An alliance of Caribbean Diaspora community and business leaders assembled by the Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) met with US State Department officials on March 29th to provide input into the construct of future US/Caribbean relations and the role of the Diaspora in contributing to the process. These consultations followed up on meetings held on February 28th to identify a mechanism to provide for ongoing consultations between the Administration and the Caribbean Diaspora in the United States.
At the center of the discussions is the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 which was signed last December by President Obama and which provides for the identification and implementation of specific initiatives and programs to enhance America’s relations with the Caribbean at both the multilateral and bilateral levels.
The Act identifies nine broad areas which the US State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are mandated to address and to provide recommendations and a proposed plan of action to the US Congress by June this year. ICS has prepared a “non-paper” which it submitted to the State Department Friday, and which formed the basis for the dialogue. The document received input from diaspora leaders across the United States representing organizations whose membership are made up of Caribbean Americans from every Caribbean nation. Input for the “non-paper” was also garnered from consultations with organizations in the Caribbean region including private sector organizations and the CARICOM Secretariat.
The round table dialogue addressed issues under three broad themes-diplomacy and security; economic development; and education and health. Kenneth Merten, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affaires opened the roundtable dialogue with an overview of current US Engagement with the Caribbean, while Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Riyad Insanally, who is the current Chair of the Caucus of Caribbean Ambassadors delivered some remarks on the CARICOM point of view. Diaspora organizers, Wesley Kirton, Herbert Nelson Jr., Oscar Spencer, Alland Leandre, Roxanne Valies and Eric Walcott provided remarks on Diplomacy, Security, Trade and Investment, Energy and Climate Change, Education and Health respectively.
Additional presentations were made by Hon. Scherie Murray, Committee Woman, New York State; Dr. Gerald White Davies, representing the Caribbean Research Center at Medgar Evers and the International Consortium of Caribbean Professionals; and Cresentia Scott, representing Caribbean Association of Georgia and Caribbean American Advancement Foundation. During the discussion period the Forum participants such as Ambassador Curtis Ward, of the Caribbean Research Policy Center, who made cogent interventions on the need for broad diaspora engagement, especially on the issue of security; and Vishnu Mahadeo, from the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council in Queens, New York, who gave voice to the concerns of teh agri-business sector.
The briefing which was oversubscribed included attendees form organizations such as: Caribbean Intellectual Property Association; Haitian Renewal Alliance; Caribbean Returning Nationals Foundation; Virginia Caribbean American Exchange Foundation; Jamaica Diaspora Crime Prevention and Intervention Task Force; Guyana Heritage Council of Tampa Bay; Caribbean American Network; and the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians.
A series on online forums and public consultations on the Working Draft will run through April 26th.