Organization of American States (OAS)
Call to Create OAS Inter-American Commission against Transnational Organized Crime
Nov 21, 2013 - 6:49:01 PM

Fourth Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas (MISPA IV) Prev Date: November 21, 2013. Place: Medellín, Colombia Credit: Ministerio de Defensa Colombia

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today reiterated his call to the Hemisphere to move towards the creation within the institution of an entity to coordinate the fight against transnational crime, during the inauguration in Medellin, Colombia, of the IV Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas, in which he participated along with the Minister of Defense of Colombia, Juan Carlos Pinzón, and the Director General of the South American country’s Police, General Rodolfo Palomino.

In his speech, the OAS Secretary General called upon member states to follow the mandate of the Summits of the Americas, reflected again in the “Pledge of Chapultepec,” (Spanish version) which recommended the establishment of an Inter-American Commission against Transnational Organized Crime, headquartered at the OAS. The goal of this entity, he added, must be “to be responsible for the ongoing coordination of Inter-American cooperation in this field and, at the same time, to serve as a complement to an agency coordinating operations in the field of intelligence and prosecutions.”

“I hope that this proposal will be considered and concretized because even today, in the second decade of the 21st Century, the Inter-American system does not have a technical-political body dedicated to organizing and coordinating collective efforts to address the growing threat of transnational organized crime,” he said. With regard to MISPA IV, he said that “there are decisions that should be adopted at some point and that this is the place where they can be adopted.”

In the same vein, Secretary General Insulza asserted that despite their obvious necessity and usefulness, “some of the main Conventions have not been signed or ratified by all states in the region and often technical agencies do not liaise with political bodies.” In this regard, he indicated that “it is essential to achieve the ratification by all member states of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA) a crucial tool for the control of illicit arms trafficking. The advances made in the area of conventional arms marking are not enough if we don’t accept, in this area as well, the need for having binding legal instruments for all.”

The OAS leader recalled that the main focus of MISPA IV, which takes place until tomorrow in the Plaza Mayor Convention Center of Medellin, Colombia, is hemispheric coordination against organized and common crime, with special attention paid to three issues: regional cooperation strategies to prevent and address threats to public security; joint research, in particular that done by crime observatories; and hemispheric networks and platforms for police information sharing.

To make progress in these areas, the OAS Secretary General said it is necessary that police institutions be able to count on comprehensive management systems that include at least three key aspects. “First of all, strategic direction aligned with the state’s public security policies. Second, improved process management that adapt to national realities. Third, improved human resources’ training and management,” he added.

He therefore proposed the development of Codes of Ethics for police institutions so that “they guide the thoughts and actions of their members;” “the development of strategies that contribute to meet the needs of police personnel;” and “the implementation of internal initiatives for social action to the benefit of staff and their families.” “Police education is at the heart of the transformation of police forces. The challenge is to implement plans for the development and professionalization of the police field and that provide the men and women in law enforcement institutions with capabilities and skills that allow them to cope effectively and efficiently with the old and new forms of crime,” he said.

The Secretary General noted that while the Inter-American system has weaknesses in the area of security, it has also made significant progress since the holding of MISPA I, which took place in Mexico in 2008. “In the five years that have passed since our first meeting in Mexico City, the public security issue has become a fundamental pillar of the activities of the OAS. MISPA has been institutionalized and the capacities of response capabilities of the various agencies have increased,” he said.

In this regard, he noted that the Inter-American system has a large network of institutions and conventions relating to security and, as examples, he mentioned the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD); the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE); MISPA itself; the Meeting of Ministers of Justice or Attorneys General of the Americas (REMJA); the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Inter-American Convention on Violence against Women (MESECVI); the Meeting of Ministers of Defense; the Follow-up Mechanism to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC); and CIFTA, in addition to programs of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), and the World Bank to support the security efforts of member states.

Finally, Secretary General Insulza highlighted the work of the Inter-American Security Observatory of the OAS, which offers 260 indicators grouped into 14 groups. “We put this information at the disposal of our Hemisphere’s security authorities to be used as an input when defining their public policies in the short-, medium- and long-term, as well as for monitoring and for developing evaluation indicators,” he concluded.

Common Problem

For his part, the Minister of National Defense of Colombia, Juan Carlos Pinzón, said that transnational organized crime is the great common problem in the region. “It is a global challenge from which no nation in the Americas is spared. Only cooperation committed to concrete goals and long-range results will allow our nations to maximize their fight against this increasingly sophisticated form of crime,” he added.

Minister Pinzón argued that border crime is a challenge to development and democracy that affects not only the Western Hemisphere, but the whole world. “Violence and crime perpetrated by transnational organized crime and related activities hamper our nations’ sustainable development and constitute a flagrant violation of human rights,” he indicated.

The Colombian Minister said the exchange of information between countries becomes an imperative without which cooperation, and therefore the fight against crime, is not possible. “Facing this new form of crime means coordinating regional and local policies, one of the main challenges we have today within the framework of the OAS,” he added.

For his part, the Director General of the Colombian Police, General Rodolfo Palomino, indicated that strengthening cooperation, coordination, and mutual technical assistance between the institutions responsible for public security “constitutes the cornerstone for mitigating violence and organized crime and, in turn, contributing to the maintenance of peace and security in the Hemisphere.”

Palomino, who is also the President of the American Police Community (AMERIPOL), which brings together 175,000 policemen and women of the region, said that this organization wants “to contribute decisively to a Hemisphere where security and coexistence issues have no borders.”

Director General Palomino said that AMERIPOL’s advances and approaches have coincided with the new approaches for multidimensional security in the Hemisphere, and he recalled the recent celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of the Declaration on Security in the Americas at the OAS Permanent Council in late October, where “the human being and security are at the heart of the agenda and its challenges.”

In this regard, he stressed the importance of coordination between AMERIPOL and the OAS, in particular with the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the hemispheric institution, in compliance with the agreement signed between both entities during the 41st OAS General Assembly in 2011, which allowed for the launch in March of this year the beginning of a joint effort between AMERIPOL’s liaison office located at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the OAS Department of Public Security.”

MISPA was created as a cooperation instrument between OAS member states in the area of public security and aims to strengthen dialogue between countries of the region in order to achieve effective cooperation, facilitate the transfer of knowledge, and support technical assistance and the sharing of good practices in this area.

To date, MISPA has met three times: MISPA I was held in Mexico City, Mexico, in October 2008; MISPA II was held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in November 2009, and MISPA III was held in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in November 2011.

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