Brian A. Nichols
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Numerous Dominican COVID-19 patients are alive today thanks to the work of Marizeth Beato. Marizeth participated in the SDQ Creates innovation camp, which is a program implemented by YLAI alumni and promoted by the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo. Thanks to this experience, Marizeth was able to co-found Open Air DR, a collaborative team working to develop low-cost, open source health security products to combat COVID-19. In addition, Marizeth used the methods she had learned while participating in SDQ Creates to develop ventilator prototypes that not only helped numerous COVID-19 infected patients requiring respiratory support, but also supplied many hospitals with ventilators when they were in short supply at the start of COVID-19 pandemic.
Together, we want to create more stories like Marizeth’s. Too few aspiring change makers and entrepreneurs in the Americas can realize their dreams because inequitable public institutions, corruption, insecurity, poor healthcare, the effects of climate change, and limited access to financing stifle their ideas before they can get off the ground.
President Biden will welcome the leaders of the Western Hemisphere to Los Angeles on June 8-10 for the Ninth Summit of the Americas, with a simple but ambitious goal: help the entire hemisphere – including the United States – realize its potential as a region where democracy delivers for everyone, and people can realize their aspirations no matter where they live.
The Summit is a meeting of our societies and our people. COVID-19 has claimed more than 2.7 million lives in our hemisphere and inflicted massive economic harm. Job losses have been especially high for women, younger workers, the less educated, and those who work in the informal sector. This situation has become exacerbated by Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine, which raised the price of essential goods that range from food and fertilizer to wheat to petroleum throughout Latin America, including here in the Dominican Republic.
Through the Summit, we must commit to a green and equitable economic recovery, resilience in our health systems, and revitalized 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, promote and protect human rights, the rule of law, social inclusion, and gender, racial, and ethnic equity.
Through our high-level dialogues, the United States has sought to collaborate with the Dominican Republic in strengthening its democratic institutions so that corruption is less likely not only under President Luis Abinader’s administration, but also in future governments. We are prioritizing public procurement reform so that the fraud and bribery that plagued public procurement in the past is not repeated moving forward. We are supporting the transformation of the national police force so that the police follow a system of rules and protocols that are consistent with international best practices, and in which the police who commit violations are held accountable.
Regarding the economy, we can favor inclusive prosperity if we build an economy that includes more people within the formal economy; therefore, we must strive to promote youth entrepreneurship and participation in the global economy. We have strengthened the commercial relationship between the United States and the Dominican Republic, which has exceeded US$17 billion this year. This not only represents an increase of 34 percent compared to the previous year, but also constitutes a new record in terms of our bilateral trade. This trade is already made up of a diversity of products that fuel job creation in both countries, but with greater cooperation there is still plenty of room to grow and open up new opportunities for Dominican exporters in the American market.
Progress on all these fronts will restore citizens’ faith that democracy can deliver for the people. We must focus on the basic responsibilities of government: providing security, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and the rule of law. We will do this by investing more in our people through education; building and strengthening more inclusive institutions; protecting and reinforcing the critical role that independent civil society plays; and honoring the inherent human dignity of each individual.
The future of our hemisphere remains bright. The Biden-Harris Administration will seize the opportunities at the Ninth Summit of the Americas to help ensure all Americans share in it.