The Inter-American Defense Board Transforms in Face of New Challenges

The Inter-American Defense Board Transforms in Face of New Challenges

By Dialogo
May 12, 2016




Representatives of the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), along with Military leaders from regional partner nations, have confirmed the importance of cooperation as a tool to face emerging threats, and that is why they attend conferences like the Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC) to analyze emerging threats and the potential solutions to confront them.

Representing the IADB at CENTSEC this year was Mexican Army Brigadier General Jaime González Ávalos, vice-chairman of the organizations' Council of Delegates. Diálogo
took advantage of his participation at the regional exchange in Costa Rica at the beginning of April to talk to him about the organization’s new direction in light of the new threats in Latin America.

Diálogo:
Why does the IADB participate in conferences such as CENTSEC every year?

Brigadier General Jaime González Ávalos:
Because it is an opportunity we have to learn a little bit about how much the region has advanced in the fight against the new challenges we currently face. And it is an honor for the Board to be given this opportunity to speak on the topic, since just like CENTSEC, the Board will continue to fight to keep peace in the region, where the security-development binomial interacts in a balanced way to maintain peace in all its countries.

Diálogo:
Could you speak a little about the history of the IADB?

Brig. Gen. González Ávalos:
The Board turned 74 years old on March 30th. It was created in 1942, in the midst of World War II, with the mission to prepare for the joint defense of the continent. But as a result of the Special Conference on Security held in Mexico in 2003, the concept of security changed in our continent, and new directives were issued to restructure the hemispheric system. Thus, in 2006, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) passed a statute, and we joined OAS as an entity of this hemispheric organization. This statute establishes that our mission is to provide advisory services and no longer plan for the defense of the continent.

Diálogo:
In other words, there was a change of mission beginning in 2006?

Brig. Gen. González Ávalos:
Our mission was changed completely. Now, we provide advisory services on issues related to Military and defense matters in the hemisphere to comply with the Charter of the Organization of American States. It is a specific mandate of the General Assembly of the OAS that tasks us with taking into account the vulnerabilities of the states that are more likely to be impacted by emergent threats, which we are currently studying. This new resolution changes the structure of the Board and gives us a more technical role to play. In this sense, it makes us work more against emerging threats, without neglecting our fundamental role in defense. Furthermore, an additional resolution of the OAS gives us an enabler role to establish close coordination with all bodies of the Inter-American Defense System that operate in the hemisphere. In this way, we are working to establish coordination to try to strengthen the efforts against new threats, looking for efficiencies and synergies, and sharing our experiences.

Diálogo:
What are the main functions of the IADB?

Brig. Gen. González Ávalos:
To provide technical, consulting and educational advisory services for many topics, especially in humanitarian aid and assistance in case of disasters, and search and rescue. We interact with all the entities in the Inter-American system; we prepare studies; we control the development, confidence, and security measures existing in the continent. We update weapons inventories; we keep the institutional memory of the Conference of Ministers of Defense; we provide advisory services on issues related to defense policy to countries that so request it, pursuant to our statutes; and we provide advisory services in the management, safeguarding, and destruction of arsenals. At this time, we are actively participating in the comprehensive action against mines. As to advisory services related to education, we offer advanced studies in topics related to defense, and defense and Military issues, the Inter-American system, and related topics and subjects.

Diálogo:
What is the organizational structure of the Board?

Brig. Gen. González Ávalos:
The Board is made up of three bodies. The Council of Delegates is the highest representative body of the Board, where all the countries are represented by their delegates, and the Secretariat, which is the standing administrative body. As all international organizations, it has a Secretariat. In this case, it is a standing body. Other organizations have pro tempore
secretariats, and their responsibility is to provide administrative services to the rest of the organization. And finally, the crown jewel is our Inter-American Defense College. Representatives from the 28 countries comprising the members of the Board make up the Council of Delegates.

Diálogo:
Could you explain a little bit better how the membership works?

Brig. Gen. González Ávalos:
With respect to Board membership, to date we have 28 member states, and six observer states. Six countries in Central America are part of our membership and make up 20 percent of the member states. This somehow allows us to focus on initiatives related to the underlying problems in this region. We aspire to include all the OAS member states as members of the Inter-American Defense Board, and we are working toward that while also respect that there may be legal decisions at play.

Diálogo:
What are the requirements to become a member?

Brig. Gen. González Ávalos:
The only requirement is to be a member state of the OAS. All that is required is a country letter addressed to the Chairman of the Council of Delegates to become part of our organization. There are no fees, and there are several modes in which active presence on the Board can be maintained, whether with a Military, law-enforcement, or civilian delegation. The countries that have not joined our organization yet are practically the Caribbean countries. Costa Rica is part of the founding countries of the 1942 organization. And we have three island nations: The Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Haiti, which, at one point, left and later rejoined. Last month, Granada joined the Inter-American Defense Board. As of now, the inclusion of Bahamas, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia is still pending.

Diálogo:
Speaking specifically of Central America, what are the common themes that the IADB identifies as threats?

Brig. Gen. González Ávalos:
Basically, security. Security in the hemisphere is affected by transnational threats, which require a response from the public sector and the private sector in coordination with civil society. For this reason, the Military, security, and defense forces are involved in the fight against these obstacles; in most cases, in a subsidiary capacity, but they are participating and trying to limit them. Therefore, the Board, directly or indirectly, is providing those advisory services to the OAS and its member states through information sessions, drafting proposals about those topics, and carrying out coordination and cooperation activities.

Diálogo:
What are you doing to strengthen capacity in the region?

Brig. Gen. González Ávalos:
First, in academic terms, we offer a master’s degree in Inter-American Defense and Security and a certificate program with the same name at the Inter-American Defense College. It has been in place since 2014, when we received the accreditation for a master’s degree from the United States Education authorities. In both courses, we study the hemisphere, not a particular country. There is no cost to students, and the course is for Military officers, civilians or for law enforcement officers. The curriculum focuses on multidimensional security. We have a permanent faculty, a modern campus, and the benefits of the EDU system, as a result of our master’s degree accreditation with post-graduate studies. We are proud to include three presidents, three heads of state, 31 ministers of different cabinets, and hundreds of high-ranking officers of the three Military branches of many countries among the IADC alumni of 2,669 and 54 graduating classes. The current class our 55th one, made up of 67 students, nine of whom are women, from 13 countries in the hemisphere. An average of 17 or 18 percent of IADC students in the last five years come from Central America. So the invitation is open to all countries, because we provide advisory services to the 35 or 34 countries –if we exclude Cuba– that belong to or that are active members of the OAS.

Diálogo:
And outside the academic arena?

Brig. Gen. González Ávalos:
In the informal education modality, we are developing seminars, panels, and roundtables about the topic. In November, we held the Annual Traditional Meeting on Demining; in December, we had a roundtable about Islamic terrorism. We had a panel on hemispheric cooperation on cyber threats and security in February. We also had a roundtable about humanitarian demining with the authorities of the United Nations, and we are planning to present and conduct exercises in the topic of complex threats, that is, natural disasters, climate change, environmental impact, organized crime, cyber defense, and human rights.




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