ICS hosts Caribbean American Legislative Week

Dr. Claire Nelson.  Dr. Claire Nelson
Dr. Claire Nelson.
Dr. Claire Nelson

The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Caribbean Studies (ICS) says it’s virtually hosting this week the 24th Annual Caribbean American Legislative Week.

According to Dr. Claire A. Nelson, ICS’ Jamaican-born founder and president, the Caribbean American Legislative Week, which is normally held on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., is the main convening of Caribbean Americans to advocate for their interests.

She said this includes issues in the domestic agenda such as health care equity, and economic wellbeing, as well as US/Caribbean relations.

“The forum aims to bring voices of the Caribbean Diaspora and their allies to the forefront of advocacy for issues that can be addressed by members of the US Congress and members of the US administration,” Dr. Nelson told Caribbean Life.

“The Forum also brings together policy experts and representatives of multilateral agencies such as the Organization of American States, and the International Financial Institutions (IFI’s) including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and World Bank, together with Caribbean civil society, which is also invited to participate in the deliberations,” she added.

Dr. Nelson said the patrons of the week’s activities are US congresswomen Barbara Lee and Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

Members of the Planning Committee for this year’s Legislative Week activities include former Guyanese diplomat Wesley Kirton; Herbert Nelson, chair of the ICS Crime and Security Working Group; and Education Working Group Co-Chair Andrew Sharpe.

Dr. Nelson said the deliberations will focus on addressing challenges and opportunities in education, health, disaster resilience, agriculture, the blue economy, energy and financial services, which comprise the sectors covered in the US/Caribbean 2020 Strategy.

She said prosperity working group members Michael Young, chief executive officer, Belizean American Chamber of Commerce, and Energy Working Group Co-Chair Eric Walcott will be among the Diaspora leaders “seeking to engage the participation of both Diaspora and regional experts and policymakers.”

Dr. Nelson SAID ICS was a leading advocate for the introduction and passage of legislation in the US Congress entitled “The US Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act (HR 4939),” which was signed into law by the US President Barack Obama in December 2016.

She said the focus of current advocacy is for the tabling of a three-year strategic agenda as required by law, given that the last US/Caribbean Strategic Engagement Partnership ended in 2020.

“Among the priorities is the need for increased attention to community economic development, food security, the blue economy, security and rule of law, and strengthening of participatory democracy in the Caribbean,” Dr. Nelson said.

She said speakers in this year’s programming include Russell Brooks, US State Department; Judge Elizabeth Taylor of New York; State Attorney Aisha Braveboy of Maryland; former Ambassador Richard Bernal of Jamaica; and former Deputy President of Guyana, Carl Greenidge.

Dr. Nelson said the five-day gathering will close with a session on “Democratic Governance: Whither Corruption and Transparency,” which was a key theme of the recently-held Summit of the America, which took place in Los Angeles, California.

The Annual Caribbean American Legislative Week, which began in 1999, is a forerunner to the advocacy which led to the establishment of June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month 16 years ago by then US President George Bush, who signed the first Proclamation “culminating years of struggle” by ICS, which spearheaded the lobby, Dr. Nelson said.

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