The transiting of drugs (principally cocaine) from South America through the Caribbean has been assessed as probably the single greatest threat to the stability, democracy and economic and social development of all the countries and territories in the region. Britain is active bilaterally and through the EU in providing substantial counter-drugs assistance in the Caribbean. The FCO coordinates all of Britain's overseas counter-drugs activities in line with the government's national anti-drugs strategy (click here for more information). The area also grows its own drugs, mostly marijuana. For instance, Jamaica's local marijuana crop brings in more cash than either tourism or legal agriculture. Consumption of illicit drugs has risen, not only of marijuana but also of crack, bringing the usual social and economic problems associated with high levels of drug use. Corruption and organised crime have also increased.
Most countries in the region are taking steps to tackle the problems of both supply and consumption of drugs, and receive considerable help from Britain in doing so. Britain, together with France, was instrumental in stimulating the EU Caribbean Drugs Initiative a 35 million Euros programme of counter drugs assistance spanning the period 1997/2001. The Initiative, originally a joint British-French one inspired by talks between the British and Barbadian Prime Ministers in 1996, assisted with maritime cooperation; secure communications for the exchange of intelligence; upgrading forensic laboratories; drug treatment and rehabilitation; equipment and training needs; and countering money laundering.
Cooperation between Britain and the US against drug trafficking is probably more effective in the Caribbean than in any other region of the world. This cooperation was given a further boost in October 2000, when an agreement between Britain, the US, the UK's Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, and Bermuda came into force. The agreement enhances existing cooperation against illicit drug trafficking by providing for more closely co-ordinated maritime and aerial operations and surveillance against trafficking in waters around the Territories.
A number of the Caribbean Overseas Territories have successful offshore financial industries, which contribute greatly to their prosperity. Because of their geographical position on trafficking routes, however, they are often targets of money launderers, as well as of other people involved in fraud and tax evasion. In order to ensure that they comply with international standards and good practice, the British Government and the Governments of Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and the Turks & Caicos jointly funded a review by independent consultants, who made a number of recommendations for action to improve and strengthen financial services regulation in the Overseas Territories.