Twenty legislators from Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the United States gathered at the Hilton Barbados for a governance workshop hosted by the U.S. House Democracy Partnership on Saturday, April 23. They were joined by U.S. Ambassador Linda Taglialatela, Barbadian Ambassador Noel Lynch, and Antiguan Barbudan Ambassador Ronald Sanders. Representatives from the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute also participated.
U.S. House Representative Barbara Lee opened the workshop saying, “The House Democracy Partnership is a bipartisan organization founded more than 15 years ago, and we work to support effective, independent, and responsive legislative institutions.” She explained, “It’s a two-way street. The United States is a work in progress. There’s much unfinished business in our own country, and we want to move toward ‘a more perfect union.’ Learning best practices from you is extremely important.”
Since 1998, Representative Lee has represented the California congressional district including the cities of Oakland and Berkeley. She has visited the Caribbean numerous times, and in 2005 she sponsored the legislation to create the annual celebration of Caribbean-American Heritage Month in June. As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, she explained, “We have looked through the appropriations process at how we can make the issues that parliaments address here and throughout the Caribbean a priority. Whether humanitarian, trade, or health issues, we want to better partner through the appropriations process with your countries.”
U.S. House Representative Robin Kelly of Illinois shared Representative Lee’s words of cooperation. “You are our neighbors, and we need to work together. Democracy is something that needs to be worked on each and everyday.” This is Representative Kelly’s second visit to Barbados and tenth year in Congress. She serves on the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which overseas issues of communications, health, and environmental protection, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The workshop focused on three themes: strengthening legislative oversight and capacity; budget, appropriations, and access to financing; and legislative solutions to addressing electoral and campaign finance reform. The in-person meeting followed previous virtual engagements over the last two years. As Ambassador Taglialatela explained, “It’s an honor to have Representatives Lee and Kelly with us. As Ambassador to seven countries, I hope this is not only an opportunity to share your perspectives with the United States but an opportunity to engage with one another as well.”
Established by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005, the House Democracy Partnership uses peer-to-peer exchange programs, training seminars for members and staff, and targeted material assistance to build capacity in key areas such as legislative oversight, budget analysis, committee operations, constituent relations, and library and research services. Its singular focus on the legislative branch of government, and its unique ability to bring together American legislators and their peers from around the world have made the commission a valuable forum for strengthening democratic institutions and deepening bilateral relations.