Blog: 10 Years of Towards a More Safe and Secure World

In May 2024, the U.S. Department of State celebrated the 10th Anniversary of its Towards a More Safe and Secure World (TMSSW) Initiative. This exchange program brought judicial, law enforcement, and security officials from around the world to the United States to exchange ideas and lessons in combating transnational crime. Issues such as weapons, drug, and human trafficking, deliberate environmental destruction, acts of terrorism, and cybercrime have effects that are not new on the world stage. What is new is their global transcendence and destructive potential to international peace and security. They reduce the stability of international partnerships by fostering corruption, undermining the rule of law, and endangering vulnerable populations. The U.S.’ international alliances have played a critical role in national security policy craft for decades, and investing in global strength and modernization continues to prove their importance.

On April 29th, Meridian International Center welcomed 56 international participants from 47 countries for this 3-week International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Participants were introduced to U.S. public safety counterparts and private sector leaders in Washington, D.C., Tampa Bay / St. Petersburg, New York City, and several other American cities.

Among a plethora of topics examined, themes of interagency coordination and the integration of defense technology systems rose as instrumental in combating transnational threats:

Interagency Coordination

Crime knows no borders, and interagency coordination is an important capability for law enforcement institutions around the world. TMSSW participants heard from a panel of U.S. Federal Intelligence agencies on information sharing across domestic and international jurisdictions. This was a key meeting for the group as many partner with U.S. intelligence agencies in their home countries. The panel shared specific insight on collaborating to combat illicit synthetic drug markets—as it is an ever-present issue worldwide. Panelists engaged in conversation on their shared reliance of foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies to tackle the production and movement of synthetic drugs such as fentanyl. In a transnational partnership, U.S. officials and local officials join forces across known areas of production to prove how ‘seemingly harmless chemicals’ are being used to create illegal substances. Partnership with local agents also ease access to freight companies and customs agencies that can track movements of such chemicals.

U.S. interagency coordination is also utilized to deconflict and coordinate information for effective, targeted responses. These examples proved as important takeaways for participants; one European participant saw this meeting as particularly beneficial to understand what has been successful and what can be improved in information sharing: "There is a limited number of resources to understand where we can be successful, so understanding from partners what works is key to building capacity as a collective”. Information sharing is an important tool that brings together both national and international institutions. Not only did participants investigate this, but they were also introduced to leading partners in the private defense sector who collaborate with U.S. federal agencies to produce efficient defense products.

Public / Private Partnership: Integrating Defense Technology Systems

In St. Petersburg, Florida, participants visited the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub in the St. Pete Innovation District. This is a shared workspace that brings together ‘the triple helix of innovation’: private industry, government, and academia. As transnational criminal actors modernize, the Hub takes advantage of the growing need for maritime and national security technology solutions across Florida and the Federal government.

This meeting was particularly important to the maritime law enforcement specialists on the program; some briefly explored Pole Star Defense’s solutions. Pole Star creates global-geospatial intelligence for real-time monitoring of maritime assets for a range of clients, including the U.S. Department of Defense. Criminal actors exploit the fishing industry to move their product or partake in illegal fishing acts, known as Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported fishing (IUUF). Participants from Central America were able to locate their own Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) with Pole Star’s monitoring products. Monitoring technology is important for Costa Rica, for example, which controls an EEZ 10x its land mass. IUUF dually detriments and disrupts environmental and conservation practices especially across Central American waters as it also hosts many marine protected areas. Companies like Pole Star highlight the emerging field of defense technology that can provide solutions to bring actors together at the global level.

This program emphasized investigating the root causes of crime with the goal of improving conditions such as poverty and lack of educational opportunities. The knowledge exchanged on how to strengthen accountability, involve stakeholders, expand international cooperation, and prevent cross-border threats will impact security strategies worldwide. The value of integrating law enforcement with diplomatic, financial, intelligence, and other tools in coordination with foreign partners is an exceptional example of how international exchange can impact the future of global peace and security.

Kate Klygis is a Senior Associate at Meridian International Center. She holds dual BA degrees in Geography and Spanish from the University of Denver as well as an MA in Security Policy Studies from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. Kate has worked on several programs focusing on U.S. Foreign Policy, anti-human trafficking, and water conservation among other topics.

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