June 2021 marked the 16th annual Caribbean-American Heritage Month, which honors the more than 4 million Americans with Caribbean origins in the United States. With diverse food, vibrant cultures, and strong values of community, Caribbean-Americans have contributed much to the colorful tapestry of U.S. culture and society.
During the month of June, the State Department participated in a variety of engagements that honored Caribbean-Americans while also celebrating the U.S.-Caribbean partnership. The Department of State joined in kicking off the Institute of Caribbean Studies’ celebrations and supported the Institute’s Diplomacy Day and annual Caribbean-American Heritage Month Legislative Week events.
As Secretary Blinken has stated, “The ties between the United States and the Caribbean are lasting, diverse, and deep. We are not just partners, but friends.” The United States and the nations of the Caribbean have shared values, common interests, and an intertwined future. We are bound together by geography and by choice. We share many opportunities, from our strong trade relationship to our inextricably linked interests in the tourism sector fueled by millions of American visitors every year. The United States strives to promote these interests by emphasizing engagement in the areas of security, prosperity, energy, education, health, resilience, and diplomacy. In addition to common interests, our shared values bind us. We share a bond based on a belief in democracy, rule of law, and the responsibility of government institutions to serve the people.
These values and interests have been paramount in U.S.-Caribbean collaboration to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, we enter a new phase in combatting this transnational challenge through increased access to vaccines. On June 3, the Biden Administration announced plans for the global distribution of 25 of 80 million U.S. vaccine doses to be allocated by the end of June, of which approximately 6 million doses are designated for Latin America and the Caribbean. On June 21, the Administration announced its plan for the remaining 55 million doses, including more than 14 million doses for Latin America and the Caribbean to be shared through COVAX. Moreover, the United States is purchasing an additional 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccines and donating them to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries as defined by COVAX as well as the African Union. Bilateral negotiations are taking place now and delivery of these life-saving vaccines has already begun.
In a June 23 hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Lochman highlighted the Biden administration’s efforts to deepen U.S. engagement in the Caribbean. Key pillars of our partnership are exemplified in our numerous regional initiatives. The White House launched on March 22 the Small and Less Populous Island Economies Initiative (SALPIE), which is a framework designed to further strengthen economic collaboration with island countries and territories in the Caribbean and other regions. Through the State Department-led U.S.-Caribbean Resilience Partnership, we seek to strengthen Caribbean partner resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis, including severe weather events. This partnership advances the shared objectives of supporting adaptation to climate change, enhancing regional disaster preparedness and mapping, providing geological hazards monitoring, and developing resilient infrastructure. In conjunction with the State Department’s efforts, USAID’s Caribbean Energy Initiative marks a planned five-year, 25-million-dollar investment in a more sustainable, reliable, and resilient energy future for the Caribbean.
While high-level policy engagements are needed, real progress often takes place among the people where active private sector, academic, and civil society engagement helps advance key issues. On June 29, ADAS Lochman lauded the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors for launching the Public Diplomacy Engagement Programme (PDEP) to amplify the voices of the people from the region to take action on the challenges the Caribbean faces.
Within the United States, our shared values and spirit of cooperation encompass our close cultural, linguistic, and historical ties. U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, and Houston have large Caribbean diaspora populations. Caribbean immigrants have made strong contributions to the fields of science, education, and the arts. To recognize the accomplishments of Caribbean-Americans to diplomacy, the State Department has highlighted the stories of Caribbean-American employees who support diplomatic efforts around the world.
Caribbean-American Heritage Month 2021 has come to a close, but we look forward to embracing our dialogue with the Caribbean-American diaspora year-round. Together, we continue to build a more prosperous Caribbean region and a hemisphere that reflects our shared values, goals, and our democratic aims.