IRI is Building the Next Generation of Leaders in the Caribbean

  • Marco Rodriguez

The International Republican Institute (IRI), in partnership with the Center for the Analysis of Public Policy (CAPP) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), initiated the Caribbean Youth Fellowship program in 2022 to equip young leaders from Belize, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago with leadership skills and an understanding of public policy and governance. The fellowship invited 100 participants to attend a 17-week virtual course with experts in leadership, economic development, democratic governance, citizen security, and policy development.  

Each week of the course, the fellows engaged in animated discussions and worked in teams to design public policy proposals for their respective countries. Following the course, fellows convened events in their respective countries to share their policy proposals with key stakeholders, including members of Parliament, activists, journalists, and private sector actors. These in-person events provided the fellows with opportunities to network with each other and collaborate on intra-country initiatives.  

IRI invited 21 top-performing fellows to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, for a final in-person regional conference from September 29- 30, 2022. The purpose of the conference was to bring these fellows together to share their public policies with regional leaders and to build lasting connections with each other. On September 29, fellows were presented with the opportunity to attend a separate event hosted by IRI’s partner CAPP. The event featured an introduction by the President of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader; a discussion on political and economic trends of Latin America with Colombian ex-President Alvaro Uribe and Uruguayan ex-President Luis Herrera; and a discussion on the role of technology in education and politics with IRI Board Member Tami Longaberger, among others.  

IRI’s Caribbean Youth Fellowship Regional Conference held on September 30, provided fellows with an opportunity to interact and learn from regional leaders, as well as network with one another. The event featured keynote discussions with IRI Board Member Tami Longaberger and Jamaican Senator Natalie Campbell-Rodriques, who shared advice on how young leaders can enter public service, civil society, and the private sector.  

The conference also included a panel on youth and education with Dominican Minister of Youth Rafael Féliz and former Minister of Education for Buenos Aires, Gabriel Sánchez Zinny. Dominican Deputies Orlando Jorge Villegas of the Partido Revolucionario Moderno (PRM), Omar Fernández of Fuerza del Pueblo (FP), and José Horacio Rodríguez of Opción Democrática (OD) also attended the event and provided insight about their experience young, elected officials in the Chamber of Deputies, and the electoral process in the Dominican Republic.  

Attendees participated in roundtable discussions on regional challenges and recommendations with the Executive Vice President of CAPP Jatzel Román and the Caribbean Regional Representative of the Conservative Westminster Foundation for Democracy Programme Nick Francis. The event concluded with closing remarks from the Senior Director of Latin America and the Caribbean at NED, Miriam Kornblith, who reaffirmed NED’s commitment to supporting youth in the Caribbean.  

The video below provides highlights and participant testimonies from the event:

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