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Caribbean Leaders Dialogue on U.S. Relations

WASHINGTON, CMC – The Washington-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) says an alliance of Caribbean Diaspora community and business leaders that it assembled has met with officials in the United States Department of State in providing “input into the construct of future US-Caribbean relations and the role of the Diaspora in contributing to the process.”

ICS Jamaican-born president Dr. Claire A. Nelson said these consultations followed up on meetings held on February 28 “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 Barak 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,” Nelson said, adding that 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, and which formed the basis for the dialogue,” Nelson said. “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.”

Nelson said input for the “non-paper” was also garnered from consultations with organizations in the Caribbean region, including private sector organizations and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana.

She said 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 round-table dialogue with an overview of current US Engagement with the Caribbean; while Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr.RiyadInsanally, who is the current Chair of the Caucus of Caribbean Ambassadors delivered some remarks on the CARICOM point of view, Nelson said.

She said Diaspora organizers – Wesley Kirton, Herbert Nelson, Jr., Oscar Spencer, AllandLeandre, Roxanne Valies and Eric Walcott – provided remarks on diplomacy, security, trade and investment, energy and climate change, and education and health.

Additional presentations were made by 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, forum participants including Ambassador Curtis Ward, of the Caribbean Research Policy Center, made “cogent interventions on the need for broad Diaspora engagement, especially on the issue of security.”

Additionally, Nelson said Guyanese Vishnu Mahadeo, of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council in Queens, New York, “gave voice to the concerns of the agri-business sector.”

The briefing included attendees from wide-ranging Diaspora 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.

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