Progress at Summit of the Americas despite exclusions

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo

24th June 2022

Despite the tension leading about country snubs up to the Ninth Summit of the Americas hosted by the US in Los Angeles, progress has arguably been made on securing the region’s future.

“There’s a lot that I think we can and should do. This is a partnership.  My intention is to intensify the relationship with the Caribbean.  And I mean that sincerely.  You’re critically important to us in every way, and I hope we’re important to you,” said President Joe Biden at the summit.

There was some uncertainty about attendance, but ultimately the 14 independent CARICOM countries, excluding St Vincent and the Grenadines were presented at the summit. 

During their addresses, Caribbean leaders criticised the US for excluding Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from the event. 

“This summit belongs to all of the Americas. It is therefore inexcusable that all countries of the Americas are not here, and the power of the Summit is diminished by their absence, said CARICOM Chairman and Belize Prime Minister John Briceño, adding that it is “incomprehensible that we would isolate countries of the Americas which have provided strong leadership and to the hemisphere on the critical issues of our times”.

“It is my hope that there will be no future summits to which any Head of Government of our Americas will be omitted. Indeed, we regard the trade embargo against Cuba as harmful to the promotion of peace and prosperity in the Hemisphere. It should be ended,” said Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne.

“Our Administration and partners will push back against the threats to our democracies by fortifying democratic institutions, investing in civil society, strengthening independent media, and following through on a regional digital transformation that is transparent and equitable,” said the White House in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean is set to benefit from multi-million-dollar aid packages from the Governments of the US and Canada. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, Samantha Power announced a US$331mn aid package for the Caribbean. 

Power said that the package of humanitarian and long-term development assistance is to help address food insecurity and improve the quality of life for people across the region. It includes US$198mn of emergency food assistance and related humanitarian programming such as nutrition, health, water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions. 

The USAID said that a portion of the US$95mn of FY 2021 Feed the Future allocated to smallholder farmers in Haiti “improve productivity of high-value horticulture crops, increase incomes, and bolster farmers’ capacity to withstand shocks like higher fertilizer prices and impacts of climate change”.

The Biden-Harris Administration also announced the US-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030 (PACC 2030). Under the agreement, USAID will partner with the Caribbean to “facilitate climate adaptation and resilience, support the transition to renewable energy, and bolster energy security and resilience in the region”. 

The ongoing Caribbean Energy Initiative will also help analyse clean energy investment opportunities in the region and work with partners to improve utility performance and reduce policy, regulatory, and legal constraints to private investment in clean energy.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his country would donate CAN$145mn (US$111.7mn) in aid to the region. This includes CAN$67.9mn (US$52.3mn) to promote gender equality, CAN$1.6mn (US$1.2mn) to promote digital access and address disinformation, CAN$17.3mn (US$13.3mn) for projects in support of democratic governance, CAN$26.9mn (US$20.7mn) to address irregular migration and forced displacement, and CAN$31.5mn (US$24.2mn) to support health and pandemic response.

Trudeau also said that CAN$0.2mn (US$0.15mn) will be implemented through the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to assist the region with the issue of violence against women and girls in migrant groups, ethnic minority groups, and women and girls with disabilities.

In a recent newspaper column, Antigua’s Ambassador to the US reported that on the side-lines of the summit, President Biden agreed with the President of the Dominican Republic and CARICOM leaders to establish three joint committees, which would be “focused, and time-bound in order to urgently address challenges related to energy security, food security, and development/debt finance in the region”.

The US government has since written to CARICOM heads and the president of the Dominican Republic, announcing its proposed co-chairs of the Committees and its readiness to convene a meeting “to discuss next steps towards achieving concrete, near-term progress on the designated topics”.While this is only a start, Sanders urged Caribbean leaders to use these committees to seek debt reduction and rescheduling, as well as needed changes to the rules for access to concessionary financing from international financial institutions given the sway of the US in their funding and governance. It remains to be seen how much of these objectives will materialise.

This is a lead article from Caribbean Insight, The Caribbean Council’s flagship fortnightly publication. From The Bahamas to French Guiana, each edition consists of country-by-country analysis of the leading news stories of consequence, distilling business and political developments across the Caribbean into a single must-read publication. Please follow the links on the right-hand side of this page to subscribe, or access a free trial.