Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Special Report: Key Issues from the UAPI Continental Security Conference

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Special Report: Key Issues from the UAPI Continental Security Conference

Article excerpt

"He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils"

Sir Francis Bacon

Introduction and Background

The University and Agency Partnership Initiative (UAPI) of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security conducted its first ever Continental Security Conference (CSC) on December 7/8, 2010 in Colorado Springs. The event brought together participants from Canada, Mexico, and the United States, and focused on common security issues of interest to all three nations with an emphasis on academic perspectives and contributions. This report provides background, a summary of the proceedings, and proposes a way ahead for this initiative.

The genesis of the conference stems from the expansion of the UAPI into the international arena.1 In late 2009, the UAPI reached across the border to Canada in an effort to learn of their academic programs, better inform our comparative homeland security courses, and offer Canadian programs the academic support provided to UAPI partners domestically.2 After that visit, a decision was made to reach out to Mexico as well, through a conference that bought together academics, practitioners, and policymakers from the three countries that share the North American continent.

The goals coming in to the CSC were straightforward. First was to develop knowledge and educate the participants on security issues and academic efforts as undertaken in each country. Second was to build relationships between the participants and to begin institutionalizing those relations between their organizations. Once the conference began, an additional goal was added: to generate a concrete list of objectives for future conferences.

Attending the conference were representatives from academia, including two from Mexico, four from Canada, and nine from the U.S. military.3 The Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Public Safety Canada (PSC) were among the organizations representing the practitioner community. A complete list of organizations represented at the conference is in appendix A.

Despite the participant nations' proximity to each other and the nature of today's natural and manmade threat environment, few long-term initiatives of this type exist. None of these has a primarily academic focus.4

Keynote Address

The conference began with a keynote address by Ambassador Andres Rozental, the former Mexican ambassador to the United Kingdom and founding president of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. The address focused on several key areas: shared security threats, increased cooperation, criminality, and cultural differences.

The events of 9/11 were seen by many as an opportunity to redefine the relationship between the countries on the North American continent. Both formal and informal discussions were conducted at the secretary of state level regarding a "security perimeter" that included the entire continent. However, the issue of sovereignty, particularly for Canada, was one of several issues that precluded making much progress in this area. Another issue then, as now, is the security threat posed by undocumented people in all three countries.

There has been gradual but significant change during the past decade that has increased security cooperation, particularly between Mexico and the U.S. Evidence of these changes includes visits by secretaries of defense; a "sea change" in sharing of intelligence and law enforcement information; and an increase in formal and informal exchanges (having five representatives from Mexico attending this conference is one example of these exchanges). Mexico's formal liaison with the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is also strong evidence of increased cooperation and improved relations.

The U.S./Mexican border continues to pose significant issues. The border, stated Ambassador Rosental, is "insecure, criminal, and dysfunctional, and on the Mexican side is an inconsistent structure to deal with it. …

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