November 5, 2010
Funds for Caribbean Basin Security Initiative released

United States assistance with crime fighting and control in the region is expected to take a new approach as the much touted Caribbean Basin Security Initiative comes on stream.{{more}}

At a special press conference held on Tuesday, October 26, US Charge d’Affaires Brent Hardt made the announcement that the money pledged by American President Barack Obama in April last year has now been released for use in various aspects of fighting crime in the region.

“After a year of discussion with Caribbean partners to develop this initiative to determine where the needs are in the region; what we can best bring to the table, we’re pleased to say that the initial 45 million dollars is here.”

“It’s starting to flow into the region to strengthen the capacity of governments to combat crime, to strengthen their judicial sectors and to work with young people to provide social justice and security for all citizens in the Caribbean.”

Hardt said that the initiative came about following intensive discussions between the US and officials from the regional territories for over a year.

He said that the multi year approach that is being taken will address the trans-national challenges that the region faces in a comprehensive and cooperative way.

According to Hardt, the majority of the funding, up to $20 million, will be earmarked for the promotion of social justice, which is one of the three main focuses of the initiative.

“We recognize that you can go after the consequences of crime, but unless you actually go after what is creating the criminals, you will continue to have more and more criminals that will overwhelm the system.”

“So we sat down and heard from leaders in the region that they are grappling with this challenge of young people, who at early ages are getting involved in criminal activity, and we developed some pilot programs to see how we can engage them; engage their energies.”

Hardt indicated that five partners have been identified in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, along with others in the region to work to develop life skills for young people in the region.

Here at home, the partners include the Liberty Lodge Boys Training Centre, Marion House, the Youth Affairs Department, the Adult and Continuing Education Division and the Casper Maria Marshall Tomorrow Women and Men’s Centre.

“These are all outstanding partners who are doing really tremendous work in St. Vincent and should be recognized for that…. This is the key part of this initiative… and I think this is a comprehensive program and that we are off to a great start.”

Another focus of the initiative is the increase in public safety and security through law enforcement information and information sharing in the region.

The Charge d’Affaires noted that there will be a heavy investment in cyber crime fighting, as well as strengthening legislation that will solidify the prosecution and conviction of criminals.

The other area of focus is the reduction of illicit trafficking.

“That involves the maritime ability of countries in the region; St. Vincent in particular, a nation of many islands, has a very difficult challenge to defend its maritime borders.”

“So we are going to provide to St. Vincent, two interceptor vessels that will strengthen the ability of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Coast Guard to patrol the waters and to keep drugs from your shores.”

“These will come with communications equipment that will allow the vessels to communicate with home base…. And that all ties in with what the Regional Security System is doing with their air wing that has been working incredibly hard and very successfully to track drug shipments that are coming through the region.”

“These are all critical steps because law enforcement has to be ahead of the criminals. The criminals have access to tremendous resources and very often are able to stay well ahead of law enforcement; so we hope that we are going to right that balance with some of these efforts to strengthen law enforcement.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is to receive US $ 1.7 million through the initiative.

Hardt, who was here as part of the international contingent observing the 31st anniversary of this country’s independence, also made donations of US $10,000 to the Liberty Lodge Boys Training Centre in computers and job skills equipment, and US $6,000 to the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) in emergency supplies.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines was the first country in which the announcement of the funding was made.