WITH nine countries in CARICOM said to be among the 25 with the highest incarceration rate in the world — four of which are from the OECS — the European Union (EU) is calling on countries in the region to cooperate fully with each other on security matters, as early as possible.
Luca Pierantoni, First Secretary to the Delegation of European Union to the Eastern Caribbean and CARIFORUM, held up the Regional Security System (RSS) as a prime example of the type of co-operation needed in the region.
Speaking at a recent RSS Council of Ministers’ Meeting at the Harbour Club Hotel in Rodney Bay, Pierantoni said that the RSS had established itself as a cornerstone in the regional security architecture, managing to leverage the strengths of member states to work together in developing their capacity, by moving forward with an integrated, multidimensional approach that emphasizes greater cooperation and partnership to confront common challenges.
He believes the only way the region could safeguard itself from the many issues confronting it — such as drug trafficking, money laundering, the influx of smuggled arms, terrorism and frightening crime rates — is through cooperation.
Another disconcerting statistic about the Caribbean noted by Pierantoni is that it is the region in the world with the highest pre-trial detention rate — meaning there are countries in the region with over 40% of their prison population being on remand, awaiting trial.
Pierantoni then went on to show the areas in which the EU is helping the region with its crime and security strategy, pointing to the support it gives to CARICOM’s IMPACS to strengthen IMPACS response to crime.
The EU, Pierantoni added, is also helping to install and expand in CARICOM countries the Advanced Passenger Information System, the Advanced Cargo Information System in the Immigration and Customs departments.
The EU, he added, is also developing a training curriculum for a regional training and certification programme for ballistics experts and firearms examiners.
“We are working on the prevention side together with CARICOM, through programmes aimed at drug demand reduction through the establishment of drug treatment courts, boosting resilience among at-risk youths, as well as treatment services for adolescents and preventing crime and violence through the promotion of community cohesion and giving troubled youth a chance to change the trajectory of their lives before the problem becomes uncontrollable,” he said.
The EU, Pierantoni said, is active in the fight against white collar crime and money laundering and is currently supporting CFATF (Caribbean Financial Action Task Force) to run a regional training and accreditation programme for financial investors and analysts.
According to Pierantoni, Brussels will scale-up its support in the near future with a programme of almost seven million euros aimed at improving the financial compliance in the region.
Other structures of the CARICOM the EU will support include improvement in CARICOM member-states efforts to recover the assets relating to criminal activities.
He is calling for fortification of judicial institutions and the rule of law, as crime, in his estimation, is not only a national concern, but a regional and trans-regional one — and a challenge that is growing in complexity and quality.