Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said it is essential for the Caribbean to remain a zone of peace. She challenged countries attending the Caribbean Nations Security Conference (Cansec), from Tuesday to Thursday, to collaborate to strengthen the region.
At the opening ceremony of the conference on Wednesday, Mottley said the region was a theatre of war for many years.
“For the majority of our existence, we were a theatre of war for people playing out their determinations to vanquish, conquer and control other regions. In the post-Independence region, we decided that wasn’t what we wanted, and our determination as independent nations is that what happened in the Caribbean in the Cold War must forever be our history and never our future.
“The Caribbean, for too much of our existence in the last five centuries, has been a zone of conflict, not a zone of peace, and that is why we insist on being a zone of peace.
“It is against that backdrop that we come to work together to ensure we can remove those clear and patent threats, whether those threats are related to the climate crisis, counter-narcotics, or illegal weapons, our ability to fob-off the consequences of fake news or social unrest, the consequences of war elsewhere in a globally interdependent world that effectively leads us subject to price and commodity access changes. Because even if you can pay, access to commodities will become difficult in today’s world.”
She said transparency and sincerity were critical to keep societies bonded together. Commitment to international polity and stability, she said, must mean there cannot be first-class and second-class nations.
“Having laid out to you what has been our history, it is for you today to go forward in cooperation and help us understand how you can better assist in the defence of our region.”
Mottley said the threats to the region also include cyberattacks.
This we expect, along with continued collaboration on the issue of the climate crisis, will be the outcome of your deliberations. And as leaders of government, we look forward to how we can strengthen our individual and regional participation and collaboration.”
Cansec was co-hosted by the US Southern Command (Southcom) and the Barbados Defence Force. Southcom commander US Army general Laura Richardson said some of the topics scheduled to be discussed during the conference included challenges such as stronger hurricanes and rising sea levels caused by climate change, trans-national crime organisations, the need for international finance for funding of key development projects, cyberattacks, disaster relief, and regional security challenges, among others.
“These cross-cutting threats are too powerful, too overwhelming for one nation to handle on its own. We must work together—like a cricket team or football team—all of us with the same uniforms on. That’s why Cansec is so important. It’s a chance for all like-minded democratic partners both inside and outside the region to sync-up, share best practices, lessons learned, and enhance interoperability.”
Richardson congratulated Caribbean countries for condemning the war in Ukraine.
“Caricom added their voice to the chorus of peace-loving democracies around the world condemning Russia’s invasion and calling for an immediate ceasefire. This region truly is a zone of peace, as all Caricom members so eloquently stated last month. What we’re doing right here at Cansec is working together to keep the Caribbean a zone of peace.”
US deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere Daniel Erickson said the defense department remained committed to strengthening relationships and addressing shared interests in threats.
“We seek to remain the trusted defence and security partner of Caribbean nations. Our interests include climate change, the covid19 pandemic response, including US$32 million in assistance, disaster resilience and health assistance efforts, humanitarian and disaster relief, and counter-narcotics trafficking, to name just a few issues.”