- - Friday, October 10, 2014

Safest city in the Caribbean

Security has been a top-level priority for the United States for many years. A particularly critical security issue in the Western Hemisphere is the drug trade. Here the U.S. has formed a valuable, proactive partnership with Suriname. Cooperation aimed at making the Caribbean and North-South transit routes safer is a cornerstone of Suriname’s bilateral relations with its neighbors to the North. “The Government of Suriname is committed and has been actively engaged in combating all forms of transnational organized crime, including the control of narcotics in all of its manifestations so to guarantee security in all its dimensions,” says the Director of the Bureau of National Security, Melvin Linscheer.

The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) is one forum through which Suriname and the U.S. are cooperating for productive outcomes. Since 2010 the U.S. has contributed over $250 million to the CBSI, whose members include all member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic. The objectives of CBSI are threefold: to reduce illicit drug trafficking through counter-narcotics programs and measures aimed at reducing weapons flows; to increase public safety and security including the strengthening of domestic security forces such as the police, border guards and military; and to promote social justice through anti-corruption measures, protection of marginalized communities and efforts to reduce the lure of criminal organizations.

The Automated Fingerprint Identification System, at the Nieuwe Haven Police Station, is an example of United States’ efforts to assist Suriname as it builds capacity to combat transnational crime.

With respect to human trafficking, technical assistance is offered with the Trafficking in Persons program, for which the Government has already approved the budget for the implementation of the Strategic Plan 2014-2018.

Training in disaster preparedness and response and disaster management, as well as the availability of training programs and fellowships for the military and police, have helped strengthen Suriname’s institutions.

Melvin Linscheer referred to the outcome of the recently held Special Assembly of the OAS on the Drug Problem of the Americas in Guatemala City, and endorses the statement made by Suriname’s Ambassador to the OAS, whereby she emphasized that “The drug issue is a developmental issue. It interfaces with among others public security, justice, social development, human rights and democratic institutions.” Linscheer goes on to note that the Government of Suriname fully supports the implementation of other anti-drug initiatives including the 2010 Hemispheric Drug Strategy and the Hemispheric Plan of Action for 2011-2015.

The various forms of technical assistance have resulted in positive rankings for Suriname on the State Department’s recent lists of country reports. In the International Narcotics Control Reports Suriname was upgraded to a country of low concern, while Suriname is absent from the latest Country Reports on Terrorism and the Money Laundering Reports.

Promoting Security at Home

These efforts are all very much in line with the domestic priorities of the Government of Suriname since the 2010 elections which brought President Desir Delano Bouterse to office. The overall goal of this Government is to promote inclusive development and economic growth and make the country a safer, more secure environment that protects the rights of its citizens. Deepening bilateral ties with the U.S. have helped leverage the Government’s own domestic means to implement reforms.

Supporting these bilateral initiatives takes place through a very high level of cooperation among Government entities in Suriname. The Bureau of National Security within the office of the Presidency has the overall coordination of the national security policy of the Suriname. “We meet on a regular basis with all the heads of the security forces and intelligence agencies to strategize and discuss a broad array of security issues and to coordinate their activities,” says Linscheer.

Additionally, the U.S. sponsors study tours to America for Surinamese prison guards as part of a long term project to strengthen the management and security of Suriname’s prison system. The U.S. has also sponsored Suriname’s participation in the Container Control Program of UNODC, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to strengthen its port system. Strong port security to defend against drug trafficking is an important part of the quality proposition. The Coast Guard established to effectively control and monitor activities in Suriname’s maritime and territorial waters celebrated its first year of operations in September 2014.

Economic Cooperation

The increasing competitiveness of Surinamese import-export companies has led to a rise in U.S. consumer goods imports, while on the other side of the trade equation Suriname sees the U.S. as an attractive market for agricultural exports. Agriculture is viewed as a sustainable resource. The Government hopes to increase its share of the total revenue base; investing earnings from the extractable resources like gold and bauxite that are the focus of much of Suriname’s FDI today into sustainable projects for tomorrow. Making full use of the vast U.S. consumer market will be an important pillar of this strategy.

A sound domestic financial system will help facilitate its development. Recent legislation such as the Supervision of the Banking and Credit System Act (of 2011) and the Anti-Money Laundering and the Combating of Terrorist Financing Directive of the Central Bank (of 2012) help promote financial transparency and confidence in its system for foreign investors.

The business relationship between the two countries is not new. “We have shared a long-standing bilateral diplomatic and economic relationship with the United States for more than half a century now. This was initially related to the fact that, since WW-II, Alcoa was the leading company in Suriname’s bauxite sector. This was the main sector of the economy at the time, accounting for more than 80 percent of the country’s total export earnings,” said Subhas Mungra, Suriname’s ambassador to the United States. “Currently our mutual relationship is business oriented, mainly focused in the areas of gold mining, offshore oil exploration and trade some 20 percent of total imports come from the U.S.,” Ambassador Mungra added.

With both countries aware of these mutual benefits an increasingly secure and vibrant regional partner for the U.S. and a source of investment and trade opportunities for Suriname the pace and depth of bilateral relations are likely to continue to deepen in the months and years ahead.

This article was produced in conjunction with The Washington Times International Advocacy Department.

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