The Caribbean Nations Security Conference kicks off next week in Bridgetown, Barbados, as participants look for ways to improve the Caribbean "zone of peace."
Army Gen. Laura J. Richardson, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, is co-hosting the conference that consistently looks for ways to enhance multinational cooperation in the region.
The conference runs April 5-7, and Richardson will take advantage of the opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with many of the defense leaders in attendance.
Southcom officials said defense leaders from Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago will join host nation Barbados.
Other nations are also invited to attend, including Canada, Mexico, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
The conference is a venue for leaders to discuss problems and the best practices to combat those problems, officials said.
They also use the venue to discuss what the leaders see coming down the pike – like the threat posed to the region by climate change.
Regional organizations are also attending the meeting, including the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the Caribbean Community Implementing Agency for Crime and Security, the Regional Security System and the Inter-American Defense Board.
Richardson said transnational criminal organizations are a large problem in the region. She said the groups are poisoning the Caribbean and American people; trafficking in drugs, arms, other illicit products, and humans; and worsening corruption.
The Caribbean defense leaders will also address what the general calls unique cross-cutting threats. This includes stronger hurricanes and rising sea levels caused by climate change. The island nations of the region are particularly susceptible.