Early tomorrow morning, Secretary Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation to the International Conference of Support for Central American Security Strategy, in Guatemala City. The conference will bring together many of the presidents from Central America, as well as President Santos of Colombia and President Calderon of Mexico, and senior leaders from Spain, Canada, Italy, Israel, the Republic of Korea, Chile, the European Union, the United States, and international organizations to discuss strategies for overcoming security concerns in Central America.
As a neighbor and a partner in the hemisphere, the United States is one of many countries concerned about the growing violence and insecurity that transnational crime has spawned in Central America. Criminal activity varies from country to country -- in some, the problem is more about transnational gangs, in others, the narco-cartels. But, all over Central America, transnational crime translates into violence and danger that people across all levels of society feel every day.
Apart from the human cost of transnational crime, there is a devastating economic cost. Experts calculate that insecurity in Central America carves off, on average, more than 7 percent, of GDP. Such a high figure cripples development at a time when countries are racing to establish a competitive footing in an integrated world. Our interdependence, and the commitments we share to the strong and prosperous democracies that will shape the future, guide our involvement and support for greater citizen safety in Central America.
The United States has been working with these partners to develop new mechanisms to coordinate the security-related assistance we and other countries and institutions provide. It is critical for us to collaborate to figure out what works, what doesn't, and the responsibilities of each stakeholder. The United States and other core partners have created a “Friends of Central America” group that includes large institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank, as well as other donor countries with an interest in supporting the region, including Colombia, Mexico, Canada, Spain, and the European Union. Members of this group are developing new mechanisms to ensure better coordination as we support Central American countries' efforts to develop effective strategies for combating transitional crime.
The United States and other outside partners provide substantial material support to Central American nations. Recognizing our co-responsibility in the drug trafficking cycle, the United States alone will spend over $10 billion next year in our own demand reduction programs. Of course, no amount of outside partnership can substitute for the political will and whole-of-society commitment by Central American countries that is needed to combat transnational crime. Citizens and governments must build consensus on how to address these problems so they will be able to build the future they want for themselves and for their children.
As we make our final preparations to travel to Guatemala City, I look forward to meeting with counterparts from the region and working with them to find ways to do the complicated but necessary work that will counter transnational crime and keep our countries safer. Stay tuned.