Statement By Brian A. Nichols, Assistant Secretary Of State For Western Hemisphere Affairs At The United States Department Of State

PR – The Summit of the Americas Hits Home: Our Relationship and My Family History 

How fitting that the United States hosted the Ninth Summit of the Americas in  June, when we celebrate Caribbean American Heritage month.  

Through a coincidence of timing, the Summit of the Americas took place at the  same time as my own, long-planned family reunion in Barbados. This confluence  of events led me to reflect on my history and the generations of ancestors that led  me to the Summit in Los Angeles. My paternal grandfather, Charles Nichols, was  born in Saint George, Barbados in 1877. He worked on the Panama Canal with  others from the Caribbean; particularly 75,000 Bajans, the largest nationality  group to labor on this great engineering project. Through this work, he earned  enough money to emigrate to the United States with his wife, Julia King, and their  children. My father was born in Brooklyn, the youngest of eleven and the second  to be born in America. As the youngest son of a youngest son, myself, I am proud  that my roots connect me so strongly to the Caribbean. 

Events like the Summit of the Americas recognize the ties that bind our  hemisphere together, and I feel grateful to reflect on the values and the heritage  that we share with our Caribbean neighbors. I count myself as a member of the  Caribbean diaspora that helped build the United States. Our country continues to  benefit from this community’s many contributions. We will rely on this support,  ingenuity, and energy in implementing the promises of this Summit. We are  committed to supporting our Caribbean kin and neighbors, and to implementing  the ambitious goals that President Biden and Vice President Harris have set for  us. We have already begun this work and it will continue in the weeks and months. 

During the Summit, the President and Vice President co-hosted their Caribbean  counterparts for an in-depth and substantive meeting that will further strengthen  our partnerships with the region. Our Caribbean neighbors spoke of their  economic challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of  climate change, food and energy insecurity, and lack of access to low-cost  financing. Seized with these challenges, President Biden and Vice President  Harris committed to working with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the  Dominican Republic to form three high-level committees tasked with developing  immediate and concrete, joint, and near-term solutions. 

The first of these committees, which I will co-chair for the United States, addresses  the critical issue of food security. Food and nutrition insecurity are on the rise in  the Caribbean, with approximately 67.5 percent of the population experiencing  moderate or severe food insecurity. To address these challenges, the United States  and CARICOM will launch a Caribbean Zero Hunger Plan to promote food and  nutrition security in the Caribbean. President Biden also announced the United  States will provide $28 million in new food security assistance to Caribbean  countries. 

The White House also pledged to strengthen our engagement on energy and  climate change. Building on Vice President Harris’ April 29, 2022, meeting with  Caribbean leaders, the United States launched the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to  Address the Climate Crisis 2030 (PACC 2030) to facilitate renewable energy  infrastructure development, including by increasing access to financing, and to  bolster the region’s resilience to climate based natural disasters. 

The leaders stressed the need to strengthen security cooperation and engagement,  including countering small arms trafficking. The United States and Caribbean  countries will build on the longstanding Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI)  

through broader engagement in combatting trafficking in persons, cybersecurity, and cybercrime. The United States, the Dominican Republic, and CARICOM  member states support the development of national action plans to counter  firearms trafficking. These national action plans will help the United States more  effectively tailor our support to CBSI member countries to address trafficking of  illegal handguns and assault weapons throughout the region. We also agree on  the importance of acceding to the Treaty of San José concerning illicit maritime 

and air narcotics trafficking. This treaty provides states with a valuable legal  mechanism that facilitates international cooperation to disrupt illicit maritime  trafficking and transnational criminal organizations in the Caribbean. We  encourage Caribbean countries that have not yet acceded to the Treaty to consider  doing so. 

It is of no small consequence that Vice President Harris, a daughter of Caribbean  heritage, co-chaired this meeting with the President of the United States. As a  son of Caribbean heritage myself, this historic moment made me deeply proud.  Our nations share values, culture, history, and family ties. As governments, we  will work in partnership with civil society and the private sector to ensure that  democracy delivers for all our people and to build safe, inclusive, prosperous,  equitable, and climate-resilient societies.