The annual meeting of Public Security Sub-Committee was held virtually on 18th June, 2020 to review progress made and to deliberate on public security matters for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region.
Delivering his remarks on behalf of SADC Executive Secretary, Director of Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Mr. Jorge Cardoso, underscored the significance of the Public Security Sub-Committee in the architecture of peace and security in the region specifically in its focus areas on migration governance, both regular and in regular, border security and the management of wildlife crimes. He acknowledged that the SADC region has been seriously affected by the COVID-19 with the public security sector particularly affected.
Director Cardoso highlighted that the lockdown regulations imposed by many Member States resulted in curtailed mass movement of migrants, which ultimately reduced options for regular migration and, most likely triggered a rise in illegal and forced migration in search of opportunities for survival. He also pointed out that this also provides an opportunity for traffickers and human smugglers, as people affected by humanitarian crises that existed before COVID-19, particularly those displaced and or living in camps or camp-like settings, face increased challenges and vulnerabilities which require proactive and targeted interventions which challenges require a holistic approach.
Among the many innovative measures in prevention and fighting COVID-19, Mr. Cardoso indicated the need for heightened Cross Border Coordination, Inter-agency cooperation between Customs, Police and Immigration officials, stakeholder engagement and initiation of dialogue at different fora to advocate for the adoption of a one-health approach that recognizes the complex interconnections between the health of people, animals, plants and our shared environment.
On his part, the Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage in Zimbabwe and Chairperson of the Public Security Sub-Committee, Mr Aaron Daniel Tonde Nhepera called upon Member States in a post COVID-19 environment, to expedite the implementation of the VISA Exemption Agreements, while stressing that it was through the free movements of the people and goods within the region that the process of SADC Regional Economic Integration would become a reality.
Mr. Nhepera requested Member States to pay closer attention to the growing incidences of terrorism in the region. He also highlighted that the recent reports of terrorist activities in some Member States are an eloquent reminder that no country is immune to terrorism, hence the need for all member countries to join hands to enhance cooperation, information sharing and increase the usage of modern technologies to mitigate all efforts by criminal elements.
He also reminded the meeting on the critical need to safeguard wildlife resources, especially given the increased sophistication of poaching syndicates. He further on urged delegates to despite the severity of the impact of COVID-19, introspect their efforts towards the implementation of regional strategies directed towards curbing wildlife crimes.
The meeting among other issues reviewed and noted progress on number of issues that include the development of a SADC Regional Migration Policy framework to engender comprehensive migration governance in the region; the Draft Action Plan between SADC and United Nations High Commission for Refugees which fosters the cooperation between the two Organizations to leverage skills and resources; the implementation of the SADC Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching Strategy which among others, resulted in Member States establishing multi-sectoral National Anti-Poaching Task Forces to conduct coordinated, concurrent and/or joint operations with neighboring States, using Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs).
The Public Security-Sub Committee comprises of senior officials drawn from immigration, refugees, wildlife and customs sectors in the SADC Region.