Bahamas and US hold first dialogue on transnational crime

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Christie appeals to US to do more to help Bahamas fight crime

Nassau, The Bahamas – The Commonwealth of The Bahamas and the United States of America engaged in the first partnership dialogue on Monday, December 17, 2012 to address the issue of transnational criminal activities and the impact on both countries.

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas and the United States of America engaged in the first partnership dialogue on Monday, December 17, 2012 to address the issue of transnational criminal activities and the impact on both countries. Pictured from left at the Paul Farquharson Conference Centre, Police Headquarters on East Street are the Hon. Dr. Bernard Nottage, Minister of National Security; Liliana Ayalde, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Western Hemisphere Affairs, United States Department of State; Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie; and John Dinkelman, Charge’ d’ Affaires, United States Embassy, Nassau. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

The dialogue came about at the request of Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie to United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, following The Bahamas general election on May 7, 2012.

The Prime Minister officially opened the dialogue held at the Paul Farquharson Conference Centre, Police Headquarters on East Street.

Opening statements were also delivered by the Minister of National Security the Hon. Dr. Bernard Nottage; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Western Hemisphere Affairs of the United States Department of State, Liliana Ayalde; and John Dinkelman, Charge’ d Affaires, United States Embassy, Nassau.

The dialogue presented an opportunity for both countries to work together in a forum of trust, mutual respect and shared responsibility to counter continued vulnerability to transnational criminal activities.

Talks focused on narcotics smuggling, firearms control, illegal migration, trafficking in persons, maritime domain awareness, crime prevention and community security.

Dr. Nottage thanked the United States government for “adding value” to The Bahamas’ national security initiatives, cooperative operations and arrangements. He acknowledged the $2.135 million to assist in the areas of law enforcement, strengthen counter-narcotic control capabilities, drug demand reduction, the rule of law and anti-corruption.

Mrs. Ayalde said it was an honour to address the meeting, with a view to gaining a better understanding of the challenges The Bahamas is facing in the area of citizen security, and to seek ways to work together to confront these priority challenges.

“Our meeting today underscores the close ties between our nations and the commitment to build upon our strong and historic foundations. The United States and The Bahamas enjoy a strong bilateral relationship built on shared interest in security, strengthening democracy and promoting trade and cultural exchanges,” she said.

Amongst the presenters were: the Hon. Philip Davis, Deputy Prime Minister on the Philosophy, Structure and Funding of Urban Renewal; the Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration; Missouri Sherman-Peter, Chair, National Trafficking in Persons; Cynthia Pratt, Co-Chair, Urban Renewal Commission; Commodore Roderick Bowe, Royal Bahamas Defence Force on Strategies for Maritime and Air Awareness; Cheryl Bassett, DHS Unit Chief for Human Smuggling & Trafficking, United States Government; and Megan Oates, United States Government presentation on Crime, Prevention, Community Empowerment and Corrections.

Joint Statement of the United States–Bahamas Partnership Dialogue

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central America and the Caribbean Liliana Ayalde and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration the Hon. Fred Mitchell shake hands after signing an Amendment to the Letter of Agreement on Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, Tuesday, December 18, 2012. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

Senior officials from the Governments of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the United States of America met on Monday, December 17 in Nassau to engage in a broad-ranging dialogue on issues of mutual interest.  Topics during the day-long series of open, collaborative, and productive discussions included: narcotics smuggling, trafficking of illegal firearms, illegal migration, trafficking in persons, maritime domain awareness, crime prevention, and community security.

Under the direction of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Liliana Ayalde, led the delegation of senior U.S. government officials who were charged with developing a clear understanding of the needs and priorities of the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The Dialogue’s outcomes will play a central role in continuing coordinated bilateral law enforcement, maritime and national security efforts.

In her closing statement, Deputy Assistant Secretary Ayalde emphasised that the Dialogue underscored the close ties that exist between The Bahamas and the United States and a commitment to build on the two countries’ strong historic foundations.   She also stressed the signifigance of convening the high-level meeting to examine existing cooperation efforts, share information on security-related trends in the region, and discuss ways to increase the effectiveness of joint responses to transnational security threats.

The Right Honourable Perry G. Christie, M.P., Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas similarly acknowledged the close connection between The Bahamas and the United States, and welcomed the high-l evel delegation from the United States. The Prime Minister noted the continued development of enhanced cooperation between The Bahamas and the United States, rendered particularly critical due to the geographic vulnerability of The Bahamas within the context of transnational and domestic criminal activities. Reference was also made to the reintroduction of the Urban Renewal programme, and his confidence in its ability to positively impact the lives of the Bahamian people, particularly the most vulnerable.

Prime Minister Christie expressed his pleasure at the longstanding rapport between the Governments of The Bahamas and the United States, which has meaningfully contributed to mitigating both mutual concerns and advancing matters of parallel importance. He underscored the serious challenges faced by The Bahamas as a consequence of illicit trafficking in firearms and stressed the urgency of The Bahamas and the United States arriving at mechanisms to disrupt the illegal trade in firearms.

The partnership between The Bahamas and the United States has proven successful in securing the common maritime border from threats arising from transnational criminal groups and ensuring community safety, as well as reinforcing a common commitment to ensure orderly, legal, and safe migration in the region.  The United States and The Bahamas recognise the historic binding economic ties between the two countries and will continue to seek ways to expand bilateral economic cooperation and trade development.

This Dialogue offered an opportunity to review the current bilateral partnership with a goal of identifying emerging threats to both countries, strengthening existing security mechanisms, concluding negotiations on pending agreements, formalizing new areas of potential cooperation and seeking how new avenues through the partnership dialogue can be enhanced.  A follow-up meeting is anticipated to take place in the Spring of 2013 to review progress and continue to develop the initiatives explored during the past two days.