On his country’s 174th anniversary of independence, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic Federico Alberto Cuello Camilo reports on the Embassy’s activities as part of the country’s wider foreign policy goals
27 February 2018 marks the Dominican Republic’s 174th anniversary. British-Dominican Relations have never been better. I am proud to report that trade and tourism are both up over 80 per cent since 2011, the year of my arrival in London. The UK has become the largest bilateral market for Dominican exports to Europe, and as of 2017, more tourists come to the Dominican Republic from the UK than from Spain.
This is partly the result of the Dominican Republic’s active participation in yearly events like the London Produce Show, the Chocolate Show and World Travel Market, as well as our organisation of ‘Dominican Week’ in the UK, now entering its seventh year. And the events surrounding Brexit should not slow down this momentum, as the two countries are committed to rolling-over the agreement we have into a new agreement becoming active by 29 March 2019.
Both export growth and infrastructure investment provide the winds beneath the wings of Dominican GDP performance, which has averaged 7 per cent yearly growth since 1991, the highest of the Americas.
Mindful of the opportunities ahead, UK investment into the Dominican Republic is set to reach new heights with the generous allocation of £750 million in export credits from UK Export Finance (UKEF), so that British contractors can tender in the growing Dominican market for public works.
For a country aspiring to become the transportation hub of the Americas, the support of UKEF is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It is an aspiration that seeks to build on:
- our locational advantages at the very centre of the Caribbean;
- the shortest transit time by air (less than 9 hours) and by sea (less than 9 days) to Europe;
- our endowment of 15 natural ports;
- the logistical advantages provided by telecommunications and transportation networks meeting the highest standards; and
- our sizeable and young labour market, with high productivity, stable remuneration and growing consumer needs.
As we move forward together to face the challenges of climate change, a new phase of our joint collaboration begins this year with our work on resilience with ARUP, the British consultancy supporting the club of 100 resilient cities.
At our request, ARUP is scaling up its analytical framework to deal with resilience at the national level in a small island developing state like mine. In doing so, we hope to review all our public policies to make them consistent with a new National Resiliency Plan dealing with natural disasters, economic and financial shocks or socio-political disturbances.
Like Dominican President Danilo Medina said in his speech to the 2017 High Level Meeting at the UN on the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, taking our resilience needs seriously is the least we can do for our citizens.
Hurricane Irma (followed by María a few days later), affected so many of our nearest neighbours in the Caribbean, including British Overseas Territories. Our joint British-Dominican collaboration played an important role in delivering their emergency assistance. It was an experience that merits following through in the future, as we create a regional disaster-response centre in the Caribbean in compliance with the UN General Assembly HOPEFOR resolution of 2011.
Working on resilience is a natural follow-up to the global commitments we adopted in the major conferences of 2015 on disaster risk reduction (Sendai), finance for development (Addis Ababa), sustainable development goals (New York) and climate change (Paris).
The Dominican Republic’s aspiration to become the transportation hub for the Americas fits perfectly with our role of reconciling differences between and within our regional neighbours. The hard work of President Medina and Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas in seeking to mediate in Venezuela is the latest example of our efforts, building on earlier cases in Honduras and between Colombia and Venezuela.
Focusing on resilience and working as a regional mediator are particularly relevant experiences for our first-ever participation as a non-permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) during 2019-20. Having received the endorsement of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC) for our candidacy, we hope to enjoy the trust of all UN Members during the elections scheduled for July 2018 in New York.
Our work here in the UK should continue to be supportive of these wider foreign policy goals, by:
- Benefitting Dominican students annually — 135 and counting — with scholarship agreements with UK universities funded by the Dominican Ministry for Higher Education, which allow us to train the trainers and thus provide a key input to education reform;
- Promoting food and nutritional security through the Dominican Gastronomic Network;
- Providing targeted British inputs into the UNICEF Children’s Friendly Programme in 16 Dominican public hospitals, contributing to the reduction in infant and maternal mortality;
- Catalysing trade and investment opportunities through the new Dominican Chamber of Commerce created recently in the UK;
- Steering new initiatives with the UK during the Dominican Presidency of the SICA Group, such as the fourth SICA Forum, this time on Infrastructure Investment, scheduled for 30 May 2018 at Lancaster House; and
- Sharing our continued work on resilience at a future event in London open to all diplomatic missions interested in the one cross-cutting topic present in all of our new international commitments.
As I conclude the seventh year of my tenure as Dominican Ambassador to the Court of St James’s, I am humbled by the fact that there is always so much more to be done if we are ever to build the Dominican Republic of our dreams.
On behalf of the Dominican Republic, I am grateful for the privilege of having received so much support from my fellow ambassadors as well as from so many in government, Parliament, academia and civil society. It is with them that I celebrate our National Day.