8:00 AM -
Breakfast Session 1
Dominica: Opportunities to Support
According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Dominica’s economy is expected to grow at 9% in 2019 – the largest rate of growth in the Caribbean region. This economic boom comes just over a year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, resulting in damages equivalent to 226% of the country’s GDP. These strong projections in the face of devastation demonstrate the resiliency of Dominica, paving the way for additional support and investments from the international development and business communities alike. In this session, speakers will discuss ongoing efforts to sustain the economic recovery, showcase exciting opportunities on the resurgent island, and highlight efforts to make Dominica the first climate resilient nation in the world.
Breakfast Session 2
Investing in the Caribbean Creative Economy
The 2017 hurricane season had a devastating impact on the Caribbean’s creative sector. Artists and artisans across the region, often lacking insurance, lost production facilities, equipment, supplies, and revenue. Though often overlooked in community relief and development strategies, creative industries such as fashion, gastronomy, and the arts – along with cultural trends – have tremendous potential to transform and revitalize communities in the aftermath of disasters. Creative businesses can be an important catalyst for change, cultivating socioeconomic recovery in distressed areas by diversifying economic activity, creating jobs, and attracting visitors and even new residents. These businesses can help strengthen social connectedness and regain local pride by preserving and celebrating a community’s unique cultural identity, richness, and diversity while also writing the future narrative of a city or country. In this session, creative economy leaders and investors will discuss strategies to stabilize and revitalize the Caribbean’s creative sector and explore opportunities to help creative entrepreneurs access training and capital while connecting them to markets.
Breakfast Session 3
Community-Led Housing Solutions
The housing stock and market in the Caribbean were severely impacted by the 2017 hurricane season, with many islands experiencing significant damage to the majority of homes and exacerbating long-standing, regional housing challenges related to inadequate construction, insecure land titling, and lack of quality affordable housing. Community groups that have led longstanding efforts to secure improved housing and advocate for residents are more necessary than ever before, but face barriers to formalizing and scaling-up their work. This session will highlight existing community-based housing recovery efforts, explore how participants can support this work, and share information and trends on funding for recovery in the housing sector.
9:30 AM -
Supporting Tomorrow's Leaders: Creating Opportunities for Youth
Prior to Hurricanes Maria and Irma, the Caribbean region suffered from some of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, on average above 20% – a troubling statistic that has only been exacerbated by the social and economic devastation in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricane season. Lack of employment opportunities, unstable home and school environments, high youth crime rates, and long-term trauma are risking the birth of a new “lost generation.” With so much at stake for the future leaders of the Caribbean, now is the time to reinforce the social and economic safety-nets which can empower young people to envision and create viable, prosperous and more inclusive communities. Speakers in this plenary session will highlight successful strategies for supporting youth in the Caribbean region – such as expanding mental health services and creating apprenticeship and job-training programs – and celebrate the vibrancy and dynamism of youth as shepherds of a new, resilient and prosperous Caribbean identity.
11:30 AM -
Executive Session 1
Generating Tomorrow's Green Economy
Following the 2017 hurricanes, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, and the broader Caribbean economies have an opportunity to move forward as centers of innovation for clean energy and groundbreaking technology. Unique approaches to workforce development and resilient finance are unlocking new types of jobs and driving important economic diversification. Investing in these strategies is not just a tactic to reduce emissions and mitigate costs from future natural disasters, but also meets the imperative to build more equitable and resilient communities. From the expansion of solar power and energy-storage in the region to the creation of new centers of entrepreneurship, the Caribbean can emerge as a model of green and resilient infrastructure for the entire world.
Executive Session 2
Supporting Local Agriculture for Food Security and Smallholder Prosperity
An overwhelming majority of Caribbean states and territories are net food importers. Puerto Rico, for example, imports more than 85% of the food it consumes, and for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states the food import bill is in excess of US $4 billion annually. This high reliance on external food sources and the extreme vulnerability of Caribbean islands to natural disasters pose significant risks to food security in the region and to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who supply most local food production. In this session, participants will discuss strategies to support smallholder farmers through access to inputs, equipment, technology, and training to increase their productivity and build resilience to climate change. Participants will also explore opportunities to leverage increasing demand for local, sustainable food and connect smallholders to the tourism sector to create reliable markets for their products.
Executive Session 3
Preparing for the Future: Supporting the Mental Health of Children, Adolescents, and Caregivers
As evidenced most recently during the 2017 hurricanes, natural disasters have significant negative effects on the lives of youth, particularly when the people and institutions supporting them are not prepared to recognize and address impacts on mental health. Young people are especially vulnerable to disruptions to normalcy, especially when education is severely interrupted due to relocation or damage to schools. The breakdown of social networks after a disaster can also seriously undermine a child's sense of security. These issues, combined with trauma from the storms themselves, cause emotional fragility, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health concerns among young people. Additionally, health professionals often face difficulties providing effective care due to their own experiences as survivors of a disaster. This session will highlight the specific needs of young people, share successful models for addressing these issues, and explore innovative ideas to expand and build upon existing work in the area of mental health.
Executive Session 4
Storytelling as a Tool: Inspiring Partnerships and Investments in Haiti and the Caribbean
In recent years, Haiti and the wider Caribbean region have faced an increase in extreme weather and natural disasters, impacting nearly every sector and challenging communities to remain hopeful and sustain long-term recovery efforts. Despite the difficult times and uncertain outlooks, there are countless untold stories of progress and resilience. These stories demonstrate how investment and cross-sector partnerships between city and state governments, business leaders, and philanthropic organizations can inspire continued support. In this session, participants will learn about the extraordinary efforts of inspiring individuals and organizations who are often overlooked in the face of major setbacks, and consider how better harnessing these stories can accelerate further progress against existing challenges.
1:00 PM -
2:30 PM -
Executive Session 5
Innovative Financing for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of Caribbean economies. They drive economic growth and job creation, and account for more than 50 percent of regional GDP. However, access to capital remains one of the most critical challenges for SMEs in the region. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which led to the permanent closure of thousands of small businesses across the Caribbean, providing SMEs with adequate financing beyond conventional lending mechanisms is more crucial than ever before to create jobs, secure livelihoods, build entrepreneurial capacity, and revitalize local economies. In this session, participants will discuss alternative approaches to financing for SMEs and entrepreneurs and explore strategies to facilitate understanding and access to a broader range of diverse financial instruments to spur economic growth.
Executive Session 6
Fostering the Next Generation of Caribbean Leaders: Supporting Sustainable Workforce Initiatives
The 2017 hurricane season exposed unique workforce challenges in the Caribbean driven by shifts in the labor market, displacement, and migration. Even before the hurricanes hit, youth participation in the region’s workforce was one of the lowest in the world. Innovative new efforts by leaders in the business community and through social institutions, however, are creating new pathways for young people to reverse these trends and build viable and sustainable Caribbean-based careers. In this session, speakers will highlight compelling models for growing and retaining talent, laying the foundation for the economic future of the region and fostering tomorrow’s leaders.
Executive Session 7
Improving Access to Dignified Healthcare for Underserved Communities
During the 2017 hurricane season, marginalized communities such as the elderly, people living with disabilities and those in remote areas felt the impact of the disasters more than most. These communities often lacked healthcare and struggled to access basic services even months after the hurricanes. Today, health providers are working to improve their services and ensure better preparation in the event of future disasters. This presents an important opportunity to improve the integration of marginalized people into care provision. This session will seek to identify the barriers to care facing marginalized groups, share successful models for access to care, and explore potential new partnerships to strengthen and expand existing work.
Executive Session 8
Investing Local: Developing An Authentic Caribbean Tourism Experience
Tourism is one of the largest industries in Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean, employing thousands of people and significantly impacting local economies. Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, damage to hotels, restaurants, and retail shops led many to close, with cascading impacts on regional unemployment and stress on the community. Despite these challenges, the international community still recognizes the value in the Caribbean as a tourism destination – with the New York Times recently ranking Puerto Rico as the top place to visit in 2019. Given this renewed attention, in this session participants will discuss how the tourism sector in the Caribbean can create a more authentic and immersive travel experience by better integrating small and microbusinesses into the visitor economy.
4:30 PM -
Fortifying the Future of the Caribbean Economy
Despite an increase in regional natural disasters and ongoing global economic uncertainty, the Caribbean economy is projected to grow at 2.1% in 2019. This growth represents a bright spot in the overall recovery of the Caribbean region following the 2017 hurricane season. It also represents an opportunity for Caribbean economies to expand into the future in more inclusive, sustainable and diverse ways than ever before. In this plenary session, speakers will envisage the future of the Caribbean economy, drawing on their insights as business leaders, entrepreneurs, job-creators and heads of governments, while pointing out the strategies and approaches that Action Network members can take to help realize this forward-looking economic vision.