Latin America and the Caribbean persistently show growth and potential for beneficial change, despite the continuous challenges the region faces. Cyberattacks, natural disasters, organized crime, drug trafficking, income inequality, corruption, intrastate discord and climate change present barriers to effective security throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Public security is a broad and multidimensional issue and, as such, requires an innovative and collaborative response strategy. As the only pan-hemispheric defense organization within the Americas, the Inter-American Defense Board is the ideal body to address systemic, underlying security and defense issues and work toward a more secure future. With 27 member states across the hemisphere, the IADB is in a uniquely essential position to create a regional forum that brings together ideas and best practices of civilian and military representatives.

In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, the need for effective communication across borders is apparent now more than ever. The IADB offers its member states a platform for information sharing, coordination and education on topics of national and regional importance on defense and security matters. Composed of the Council of Delegates, the Secretariat, and the Inter-American Defense College, the IADB promotes a shared understanding of key threats to the Western Hemisphere and a direction for response that will protect and support the best interests of the Americas.

The opportunities for the IADB to promote and reinforce multilateral engagement on defense and security in the hemisphere are numerous. By working with regional defense organizations such as U.S. Southern Command and the service conferences, the IADB supports their efforts while advancing the collective goals of the region. Partnerships with such bodies and like-minded, willing nations allow the IADB to improve military preparedness, interoperability and operational procedures. Through this, best practices are formed and applied in support of humanitarian relief operations, information sharing during crises, and other defense and security operations.

The IADB also serves to strengthen hemispheric institutions, such as the Organization of American States and the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas. By working with member states’ defense ministries and subregional defense mechanisms, the IADB is able to provide military expertise, reinforcing their mandates and supporting its charter and objectives.

While the potential to support the regional community is great, it does not come without challenges. As with all international diplomatic efforts, the need for consensus and unity among member states is ever present. Improved cooperation across the Americas can lead to more productive and proactive efforts and will ensure that the IADB is not complacently reactive with its mandated tasks. Cooperation among countries is as important as cooperation within countries. A lack of strong advocates of the IADB within government institutions can serve to highlight the difference of perspectives between foreign and defense ministries, rather than uniting them.

Finally, there is a need for reform and an increase in resources. The IADB should be uniting its leadership on a common purpose to create a cohesive vision that will support a long-term strategy, which will demonstrate the IADB’s value proposition and progress in advancing hemispheric defense and security cooperation. A decrease in annual financial contributions from the Organization of American States has left the IADB struggling to deliver professional, quality services and to fully address the needs of its member states.

In part, we are already working to address some of these challenges by creating the Inter-American Defense Foundation, a recognized nonprofit entity. The foundation will be able to promote successful public-private partnerships and implement innovative programs that generate sustainable, result-driven outcomes. It is committed to ensuring multisectoral collaboration in its ongoing efforts on cybersecurity, disaster management, transparent military procurement, climate change and security, veterans’ affairs, and other critical issues in the defense arena.

Other ways the IADB can be strengthened is by focusing on value-added initiatives. While the IADB has a multitude of potential tasks, a better job must be done to analyze and focus on tasks that will demonstrate the relevance and capabilities of the IADB. Key areas to focus on should be reinforcing the educational programs offered by the Inter-American Defense College and holding seminars, professional development activities and conferences on topics relevant to the Organization of American States and other institutions. We should also improve confidence and security-building measures in order to update the IADB’s database and reports. This will allow the IADB to provide better analysis and consultation for both member states and the Organization of American States.

The IADB is an incredible multilateral defense organization with a long history of serving the security interests of the hemisphere. Given the security challenges of Latin America and the Caribbean, the IADB should be seen as an essential institution in our inter-American system and should be utilized to foster collaboration and support among nations.

Brig. Gen. S.M. Lacroix is the director general of the Secretariat of the Inter-American Defense Board. He received his commission with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps.