Remarks At the High-Level Caribbean-U.S. Conference
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: (In progress) – and thanks also to the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Jamaica and Government of Jamaica for hosting us. And it is a special pleasure for me to be here with all of you again. I also want to acknowledge Secretary General Applewhaite for her continuing leadership and to congratulate St. Kitts and Nevis as it assumes the CARICOM chairmanship this July. I also want to start with a note of apology that I’m not able to stay longer. I had been looking forward to this meeting and to the dinner which follows, but unfortunately, I have to return to Washington to testify before our Congress tomorrow, which – and believe me, I would much rather be in Montego Bay with all of you. (Laughter.)
But I too am pleased, as the chairman said, that we are keeping to a regular schedule of these high-level meetings, because I think we have accomplished a number of our objectives, but we know there’s a long way to go. And I can tell you right now that we will have another one of these meetings next year, election or not, in the United States, because President Obama and I are committed to this region and to the individual countries represented here.
I want to start by thanking CARICOM for your role in Haiti, and I know we have the new minister from Haiti, but I think what you did by supporting free and fair elections there was to ensure that the outcome of those elections actually reflected the will of the Haitian people. Assistant Secretary General Granderson was invaluable in his role as head of the Joint CARICOM-OAS Electoral Observation Mission. And by removing tariffs on Haitian goods, CARICOM is helping to expand economic opportunity for Haitians, which is, of course, essential to Haiti’s long-term growth. The United States looks forward to working with you to find more ways to encourage private sector investment in Haiti even as we continue and deepen our development assistance to help Haitians rebuild their country.
I think our work together in Haiti shows how much we can do when we set a common agenda. Both President Obama and I are committed to our relationship and to our collaboration, and we are asking for your guidance in what areas the United States can be most helpful. I want to mention three of our highest shared priorities – citizen security, energy and climate, and economic cooperation. And I am pleased to report that we are making tangible progress in each of these areas.
Let me begin with citizen security because I have heard from all of you both in CARICOM and in bilateral settings that this is the single biggest issue facing your countries today. Your people are being subjected to relentless pressure from narco-traffickers and criminal gangs. And earlier today, I was in Guatemala for a discussion of the security situation in Central America, and we underscored the necessity of a comprehensive regional approach to these challenges so we don’t merely push violence from one country to another or from one region to another.
I think if you follow what has been happening in Central America or even what is happening in West Africa, you know exactly what I mean. Because of the success in Colombia and because of the increasing capacity of the Mexican Government, the drug traffickers are squeezed. It’s a classic kind of pincer movement caught between Colombia and Mexico, they are now trying to destabilize Central America.
Similarly, as we enhance our security cooperation, more and more drug traffickers are actually setting up operations in West Africa in order to get into the European market. So we launched the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative as one part of a broader regional security approach. And under the CBSI, we have worked together to identify the highest security priorities for the Caribbean, and our priorities are leading to action. Let me just give you two examples.
We have worked with the Jamaican police on fighting corruption, improving security in high-crime neighborhoods, and pursuing telemarketing fraud. We have worked with the Bahamas to train police officers on detecting firearms trafficking and begun to certify drug abuse facilities throughout the Caribbean. But at the same time, we all recognize that it’s not simply enough to step up our enforcement efforts. We need to work together to attack the root causes of criminality. So we are working with a number of you to fund vocational training, internships with private companies, and other programs that create economic opportunities for young people.
Today, I am pleased to announce that even in these very difficult budget times in the United States, our country is deepening its commitment to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative with $77 million in funding for fiscal year 2011. That is an increase of more than 70 percent over the previous year. Security is a core concern for all of us, and the United States is honored to support your efforts.
As we work to invest this new money, we need to hear from you. What is working? What isn’t working? How do we achieve our priorities? How do we finally adopt formal mechanisms to coordinate maritime security efforts? I remember when I was in Barbados, lots of conversation, Maxine, about how to do maritime security across such a large space. We need to really get serious about this, put our experts together, and make sure that we progress. How do we share information together more effectively? How can we work with you to help you adopt budget models, especially in like what Kenneth said about indebtedness and other economic challenges? But how do we create an environment for long-term funding for your security? These are all issues we want your advice on because we are here to support you, but we look to you to tell us what you need the support for.
Our second area of emphasis is energy and climate. I don’t need to tell the countries here that climate change may be affecting everywhere on earth, but it will have a disproportionate impact on small island nations. In 2009 to collaborate and to spark creative solutions, President Obama launched the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, so called ECPA. ECPA now consists of 40 different projects throughout the Americas focusing on everything from developing renewable energy sources to mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change. And today, I am pleased to announce two new efforts under ECPA.
First, we have selected six countries, based on your submissions and your ideas, to receive grants that will support your pilot projects in efficient and renewable energy sources – solar panels to heat water, wind turbines to power irrigation systems and so much more. I want to congratulate Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines on your successful proposals. We will work closely with you to make sure that these programs produce the outcomes that you are seeking.
I’m also today announcing a new Caribbean Climate Change Adaptation Initiative. The University of the West Indies has agreed to partner with American universities to expand research on problems and solutions specific to the Caribbean and to serve as a hub to connect scientists from across the Caribbean, from the United States, or from wherever else we may find them to connect these scientists with policymakers. Our goal is to build local capacity so that you have the tools you need to meet your own challenges and even to contribute to solving regional and global climate change challenges as well.
And finally, in these introductory remarks, I want to say a word about the importance of diaspora communities. I’m a big believer, maybe because I was a senator from New York, and we have a diaspora community from every country in the world, but I am a big believer in the power of diaspora. And people of Caribbean descent have made a powerful contribution to every country in which they have settled, of course, including my own. But they are also, as we’ve already heard from Kenneth, a major source of support for their country of origin, particularly through remittances. But there are other ways that the diaspora community can be harnessed because that great store of talent, energy, and entrepreneurial spirit can be put to work here in the Caribbean.
To tap this potential, the State Department recently launched the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance. We call it IDEA. The alliance brings together governments, corporations, and nonprofit organizations to make it easier for diaspora communities to promote trade and investment, to start businesses, or develop other projects that will benefit their countries of origin. We have chosen the Caribbean to be the first region to demonstrate the impact of this alliance. So we are launching the Caribbean IDEA marketplace to foster collaboration between local entrepreneurs and members of the Caribbean diaspora. We hope that by working together we can create jobs and stimulate investment, and this marketplace will offer diaspora communities access to capital as well as technical assistance to help them get started if they are committed to invest in the country of origin.
And I want to thank our partners, the Inter-American Development Bank, Digicel, Scotiabank for helping us launch this innovative program. You will be hearing more about it from some of the people who are helping to make it happen, and we will be inviting more partners from the private and nonprofit sectors to join us.
So we see progress. We see progress on many fronts, but we also are very conscious of the continuing challenges that we face. And so I look forward to our discussion tonight about issues relating to the wider Caribbean as well as to CARICOM-U.S. relations. And again, I thank you for your participation and look forward to continuing our work together.
Thank you very much, Chairman. (Applause.)