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The Role of our region in combating terrorism

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Over the past week, I had the opportunity to attend the third meeting of the Commonwealth Workshops on Capacity Building in Combating Terrorism. The program was focused on the specialized training of police prosecutors, investigators, customs officials and other stakeholders concerned with enhancing international cooperation to fight terrorism.

From all observations, terrorism is widely recognized as one of the major challenges of the 21st century. There are also many different types of challenges that develop as offshoots of terrorism which have attracted a global response.{{more}} Terrorism seeks to produce an enduring fear which has the potential to paralyze the democratic style of governance which we practice in our part of the Western world. Therefore as a region we must seek to resolve the issues arising out of terrorism with an increased sense of purpose by first dispelling all forms of fear.

In order to join the global effort, the full cooperation and the initiative of the entire region is needed both among ourselves and with our international partners. There is cogent evidence that the international terror network is expanding. Its tentacles are growing globally as a direct result of advancements in technology and the evolution of the natural processes associated with globalization. It may not be too far fetched to think that it is only a matter of time before the Caribbean region may overtly be used as an escape for those intent on terrorizing the world. In fact, the very opportunities which globalization offers for instance, the free movement of money, people, goods and information are on many occasions harnessed by terrorists and other organized criminals.

The emerging trends show that money may be raised in one country and used for training in another, for procurement in a third and ultimately terrorist action in a fourth. That is the complexity of the network. Global terror therefore requires a global and urgent response, and the Caribbean region must play its part.

From a strictly preventative standpoint, our states can strengthen their actions against terrorism by focusing direct attention on other forms of criminal activities which precede and accompany terrorist crimes. Studies conducted by the United Nations on drugs and crime, indicate that terrorist groups are frequently involved in other crimes, particularly illegal trafficking, the smuggling of immigrants, falsification of travel or identification documents, trafficking of firearms, as well as public sector corruption to support their activities. Our region may well be used as a transshipment point for such illegal trafficking and the establishment of money laundering havens geared at terrorist financing. The efforts of our legislators in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are commendable in having already ensured that carefully drafted legislation was put in place to prevent the abuse of our banking system by potential launders.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has enacted the United Nations (Anti-terrorism Measures) Act, 2002. The legislation deals with matters of prohibition against the provision of resources for the terrorist – inclusive of terrorist financing, the duty on all to provide information on terrorist activities, the seizure, detention and forfeiture of cash from terrorist, extradition and mutual legal assistance. The specific objective of this piece of legislation is to provide our law enforcement agencies with a strong tool to deter and punish the perpetrators of terror and all those who conspire with the terrorist.

In short, the response of each state should be comprehensive, well coordinated and integrated. The Organisation of American States and the Commonwealth Secretariat have both jointly, and separately assisted greatly in this effort and now the rest is left to each jurisdiction and the people of our region.

Today it will not be an overstatement if one expresses that our world is at war. Walking the streets of New York City, or using the subway in London can never feel as safe as it felt prior to the September 11th attacks on the Twin Towers.

As a result of many global experiences, the price for energy has reached astronomical levels, and we are on the brink of global inflation, which can send our regional economies into a fatal nose dive. It is interesting to note however that whilst we quietly continue our lives in the region correctly concerned with matters of integration of various forms, global impacts of free trade and other social concerns, there is also a global War on Terror, which our region must also begin to approach strategically. We must adopt a proactive approach to the issue of terrorism and not the usual laid back reactive approach which is the case far too often. We must keep moving.

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