Thank you to my distinguished colleagues who have spoken here this today and to those of you who have participated in this discussion. This is a timely conversation.
First and foremost, on behalf of the United States, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to all families who have been impacted by these disasters. We ourselves have suffered many billions of dollars in damage in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida and other states. We also understand the broad impact these large storms can have.
The devastating effects of recent hurricanes and earthquakes remind us that natural disasters know no borders. These transnational challenges underscore the need for regional solidarity now more than ever.
Across the Caribbean, we have longstanding relationships and unique partnerships which provide the foundation for our collective efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs of all affected communities.
Since the hurricanes’ first landfall, the U.S. government has worked closely with Caribbean governments and our international partners to provide critical humanitarian support to the affected countries and their citizens.
We acted quickly and decisively to provide nearly $22 million and counting in emergency assistance to hurricane-affected areas of the Caribbean, including Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis, Saint-Martin, and Sint Maarten.
The humanitarian support that the U.S. government delivered and will continue to deliver in the coming days and months will address many of the most pressing needs of the Caribbean people.
We remain committed to Caribbean countries as they recover from the impact of these horrific storms.
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have underscored our interconnectedness and the need for continued close cooperation in the region. By working together, we can recover from the destruction of the hurricanes and rebuild our resilient communities.
As you know, in June we completed a comprehensive strategy to increase engagement in the Caribbean called, “Caribbean 2020.” The disaster assistance that we have provided is in line with that commitment.
In our Caribbean 2020 strategy, we pledged to work with Caribbean countries to address issues of resilience, emergency response capacities and infrastructure to respond to major natural disasters like Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
As part of building resiliency into the energy sector, on November 15, the Department of State announced $4.3 million in new funding to support energy diversification in the Caribbean. This funding will advance the goals of the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative and the Caribbean 2020 Strategy through the provision of energy-related technical assistance and grant funding for project preparation.
We would also like to emphasize the important role that international financial institutions and Paris Club creditors can potentially play in terms of reconstruction – and particularly debt relief – for the Caribbean. And we are hopeful that countries affected by these disasters will consider this seriously as an option.
Let me conclude by reiterating that the United States stands in solidarity with all communities as we begin to recover from this storm and build resiliency in the face of future disasters.