On 1 and 2 December 2011, the international seminar 'Dimensions of Security' took place in Quito, Ecuador. The seminar was organised by NIMD's partner in Ecuador, Agora Democrática (NIMD-IDEA) in cooperation with International IDEA. The seminar, in which around 40 experts participated, was a follow-up of the regional seminar on 'Organised Crime and State Capture' that was held in Lima, Peru organised by the Centre on International Cooperation (CIC) of the New York University, International IDEA and NIMD.
In some NIMD programme countries in Latin America, ‘underlying forces’ negatively influence and hamper the strengthening and functioning of political parties and by extension, the development of the state. One of the major challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean is the significant illicit industry that functions under direct or indirect political protection. Illicit financial flows and the sophistication of organised criminal networks, some of which have morphed into transnational networks, have transformed the regional’s political and security landscape.
Increasingly, the 'attack on the state', but also the other way around when a state uses illicit networks to gain political power or territorial control, does not only take place in production zones such as Colombia and Bolivia, but in the same degree in distribution or transit zones such as Guatemala, Mexico, and to a lesser extent also Ecuador.
In order to have a baseline on the situation in Latin America, on behalf of NIMD, Dirk Kruijt conducted a preliminary research in January 2011. The publication can be downloaded from this website. During the seminar in Peru and also in Quito, Dirk Kruijt presented this publication.
Besides organised crime, the region also faces other security challenges , ranging from climate change to the marginalisation of sectors of society. To help to address this new combination of challenges, Agora Democrática (NIMD-IDEA) organised the seminar on emerging security issues. Speakers from various countries examined new security threats and their implications for democracy.
The seminar was attended by academics and practitioners of England, Japan, Italy and of course various Ecuadorian institutions, such as universities, congress, the police and military and the judiciary.
Ben Zala, a senior fellow at the Oxford Research Group, gave an opening speech on sustainable security. He explained how the combination of threats, coming from climate change, organised crime or social marginalisation, result in new challenges for democracy and consequently need new policy responses that deal with those threats. Other experts subsequently gave examples of how their respective countries have dealt with certain threats: the March 2011 earthquake in Japan (by Japanese Embassy in Quito, Naohito Watanabe), food security in Bolivia (by Juan Jose Castro) and organised crime in Italy (by Roberto Forte of the foundation for citizens participation Flare). Moreover, the Catholic university of Quito, Bertha Garcia, elaborated on the consequences of such threats such as the development of the private security companies and the need to regulate this development in the Andean region.
The second day, participants discussed public policy tools for addressing security issues, including risk mapping and observation institutes such as the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) in Colombia and the Metropolitan Observation of Human security in Quito that help data gathering and providing input for public policy development. Furthermore, a discussion on the institutional reforms of the police and armed forces in Ecuador took place. In general is was agreed that more attention is needed to strengthen capacity of the police force to make military assistance unnecessary.
Finally, the seminar ended with identifying specific needs for the future. Due to the complex nature of the combination of threats many democracies deal with, inter-agency planning and sharing public policy tools within and between countries will become more important. Furthermore, more research is necessary to discover the role of the private sector in addressing security issues.
If you need more information on this issue or the Ecuador programme in specific you can contact Lizzy Beekman at firstname.lastname@example.org.