by Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson
At the Sixth Summit of the Americas, held April 14-16 in Cartagena, Colombia, the United States and our hemispheric partners agreed on far more than the media has reported. In a reflection of the equal and pragmatic partnerships that have characterized the Obama Administration’s policy in the Western Hemisphere leaders agreed on a number of concrete steps to address some of the most important challenges we face. We launched several regional initiatives focused on educational opportunity, electrical interconnection and access, expanded access to broadband, and economic competitiveness, that will benefit citizens in the hemisphere for decades to come. President Obama also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the bilateral and regional security initiatives that are helping make people throughout the hemisphere more secure in their daily lives. Most leaders in the Americas came focused on this forward-leaning, 21st century agenda and the United States was eager to partner with them in Cartagena.
Fulfilling the Summit theme of “Connecting the Americas; Partners for Prosperity,” President Obama advanced his “100,000 Strong in the Americas” goal to increase educational exchanges in the region to help our next generation of young leaders understand each other better, and develop a work force prepared to meet the challenges of the coming years. We are partnering with universities, the private sector, and governments throughout the region to support greater educational exchange and deepen the bonds between our countries.
Jointly with Secretary of State Clinton and the CEO of AES Corporation, the Colombian government launched an important initiative called Connecting the Americas 2022, which will increase access over the next decade to reliable, clean, and affordable electricity for the region’s 31 million citizens without it. Connecting the Americas 2022 builds on the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), launched by President Obama in 2009, and will serve as a framework to reinforce regional and bi-national efforts to bring electricity to all parts of the hemisphere. Likewise, many countries, including Argentina and Brazil, eagerly pursued a Summit goal to increase telecommunication networks across the region, particularly to remote areas. President Obama proposed a Broadband Partnership of the Americas to amplify these efforts and to promote universal access to communications and broadband technologies that will improve our region’s competitiveness and foster social inclusion.
President Obama launched the Small Business Network of the Americas, linking 2,000 small business development centers in the hemisphere and the 2 million clients they serve. These centers are assisting entrepreneurs to turn their dreams into reality and creating jobs in the United States and across the region. This new initiative will allow small businesses to take advantage of global opportunities in the same way that the largest U.S., or Asian, or European exporters have.
To ensure that economic growth is inclusive, Secretary Clinton launched WEAmericas, an innovative public-private partnership that provides women entrepreneurs access to better training on fundamental business practices, and greater access to markets and financing. Leading up to WEAmericas, entrepreneurs Lucia Loretta Desir and Barbara Dublin-Peterkin represented Guyana at a Caribbean Women Entrepreneurship Forum in the United States this March. Desire and Dublin-Peterkin have brought their connections and experiences back to share with others.
Of course, there were also some real debates. One was over whether Cuba should be invited to future Summits. The United States looks forward to the day a leader freely chosen by the Cuban people can participate in a Summit of the Americas. Through the 2001 adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the countries of the Americas made a unique, regional commitment to protect and promote democracy. The United States continues to believe that commitment applies to all countries in the Americas and should be reflected in the region’s preeminent Leaders’ meeting, the Summit of the Americas.
The Summit reflected a remarkable consensus around the importance of enhancing economic competitiveness, social equity, and energy integration, all of which are of paramount importance to the lives of the hemisphere’s nearly 1 billion citizens. And it is in that spirit that the Obama Administration will continue to work with our partners in the Americas toward greater prosperity, security, and opportunity for all our citizens.