John J. Sullivan (right) talking with Craig Faller (Jose Ruiz/U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs)
Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan is greeted by Navy Admiral Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command. (Jose Ruiz/U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs)

The United States and its Caribbean neighbors are linked not only by geography, but also “by a shared history, common interests and deep social ties,” said Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan.

Speaking April 12 at the U.S.-Caribbean Resilience Partnership Ministerial meeting, held in Miami, Sullivan welcomed representatives from 18 Caribbean nations, disaster-response organizations and various U.S. government agencies.

The Miami gathering was convened for regional experts to share their perspectives on disaster management in anticipation of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season (which runs from June through November). Sullivan emphasized that the U.S. commitment goes further than responding to natural disasters. Together, U.S. and Caribbean allies will “build our resilience, and ultimately, save lives and livelihoods,” he said.

A sustained collaboration on disaster response and resilience depends on strengthening regional prosperity, security, health care, education and energy infrastructure, Sullivan said. In all of these dimensions, the U.S. is committed to broad, long-term cooperation with nations of the Caribbean.

Recalling the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which struck several U.S. coastal communities in 2017, Sullivan noted that hurricanes know no boundaries. The United States, he said, must respond to — and recover from — its own natural disasters while helping neighbors to prepare effectively for future storms.

Closer civil and military relationships, forged through the annual Tradewinds exercise, will boost regional preparedness, said Sullivan.

A Caribbean-focused training exercise designed to improve responses to natural disasters and land and maritime threats, Tradewinds involves U.S. military and security agency personnel working with counterparts from more than 20 partner nations.

If disaster strikes, the U.S. will cooperate closely with its neighbors on civil aviation and recovery, said Sullivan. He also pledged to build closer partnerships in weather forecasting, storm-surge mapping, energy resiliency planning, and targeted grassroots programs.

Today’s task is to bolster existing efforts and explore new avenues for collaboration, said Sullivan. The U.S.-Caribbean partnership, he stressed, is an enduring one.