What's In Blue

Posted Thu 6 Jun 2019

Arria-formula Meeting on Transnational Organised Crime and Drug Trafficking in the Caribbean Region

Tomorrow afternoon (7 June), Security Council members will hold an Arria-formula meeting on “Transnational Organised Crime and Drug Trafficking in the Caribbean Region as a Threat to International Stability”. The Dominican Republic, France, Peru, the UK, the US, Barbados, the Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are hosting the meeting. The Dominican Republic’s Minister of Foreign Relations Miguel Vargas will make opening remarks and moderate the session, which will include the following panelists: Jose Vila del Castillo, Representative of the UNODC Regional Office for Central America and the Caribbean; Lt. General Rubén Paulino Sem, Minister of Defense of the Dominican Republic; Tonya Ayow, Director of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS); and Ms. Kurba-Maries Questelles, a youth activist from Trinidad and Tobago. Permanent representatives of the other co-host countries will make statements, followed by other Council members, wider UN membership, and civil society organisations.

The meeting will represent the first time that Council members consider the problem of transnational organised crime and drug trafficking in the Caribbean. In other situations where the Council has addressed this problem, it has recognised the need for the international community to counter illicit trafficking in a coherent and holistic manner. The Council has also highlighted, according to the concept note, that transnational organised crime can only be curbed based on the principle of shared responsibility.

The concept note for the Arria-formula meeting describes how transnational organised crime affects peace and stability, along with undermining state institutions and eroding the rule of law. It further notes that the Caribbean is “located at a major crossroads” between the Andean region of South America, the world’s major production region of cocaine, and North America and Europe, which are the largest consumer markets of illicit drugs. Thus, Caribbean countries are vulnerable to the effects of drug trafficking, which is usually accompanied by other forms of transnational crime, including arms and human trafficking, money laundering, and even terrorism. Caribbean states are also concerned over these threats to their tourism and service-dependent economies. The co-organisers of the Arria-formula meeting believe that the Council should be aware of the situation and current trends and that the meeting is in keeping with broader UN efforts to focus more on conflict prevention.

There has been a resurgence in the use of Caribbean routes for drug trafficking in recent years. According to a UNODC background document that has been circulated to Council members for the meeting, this resurgence is indicated by US government data showing a decline in the share of cocaine entering the US via Mexico, from 70 percent in 2013 to 39 percent in 2016. At the same time, there has been a “massive surge” in cocaine production in Colombia, and global cocaine manufacturing reached its highest-ever levels in 2016. In 2017, the area under coca cultivation in Colombia increased by a further 17% compared to 2016. Moreover, Venezuela’s deteriorating security and stability since 2017 has made the country a more attractive launchpad for Colombian drug traffickers, according to UNODC.

The UNODC note outlines other trends and forms of transnational crime facing the Caribbean. Those include a rise in piracy off Trinidad and Tobago as a result of the Venezuelan crisis. The region also faces an increased risk of terrorism presented by returning fighters who are known to have joined ISIS from Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, the last of which has reported that 135 people attempted to leave the country to fight with the group. Other prevalent forms of transnational crime in the region include illicit arms trafficking and human trafficking.

A further objective of the Arria-formula is to take stock of efforts to mitigate such threats. Caribbean states, which have limited resources as developing countries, also have porous borders and large maritime territories to patrol.  The issues they are seeking to address by their nature require a collaborative response. Initiatives include: CARICOM’s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), established in 2006 to manage a collective response to crime and security threats facing the 15 member states of this regional body; the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) that fosters cooperation among the US and Caribbean countries to reduce illicit trafficking, increase public safety, and promote social justice; and the Regional Security System (RSS) for security cooperation among eastern Caribbean states. UNODC maintains several border control and anti-corruption initiatives to tackle vulnerabilities related to commercial and cargo planes, cargo containers, and maritime vessels. Panelists are likely to reflect on such activities and experiences. Questelles, who is involved with several advocacy initiatives, including as a One Young World Ambassador, is expected to provide perspective on the impact on young people of drug trafficking and other forms of transnational crime.

Tomorrow’s meeting will provide an opportunity for Council members to reaffirm their commitment to addressing the harmful effects of transnational organised crime, especially drug trafficking, and encourage and commend regional and sub-regional initiatives. The concept note includes a list of guiding questions to help further frame the discussion, among which are:

  • How do transnational criminal networks impact fragile nations, threaten neighbours, pose risk of relapse into conflict and spread instability in the region?
  • How can states strengthen international cooperation in the region to prevent and counter organised crime, in particular drugs and arms trafficking, and improve information sharing? What can the international community and the Security Council do to support this cooperation?
  • What are the gaps in preventing and countering organised crime in the region, and what can the international community do to address those gaps?

Later this month, Council members are holding an Arria-formula meeting on maritime crime. Some of tomorrow’s discussion may feed into that upcoming meeting

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