The United States and the Dominican Republic Host Second High-level Bilateral Dialogue on Institutional Reform

The working groups that comprise the second dialogue demonstrate the United States’ steadfast support for the Dominican Republic’s efforts in advancing institutional reforms.

Santo Domingo, D.N. – On Thursday, October 7, 2021, Dominican and U.S. government authorities held the second High-Level Dialogue on Institutional Reform under the leadership of Dominican President Luis Abinader and Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power.  During the dialogue, the group evaluated the progress made in the different work areas agreed upon during the first high-level dialogue held on April 28, 2021, which was co-led by President Abinader and Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. of U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo Robert Thomas.  The U.S. and Dominican officials also reviewed next steps for each subject, discussed the Summit for Democracy announced by President Biden, and considered additional work areas to be included in future high-level dialogue meetings.  President Abinader reiterated his commitment to the implementation of a series of institutional reforms that will advance human rights, democracy, and transparency for Dominicans everywhere.

Progress since the First High-Level Dialogue

  • National Citizen Security Strategy and Police Transformation: The United States supported the rollout of the strategy through technical assistance and training at pilot locations and is helping to begin transforming the Dominican National Police through projects that modernize its IT infrastructure and achieve international accreditation.  U.S.-DR joint efforts in recent months have also improved the recruitment and selection procedures for candidates interested in joining the National Police.
  • Reform of Oversight Entities: U.S. and Dominican authorities signed a memorandum of understanding to address the training needs of the Dominican Chamber of Accounts, which establishes priorities to be carried out collaboratively between both governments.  In turn, the Chamber of Accounts reviewed the process for selecting new auditors and designed a monitoring mechanism to determine government officials who must present their assets affidavits upon taking office. 
  • Asset Forfeiture: Draft legislation to institute a system of civil asset forfeiture in accordance with international best practices was introduced in the Senate by Senator Taveras on April 12, 2021.  U.S. experts support this legislation, which includes recommendations aligned with international best practices in 11 key areas.  The United States also provided technical assistance, which has deepened discussion between the legislative branch, civil society, and the private sector about the design and implementation of similar civil asset forfeiture laws around the world.
  • Trafficking in Persons: Law 137-03, after being reviewed by collaborating Dominican ministries and civil society groups, is currently under review by the executive branch and will subsequently be submitted to the National Congress.  This legislation, which benefits from technical assistance provided by the U.S. government through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), expands protection for trafficking victims and ensures compliance with international standards.  In addition, the Attorney General’s Office is working on improving the operational capabilities of its specialized human trafficking unit.  Furthermore, the Ministry of Women has launched 16 government-run shelters (casas de acogida) for victims of gender violence, one of which is dedicated exclusively to providing services for trafficking victims.
  • Public Procurement: The United States has provided technical support for the Dominican Republic’s drafting of a law on public procurement that includes many international best practices.  Directorate of Public Procurement (DGCP by its Spanish acronym) has engaged in extensive public engagement to explain the goals of the draft legislation and solicit feedback.  DGCP and U.S. technical experts have trained over 350 government officials in preventing corruption in public procurement.  President Abinader’s office is currently reviewing this drafted legislation on public procurement, which will subsequently be submitted to the National Congress.

Next Steps

President Abinader committed to the implementation of the following institutional reforms, which were also discussed at the High-Level Dialogue meeting in April:

  • Adapting National Police practices and institutional norms to conform with international best practices via a process of international accreditation, which is slated to be completed by 2023.  This process will ensure that National Police practices such as lines of authority, accountability policies, and use of force protocols are in line with international best practices.  
  • Implementation of draft legislation instituting a system of civil asset forfeiture by 2022.  This legislation will allow the State to recover assets associated with illegal activities, including drug trafficking, corruption, and fraud.  
  • Implementation of legislation to modernize the Dominican Republic’s public procurement systems by 2022.  Enactment of this legislation would allow the government to shift to a more modern and efficient procurement system, eliminate loopholes that have been used for corruption and fraud, and expand access to public procurement by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • Enactment of steps to eliminate trafficking in persons in the Dominican Republic by 2022.  This includes passage of new legislation to align Dominican laws on trafficking with international best practices, and expansion of resources for victims of trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence.
  • Implementation of steps to increase the independence of public oversight agencies, including the Office of the Attorney General, and the Chamber of Accounts, to ensure that future governments are not able to exercise undue political influence on the operations of these entities.

President Abinader also discussed with Administrator Power the possibility of integrating new reform commitments into the High-Level Dialogue process, including:

  • Reform of the Dominican Republic’s electricity system to promote efficiency, protect management from inappropriate political influences, and enhance the quality and cost of electricity.
  • Reform to facilitate digital transformation of the State, in order to make maximum use of information and communications technologies to improve access to and quality of public services.  
  • Fiscal reform, with the goal promoting greater efficiency and transparency in public expenditures.
  • Electoral reform, to strengthen the State’s ability to supervise elections and the conduct of political parties in line with international best practices.  

Administrator Power congratulated President Abinader on the progress his administration has made so far across a broad range of reform efforts and reiterated the U.S. Government’s commitment to support these reforms.  The two sides also agreed to identify additional ways that the United States might support President Abinader’s other reform priorities.  This could include:

  • Cooperation on Cyber Security, in recognition of the prioritization of the Dominican government’s digitization agenda, and the commitment of the United States to support its partners in facing joint challenges in this area.
  • Cooperation on energy sector reform, with the goal of providing support in the following areas: 1) improving utility performance and reach; 2) accelerating private sector investment in modernizing energy systems; 3) enhancing energy sector resilience through regional mechanisms; and 4) advancing climate change international commitments.
  • Support to the GODR on design and implementation of draft legislation on electoral reform, with the goal of ensuring this legislation aligns with international best practices, and that Members of Congress fully understand its importance and implications for the country.
  • Cooperation on money laundering, to ensure the Dominican government is better able to detect and prosecute illicit funding streams associated with crimes such as drug trafficking, bribery of public officials, illicit campaign finance. 
  • Cooperation on major infrastructure initiatives of the Dominican government, such as the Port of Manzanillo, to ensure that these projects are developed in a way that is transparent, coordinated across all levels of the Dominican government, and in line with international best practices.

Summit for Democracy

Administrator Power discussed the Summit for Democracy, announced by President Biden on August 11.  This event will bring together leaders from a diverse group of the world’s democracies for a virtual Summit in December to be followed by a second, in-person Summit.  The virtual Summit, which will take place on December 9 and 10, will galvanize commitments and initiatives across three principal themes: defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.  Following a year of consultation, coordination, and action, President Biden will then invite world leaders to gather once more to showcase progress made against their commitments.  During the Dialogue, President Abinader emphasized the Dominican Republic’s support for the objectives of the Summit for Democracy and noted that the reform commitments he announced both at the original iteration of the Dialogue and the second session today align with major themes of the Summit.  

This second High-Level Dialogue demonstrates the United States’ unwavering support for the Dominican Government’s efforts in priority areas of reform and reflects the longstanding cooperation between both countries grounded in our shared values of democracy, transparency, and respect for human rights.  The participants agreed to convene the next High-Level Dialogue in early 2022.

Additional U.S. Support for Reforms

Administrator Power also stated at the dialogue that based on progress made so far across a range of reform efforts led by the Dominican government, the U.S. Government, through USAID, has made available $7.9 million of new assistance since the last High-Level Dialogue in April.  This funding will support the reform of Government oversight entities, implementation of the National Citizen Security Strategy, procurement reform, and energy sector reform.  Additionally, the U.S. government will support Dominican National Police accreditation and other key institutional transformations through a new $1.45m regional grant.

Additional Participants

Representatives of the United States of America who participated in the second High-level Dialogue included Robert Thomas, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo; William Swaney, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission; Barbara Feinstein, USAID Acting Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, Shannon Greene, Executive Director of USAID’s Anti-Corruption Taskforce, Todd Christiansen, Director of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; Rebecca Latorraca, Mission Director for  USAID/Dominican Republic; Alexander T. Bryan, Political and Economic Counselor; Alex Titolo, Counselor for Public Affairs; Eric Wolff, Regional Senior Commercial Officer and David Billings, Deputy Director for USAID/Dominican Republic.

Representing the Dominican Government in the dialogue were the Minister of Foreign Affairs Roberto Álvarez; José Ignacio Paliza, Administrative Minister of the Presidency; Eduardo Estrella, Senate President; Alfredo Pacheco, President of the Chamber of Deputies; José Manuel (Jochi) Vicente, Minister of Finance; María Holguín, Director of the Financial Analysis Unit of the Ministry of Finance;   Miguel Ceara Hatton, Minister of Economy, Planning and Development; Jesús (“Chú”) Vásquez, Minister of the Interior and Police; Mayra Jiménez, Minister of Women; Major General Edward Ramón Sánchez González, General Director of the National Police; Antoliano Peralta, Judicial Advisor to the President; Milagros Ortiz Bosch, Senior Advisor to the President for Ethics and Integrity and Janel Andrés Ramírez, President of the Chamber of Accounts.