maritime and airspace security cooperation arrangement. In July 2008 the CARICOM Maritime and Airspace Security Cooperation Agreement, was opened for signature at the 29th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government. This Agreement facilitates surveillance and interdiction of illegal activities in Caribbean waters and airspace. Its objectives are:

(a) to promote cooperation among the States Parties to enable them to conduct such law enforcement operations as may be necessary to address more effectively their own security as well as the security of the Region, consistent with their available law enforcement resources and related priorities, and in conformity with international law and applicable agreements; and

(b) to maintain and develop the individual and collective capacity of States Parties through mutual assistance and self help.

This Agreement, though not yet in effect, envisions a regional and coordinated concept of operations; a concept that can be extended beyond CARICOM to embrace the Dominican Republic and other partner countries in the CBSI.

The concept was exemplified in the effective security arrangements for the hosting of the ICC Cricket World Cup tournament in 2007, the Fifth Summit of the Americas (V-SOA) and Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Port of Spain, in 2009. It verified the capacity for CARICOM Member States and sub-regional organizations like the Regional Security System (RSS) to engage in effective maritime security operations with traditional and new international security partner nations (Brazil, Colombia, Canada, South Africa and the United States, to name a few).

Joint maritime and air operations can only serve to enhance regional and hemispheric security. Issues pertaining to such operations are key on the policy agenda globally and therefore present a core challenge for the future of the Law Of The Sea and the management of the relationship between maritime security utilizing both air and maritime assets and the existing norms of international law. A multinational concept of operations may well serve to improve operational and tactical coordination among regional and extra-regional partner nations in accordance with the commitments agreed to at the Inaugural Meeting of Caribbean Military Commanders which was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad in June 2008.

It is therefore recommended that in accordance with the Comprehensive Security Needs Assessment that was conducted by Caribbean States and the Framework Document which institutionalizes this Caribbean-United States Security Cooperation Engagement; that there be established a Regional Maritime and Airspace Security Coordination Centre. Further, it should be noted that whereas the United States may consider JIATF-South based in Florida to be adequate for coordination of the region’s maritime and airspace activities, the preference from our side would be to locate such a Coordination Centre in the region, and to establish a complementary relationship with JIATF-South.

Through the CBSI, the United States of America, as the most technologically advanced country in the hemisphere, has manifested its willingness to integrate its efforts at pursuing its strategic interests in its ‘Third Border’ along with the efforts of the countries of the Region. Already approaches have been made to establish a communications surveillance architecture that would provide a comprehensive operational picture from Suriname in the South to the Bahamas in the North. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has agreed to the conduct of a study of the national communications architecture in accordance with this proposal by the Centre for Naval Analyses to establish a Caribbean Communications and Surveillance Architecture (CSA).

This is the type of capability integration that the Caribbean anticipates under the CBSI to enhance critical security operations. This is the type of capability that the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, as the CARICOM lead Head of Government for Crime and Security, envisioned with the proposal to secure not only Trinidad and Tobago, but also much of the Southern Caribbean. The Government’s crime fighting strategy includes the conduct of joint sorties with the RSS, the acquisition of a sophisticated radar system and the upgrading of the Coast Guard fleet to include fast patrol crafts, interceptor crafts and three offshore patrol vessels for drug interdiction and anti-smuggling operations. Additionally, a project initiated in 2008 by the Office of the Prime Minister, involves the purchase of radars for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and St. Lucia.

The receiving countries have committed to providing the necessary infrastructure for their installation. The objective is to partner in maritime and aerial surveillance and share information by improving maritime awareness and expanding coverage. Discussions and planning in this regard are well underway. This constitutes one dimension of a far broader process of cooperation among CARICOM Member States in the implementation of a regional crime and security agenda.

Barbados, which is also upgrading and modernising its surveillance and interdiction capability, has also offered to share those with the Eastern Caribbean. The OECS States (in collaboration with Barbados) effect their maritime security interventions through the RSS which is an international agreement for the defence and security of the Eastern Caribbean Region.

The purposes and functions of the System are to promote cooperation among the member states in the prevention and interdiction of traffic in illegal narcotic drugs, in national emergencies, search and rescue, immigration control, fisheries protection, customs and excise control maritime policing duties, natural and other disasters, pollution control, combating threats to national security, the prevention of smuggling, and in off-shore installations and exclusive economic zones. The RSS also provides training for joint land and maritime operations, disaster relief and anti drug operations. In this regard, the RSS embodies the multinational coordinated concept of operations, referred to earlier.

Ladies and gentlemen, in an increasingly interdependent and borderless global environment, maritime and air domain awareness is an essential enabler of successful security operations in a region with the geo-strategic significance and structural features of the Caribbean Basin. For this reason, the strategic security decision-making process that provides the leadership and direction for security operations in the Caribbean Basin must be based on a high level of integration of multidimensional political, economic, social and environmental interests. However, the necessary nexus between a sound strategic security decision-making process and successful security operations in the Caribbean Basin is an effective policy implementation process.

The consultative, comprehensive approach adopted to date in the formulation of the policy implementation process for this Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) provides an appropriate model for enabling successful security operations in the region. At the national level, each country involved in the CBSI has committed to the mobilization of integrated whole-of-government participation at both the decision-making process and the policy implementation process.

At the strategic level, much effort has already been made to integrate the objectives of the CBSI into the existing management framework for crime and security. However, going forward with the implementation of this partnership it has been proposed that there be a technical working group that will focus on this issue of maritime and air security. In this regard and consistent with the spirit of cooperation that has pervaded the CBSI approach to date, Caribbean countries anticipate effective participation in these technical working groups and the integration of capability and capacity to address this issue.

Caribbean States also anticipate the effective implementation of all the elements of the Plan of Action that pertain to the issue of maritime and air security.


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