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Summit of the Americas – President Biden’s Caribbean Policy

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

Peter Lyn René
June 27, 2022

National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, June of every year, is ending. The Ninth Summit of the Americas, which meets every three years, was held in Los Angeles, California June 6-10, 2022, and provided an opportunity for President Biden to clearly define his policy towards the Caribbean. From the onset, there was uncertainty as to whether Caribbean nations and Mexico would attend. Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were not invited to attend due to the administration’s view of their lack of respect for democracy. This led Mexico’s President Manuel López Obrador to skip the summit saying, “There cannot be a summit if all countries are not invited.” The 14-member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), though similarly discussed a boycott, decided to mostly attend the summit, stating: “There are a number of issues that we have to discuss as a region including climate change, energy security and food security and we want to be part of those conversations.” 

Caribbean leaders were united in their messaging and their desired outcome at the summit. Prime Minister of Belize and Chairman of CARICOM, John Antonio Briceño asked: “Will we ensure that the social economic devastation, including a sharp rise in poverty, hunger and education, last caused by the pandemic, do not result in a lost decade for the Americas?” He stated that as the Caribbean seeks to build a sustainable, resilient and equitable future, money is not the issue. The question is how much will be pledged to finance the ambitious agenda as we agree at this summit. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said that it is wrong that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were not there.  “Those countries must equally recognize that you cannot want to fully participate if you are not prepared equally to engage and to see progress and the simple priority must be people, not ideology,” she said.  Prime Minister Mottley called for reforms to the International Financial Institutions system noting the lack of a platform for middle income nations, and that only 15 percent of climate finance is going into the climate vulnerable countries such as the Caribbean nations. 

Saint Lucia Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre noted that the Americas cannot flourish without cohesion in the hemisphere. Our generation, he continued, cannot miss the chance to have true unity among the countries in the Americas and called for economic collaborations that will produce the financing and other programs needed to stimulate economic recovery and growth, including food security for our nations. “We have adopted political commitments at this summit that seek to address some aspects of the challenges confronting us. If we can implement them, then we’ll be on our way to securing a better future for the peoples of the Americas, because in the final analysis, it is the people who matter,” said Prime Minister Pierre.

Caribbean policy was not specific and was not well defined prior to the summit. Though Vice President Kamala Harris met with leaders of CARICOM and the Dominican Republic virtually on April 29, 2022, Caribbean leaders demanded a bilateral meeting with President Biden ahead of the summit. The leaders met at the summit on June 10, 2022 which resulted in the creation of three high-level committees tasked with developing immediate, soild, shared and near-term solutions in areas such as energy security and creating greater access to financing. Coming from the Summit from The Americas was the United States-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030 (PACC 2030)—a part of the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.    

PACC 2030 establishes a framework to elevate United States cooperation with Caribbean countries. It will serve as the primary mechanism for regional climate adaptation and energy cooperation through 2030. PACC 2030 will advance two strategic objectives:

  1. Strengthening Energy Security
  2. Promoting Climate Adaptation and Resilience

To achieve these objectives, PACC 2030 will organize its activities and programs under four pillars:

  1. Improving Access to Development Financing: Will work to expand existing access to project financing and unlock new financing mechanisms to support climate and clean energy infrastructure development in the region.
  2. Facilitating Clean Energy Project Development and Investment: Will support the development of bankable infrastructure projects, promote sound regulatory policies, build project pipelines and facilitate investment opportunities
  3. Enhancing Local Capacity Building: Will increase access to and effective utilization of climate and weather information and decision-support tools.
  4. Deepening Collaboration with our Caribbean Partners: Will focus on translating high-level climate and clean energy political commitments to policy roadmaps, implementation plans and concrete outcomes.

There was no disrespect meant to the Most Honorable Vice President Kamala Harris and their planned meeting at the summit, but Caribbean heads of state found it necessary to meet directly with President Biden. CARICOM leaders and the president of the Dominican Republic, strongly unified, were keenly aware of the critical issues that confronted their countries and required the presence of the president himself, to make the necessary decisions. President Biden’s engagement was described as intense to the delight of CARICOM and the Dominican Republic leaders, and to the puzzlement and envy of the larger Latin American countries. Celebrate June, National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.

Author: Peter Lyn René, Ph.D. is an Adjunct Professor at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. He holds a Doctorate Public Policy and Administration, Law and Public Policy degree.  He is the Chairman and CEO of The Caribbean American Heritage Foundation of Texas.  He has an extensive background in international Non-Profit Policy, Administration and Management, Information Technology, and Project Management.   René is a Mediator and volunteers his time mediating cases for the Harris County Dispute Resolution Center.    René serves on the U.S. Department of State Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Bureau of Diplomatic Security.   He serves on the Executive Committee of the United Nations Council of Organizations.  René can be contacted at [email protected].

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