This week, Stable Seas launched Stable Seas: Caribbean, which explores maritime security in the region through Stable Seas’ nine issue area framework. The chapters include Rule of Law, Blue Economy, Coastal Welfare, Maritime Mixed Migration, Illicit Trades, Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea, Fisheries, Maritime Enforcement Capacity, and International Cooperation. The report was produced in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The Caribbean has several assets which make its coastal areas more resilient to maritime security threats, including high access to education, lucrative fisheries such as lobster and shrimp, and a tourism sector that attracted 31 million visitors in 2019. However, profits from these assets do not appear to be reaching coastal communities, as economic inequality is extremely high throughout the region. Many countries in the Caribbean are also highly exposed and vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change, which may further destabilize maritime security.
Across the region, low levels of political conflict typically mask extremely high homicide rates and violence against women, causing mass maritime mixed migration. But conflict-ridden Venezuela is currently experiencing the most acute example of a maritime insecurity feedback loop, where food and economic insecurity on land are leading millions of people to migrate by land and sea, while fueling illicit trades and piracy and armed robbery at sea. The situation in Venezuela is impacting the rest of the region, underlining the urgency of a coordinated maritime security approach.
The report also highlights the need for maritime security solutions that are holistic. Drug trafficking continues to be a significant problem in the Caribbean, but the miopic focus on illicit drugs misses other maritime crimes, which may also be funding criminal and terrorist organizations. This approach enables illicit actors to operate undetected, concealing drug trafficking as other maritime operations.
Political will is strong in the Caribbean, but international cooperation can be challenging, as the region is fragmented into many microstates. Regional organizations like the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and the Regional Security System are working against this problem and are well positioned to address these maritime security challenges.
The full report, as well as the Executive Summary (also available in French and Spanish), are available to download here.