Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) and the Organization of American States (OAS) 2009-2011

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Background Introduction

In recent years, transnational organized crime (TOC), drug trafficking and drug dependency, public and private corruption, as well as terrorism have grown to become the most important security threats throughout the Americas. Today, criminal groups are highly sophisticated and more influential than ever. They operate without regard to national borders or jurisdictions and use crime and violence to fund their organizations and increase fear so that they may continue to gain power throughout the hemisphere.

In areas marked by weak law enforcement, and high rates of poverty and corruption, criminal organizations enjoy substantial social control and political influence. The amounts of money spawned by their criminal activities are immense. In addition to drug trafficking, these groups influence the flow of weapons and migrants; and they are also tied to money laundering, corruption, terrorism, kidnappings and even cybercrime. Their considerable funds are used to corrupt public officials, recruit and train new members, particularly, members of local youth gangs, as well as commit terrorist acts and other serious crimes that benefit their organizations.

This crime and violence is producing devastating effects on the political and socio-economic systems of many countries in the Americas. A recently released World Bank development report estimates the total costs of crime and violence to have increased to almost 10 percent of the region’s annual GDP. As crime increases in the hemisphere, the quality of life of citizens declines dramatically. In 2010, it was estimated that almost 200 million Latin American and Caribbean inhabitants fell victim to an act of crime. The transnational culture of this criminal rise represents a serious threat concerning all nations in the hemisphere; endangering the region’s economic development, the stability of states, the strengthening of democracy, and the rule of law. Most fundamentally, heightened crime threatens the safety and well-being of our citizens. Addressing this phenomenon will require a unified response, and collaborative efforts to combat the mounting crime trends.

Canadian Involvement

In addition to promoting democracy and human rights in the hemisphere, the Canadian government is placing a strong emphasis on moving towards an effective, results-oriented multilateral approach to security in the Americas. In December 2009, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) established the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) to combat and prevent transnational criminal activity in the Americas. ACCBP provides $CAN 15 million per year in funding and technical assistance to enhance the capacity of key beneficiary states, government entities and international organizations. In collaboration with multilateral and regional partner organizations, ACCBP is expanding Canadian law enforcement and criminal justice capacity building assistance to targeted states in the Americas. 

The Organization of American States and ACCBP Join Forces

Soon after the creation of the program, ACCBP entered into an agreement with the Organization of American States (OAS).  As the principal multilateral platform for political dialogue and collective action for the entire Western Hemisphere, the OAS strives to promote democracy, strengthen human rights, foster peace and security, promote gender equality, and address the shared complex problems caused by poverty, institutional structural weaknesses, terrorism, drugs and other related illicit types of trafficking, and corruption. ACCBP has directed its contribution to the OAS’s Secretariat for Multidimensional Security (SMS).

The Secretariat for Multidimensional Security was created in 2005 by the OAS to support member states of the Americas in confronting the important issue of security. The Secretariat has received support from and worked closely with fifteen OAS member states countries, including Canada. In line with Canada’s policy priorities, the Secretariat’s mission is to coordinate the cooperation among member states to fight threats to national and citizen security, responding to the objectives and principles adopted in the ‘Declaration on Security in the Americas’.  The Secretariat’s Smart Security approach (based on the concept of a multidimensional understanding of security) is centered on five areas of concern: 

  1. The objective and evidence-based identification of an issue and gaps;  
  2. Proposals that take into account the specific needs and the national and regional capacity of beneficiaries to ensure the sustainability of the project;
  3. Positive experiences of accomplishments from previous projects; 
  4. A multidimensional approach to ensure a systematic response to the problem(s); and
  5. Evaluation of results.

In 2010, the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security collaborated with OAS member states, including Canada, to carry out projects that are centered on the following five priority areas of action:

  1. Harmonization of Laws on Security
  2. Coordination of Law Enforcement
  3. Harmonization of Instruments to Prevent Crime, Violence, and Drug Dependency
  4. Harmonization of Instruments to Assist and Rehabilitate the Victims of Crime, Violence and Drug Dependency
  5. Strengthening Penitentiary and Prisons Systems to Support the Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration and Prevent Recidivism of persons deprived of liberty

These five priority areas of action, strongly supported by the Canadian Government through ACCBP, aim to implement regional and sub-regional security projects with the purpose of supporting policy and strengthening institutional capacity through training programs. They will, whenever possible, be carried out in coordination with other multilateral organizations or agencies.

New Strategies

With ACCBP’s generous contribution, OAS/SMS’s four dependencies: the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (OAS/SMS/CICAD), the Secretariat of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (OAS/SMS/CICTE), the Department of Public Security (OAS/SMS/DPS), and the Department of Security and Defense (OAS/SMS/DSD) have been expanding their capacities to address various security concerns in the Americas.  For a diverse group of organizations (such as the Inter-American Defense Board and the Conference of Ministers of Defense of the Americas) the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security acts as a forum and medium for dialogue between international and governmental organizations that seek to address the issues of security affecting the hemisphere. With the support of ACCBP, OAS/SMS is able to carry out its role as a mechanism for hemispheric political coordination, facilitating the preparation and implementation of plans of action to address important security issues in the Americas.  This report highlights some of the exciting projects and innovative initiatives being funded by ACCBP since 2009.

1. Transnational Organized Crime in Central America

In 2011, ACCBP began supporting a program to assist OAS member states in addressing transnational organized crime in all of its forms and expressions. By 2012, this program will provide a diagnostic of the national security systems of Central American member states (beginning with El Salvador) to include evidence of the successes and flaws of the institutional actors and their joint activities. By examining the structure and relationship between primary and sub primary actors in a given state, the diagnostic will act as a means for detecting the strengths and weaknesses of a given member states’ security system. In highlighting the strengths and weaknesses, OAS/SMS/DPS will be equipped to generate a set of proposals for reform.

2. Public Security Observatory

Over the past few years, crime and violence in the Caribbean have become a major concern for OAS member states. High rates of crime and violence are undermining economic growth, threatening human welfare and impeding social development. With ACCBP support, the Department of Public Security (OAS/SMS/DPS) is collecting, analyzing and publishing data on public security policy in the Americas. Most recently, OAS/SMS/DPS has sought to strengthen national methods for data collection in the Caribbean region by promoting the creation of National Observatories on Public Security to support the design of appropriate public security policies and to promote mechanisms of collaboration and the exchange of information among Caribbean nations.  The work of national observatories is already starting in: Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago. 

3. Combating Trafficking in Persons

To prevent the trafficking in persons, the prosecution of criminals, and the identification of victims (especially adolescents and children) the Department of Public Security (OAS/SMS/DPS) has initiated a regional strategy to support capacity building in the OAS member states. The main objective of this project is to strengthen the capacity of customs and migration personnel responsible for detecting and preventing criminal activity utilizing airports and land border crossings.

Specifically, the project will aim to provide the participating customs and migration officers and other government officials with the knowledge and skills to: more effectively combat drug, human and other forms of illicit trafficking; to improve their controls over the movement of people and goods through the country’s airports and land border crossings; and to more effectively coordinate with each other, as well as with other law enforcement entities, and prosecutors. By bringing together customs and migration officers, this project promotes the exchange of information between officials in various member state countries, greater regional and international collaboration, as well as information-sharing through the exchange of legal frameworks and public policies.

4. Police Training

Diagnostics of policing in Latin America and the Caribbean have detected significant deficits in management and administration in many of the hemisphere’s national, state and municipal police forces. In order to address these deficits in specialized police training, OAS/SMS/DPS has created the Inter-American Program for Police Training (PICAP).  PICAP seeks to promote the training of the police; to develop a model-curriculum for the modernization of police education; to organize training modules in order to facilitate the exchange of information between National Police Academies as a way to foster the exchange of experiences and mutual cooperation in this area.

5. Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration

With ACCBP assistance, the Department of Public Security (OAS/SMS/DPS) has initiated a new program to develop a standardized methodology for the monitoring and evaluation of projects and programs related to rehabilitation of criminals and their reinsertion into society.  This program seeks to decrease the reoccurrences of criminal recidivism.

6. Counterdrug Intelligence Center

In 1999, the Inter-American Commission for Drug Abuse Control (OAS/SMS/CICAD) helped establish the Andean Community Regional Counterdrug Intelligence School (ERCAIAD) in Lima, Peru.  Since then, ERCAIAD has evolved into a specialized, multinational center for academic and operational training in this field for Latin American law enforcement officers. Now with ACCBP assistance, OAS/SMS/CICAD is working with English-speaking member states in the Caribbean to develop a similar counterdrug intelligence center. 

7. Promoting Innovative Research and Policy Design

With ACCBP support, OAS/SMS/CICAD is designing an International Research Capacity Building Program for Health Professionals to study the drug phenomenon in Latin America and the Caribbean. This program is creating a cadre of health-related professionals with scientific knowledge and technical research skills to work and study drug issues and related problems at the levels of policy design, decision making, research programs, and project implementation, management and evaluation.  To date, the selected health professionals have completed the on site component of the program in Canada, defined their research project, and are now conducting research in their home countries.

8. Internet Sale of Drugs

Starting in 2009, OAS/SMS/CICAD’s Executive Secretariat, with Canadian support, has joined forces with Interpol and the Swedish Federal Police to deliver regional training seminars on how to combat the sale of illicit drugs over the internet. The seminars delivered under this program combine theory with hands on applications through case studies, group work and assignments. ACCBP assistance will allow OAS/SMS/CICAD to continue this type of training.

9. Evaluating Counter-Drug Policies

OAS/SMS/CICAD’s Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM) is designed to evaluate member states’ public policies and programs related to the drug problem. The evaluation, carried out jointly by member states, employs a standardized questionnaire and common evaluation form to ensure a fair peer assessment evaluation of current country efforts, advances, and gaps in drug demand reduction and control. The information used for the evaluation reports is based on country responses to a standardized questionnaire of indicators, which cover institutional capacity (anti-drug plan, national drug council and observatory), demand reduction (prevention, treatment and statistics), supply reduction (drug production, alternative development, control of pharmaceutical products and chemical substances) and control measures (illicit drug trafficking, firearms, money laundering and judicial cooperation).

The evaluation reports assign recommended actions to countries on how to improve their anti-drug policies and drug control activities. To date, over 1,700 recommendations have been assigned to the Hemisphere, with the majority having been implemented or in the process of being implemented.

10. Security Training for the Tourism Industry

With ACCBP support, OAS/SMS/CICTE has developed a new project to enhance the capacity of security managers in the private sector of the tourism industry, as well as public law enforcement officers specializing in tourism security in countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Panama. OAS/SMS/CICTE is also expanding public-private partnerships in tourism security. The training activities have been specifically developed for a public-private audience, and are systematically structured to address the issues faced by security managers who work in tourism and recreational facilities such as resorts, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, parks, roads and tourist attractions; law enforcement officers who work in areas with large tourist populations; persons involved in planning security arrangements for major events; and security officers for cruise ships and cruise ship terminals.

11. Specialized Security for Major Events

Spearheaded by OAS/SMS/CICTE, the main objective of this project is to establish and promote a permanent mechanism of cooperation involving all OAS member states with particular regard to security planning and the protection of major events. The Project also seeks to design, develop and implement a Knowledge Management System (KMS), a tool to exchange information and knowledge on major events security and crime prevention strategies which will be accessible to all Major Events National Focal Points (NFPs)—a specialized network jointly created by the OAS/SMS/CICTE and the United Nations International Crime and Research Institute (UNICRI). 

12. Travel Document Security and Identity Management

Border controls and identity management are central to the current global security agenda. While effective border and identity controls cannot eliminate related trans-border crime and terrorism per se, they can reduce the risks dramatically and offer a powerful tool to mitigate and counter such threats. The use of false identities and fraudulent travel documents remains an important modus operandi that tends to be exploited by trans-border criminal and terrorist networks.  Thus, the main objective of this joint project between OAS/SMS/CICTE and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), is to assist participating beneficiary states to achieve compliance with international regulations, standards and practices on travel document issuance and control, as well as to support member states in preventing trans-border crime  and terrorism through enhanced cross-border cooperation and capacity-building on identity management, and travel document issuance and control, through needs assessments, project development and future capacity-building activities.

13. Capacity Building on Customs and Immigration Controls

Organized crime, terrorism and other threats to security often gain an advantage through the inadequate control of border crossings.  In an effort to address these problems, OAS/SMS/CICTE works with member states to identify areas for improvement, especially in regard to the efficient exchange of information and coordination among national border control authorities, and between border control authorities of different member states.  The project addresses topics related to air, sea and land migration and customs controls—i.e. cargo and passengers—which aim to improve detection measures and capabilities, strengthen access controls, and soundly assess main risks.  With ACCBP support, SMS is—through one single integrated project–supporting member states’ efforts to prevent the movement of terrorists and criminals across borders; the illegal transport of illicit arms, drugs, materials and substances; the fraudulent use of travel, identity and other documents; and human trafficking. 


By strengthening the institutional capacity of its member states to combat crime in its various forms–addressing the sale of illicit drugs, corruption, trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, money laundering, terrorism and other criminal activities–the OAS is fulfilling its key role in the fight against crime, violence and insecurity in the hemisphere. Without the generous support of member states’ government agencies, such as Canada’s DFAIT through the ACCBP, these unique projects would not be possible. Through collaborative efforts and a holistic, multilateral approach, the OAS/SMS will be able to build and strengthen its regional policy platform in the pursuance of greater human security.

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