By Ambassador Linda Taglialatela, U.S. Ambassador to St. Vincent and the Grenadines
When La Soufriere’s active eruption began in April last year, immediate funding from the United States fuelled and rented vehicles to move people to safety. The joint training exercise Tradewinds co-hosted by the United States and St. Vincent just two years earlier had practiced for just this type of emergency. Since the eruption, the United States has contributed more than US$4 million in humanitarian relief to restore health services, deliver food, and support communities in rebuilding. As we simultaneously battled the pandemic together, U.S. donations of PPE, medical equipment, and mobile hospitals added to St. Vincent’s healthcare capacity to meet the current crisis and prepare for the next. As President Biden likes to quote his grandfather, “With the grace of God and goodwill of the neighbours.”
The United States is blessed. “Our closest neighbours are good neighbours,” said President Franklin Roosevelt. We celebrate those relationships in June with Caribbean-American Heritage Month. Caribbean cultures, traditions, and values strengthen the United States and add new chapters to our common story. Artistes, athletes, and entrepreneurs with roots in St. Vincent and the Grenadines infuse our country with creativity, talent, and enterprise. The thousands of visitors that flow between St. Vincent and the United States are a testament to our close ties and friendship among our people.
Our countries share in the hemisphere’s heritage of democracy and representative government. Those shared values of the rule of law and democratic governance, which with time and sacrifice have guided both our countries to become more inclusive and just, continue to safeguard our human rights.
This week, President Biden will welcome leaders from around the Western Hemisphere to Los Angeles for the Ninth Summit of the Americas. The President has a simple but ambitious goal: help the entire hemisphere realise its potential as a region where democracy delivers for everyone and people can realise their aspirations no matter where they live.
The Summit focuses on the bedrock of all our societies: our people. COVID-19 has claimed more than 2.7 million lives in our hemisphere and inflicted massive economic harm – job losses, declining income, rising poverty. The economic crisis hit marginalised communities hardest. Job losses have been especially high for women, younger workers, and those who work in the informal sector. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raised the price of essential goods, from fertiliser to wheat to gasoline. We have all felt these effects. The United States remains inextricably linked with the peoples and the economies of the Caribbean and the wider hemisphere.
Through the Summit, we must commit to a green and equitable economic recovery, resilience in our health systems, and revitalised democracies. The COVID-19 pandemic showed gaps in our public health systems we must work together to overcome. We must bolster transparent and accountable governance and promote and protect human rights, social inclusion, and gender, racial, and ethnic equity. We can generate inclusive prosperity by building a digital economy to bring more people into formal jobs, so we must commit to promoting interoperable, resilient, secure, and reliable telecommunications networks and to facilitating affordable, universal broadband Internet access. Harnessing the hemisphere’s tremendous clean energy potential can serve as a driver for economic development and address the climate crisis, so we must commit to promoting the use of efficient and energy-saving technologies to achieve net zero emissions; cooperating to increase wind, solar, bioenergy, and hydroelectricity; and setting goals to scale-up renewable energy. Our work together to improve institutions and build resilient communities will contribute to a growing economy, enhance regional safety, and increase opportunities for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Eastern Caribbean.
I invite you to join me in celebrating Caribbean-American Heritage Month 2022. We have a unique opportunity to meet the health, climate, and economic challenges before us. The Summit of the Americas offers the Caribbean and the United States the chance to chart that course together.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].