Secretary of Defense Ash Carter attended the 12th Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas (CDMA) in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on Oct. 11, 2016. During his prepared remarks, Secretary Carter focused on the “‘tremendous progress’ in the hemisphere’s peace, security.” In particular, he highlighted progress made in addressing natural disasters and challenges such as climate change that do not recognize national boundaries. The theme of the Conference was “Strengthening Defence and Security Co-operation in the Hemisphere in an Increasingly Volatile Global Environment,” with dedicated sub-themes looking at the impact of the military on the environment, the impact of climate change on the military, and security and defense cooperation in “humanitarian emergency assistance” – a timely subject in the wake of Hurricane Matthew’s devastating impact on Haiti.
Despite the fact that natural disasters in the Americas have continued to claim many lives and cause significant damage, both physical and economic, Secretary Carter noted that progress has been made between nations in the hemisphere in cooperatively responding to natural disasters. From his remarks:
….we’ve made progress in how we respond to disasters. Chile and Mexico, for example, have been working with countries across Central America to build capacity in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Also, earlier this year, after the devastating earthquake in Ecuador, many countries in our hemisphere, including the United States, stepped up to support civilian agencies – with the U.S. Air Force deploying a mobile air traffic control tower that enabled more food, water, and supplies to reach those in need.
And just this past week, when Hurricane Matthew struck parts of the Caribbean, Colombia, and parts of the United States, the region was stepping up again to help. Last week the U.S. military was quick to support our civilian U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, standing up a joint task force and sending helicopters, engineers, and other assets to help with relief efforts in Haiti. And other countries are responding as well – Colombia, for example, sent its offshore patrol vessel 7th of August to Haiti to help provide humanitarian assistance.
That said, Secretary Carter encouraged nations to do more to cooperatively address what is, by its nature, a common threat in the region:
First, disasters like Hurricane Matthew underscore that many of the challenges we face, like climate change – which is on the agenda at CDMA again this year – don’t respect national or regional boundaries. And whether it’s a storm, an earthquake, or rising sea levels, such disasters can create an immense burden on our militaries and security forces, highlighting the need for increased cooperation.
We’re all in this hemisphere together, and when we plan and prepare together, we’re better at responding when disaster strikes. That’s why the United States supports the proposal for CDMA to develop a hemisphere-wide approach on multilateral disaster response. For its part, the United States will increase its funding to help nations in our hemisphere build their military capacity to support civilian authorities with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and to facilitate even closer cooperation both regionally and sub-regionally.
For Secretary Carter’s complete remarks, click here.