As NGLCC continues to expand its international advocacy efforts around diversity and inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)-owned businesses, the team will begin work in the Caribbean, specifically the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic marks the fourth focus country for NGLCC under the LGBT Global Development Partnership, a strategic, public-private partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Wells Fargo, MillerCoors, and other key partners. Team NGLCC Global traveled to Santo Domingo from June 14 to 19 to conduct an in-country evaluation as a precursor to LGBT business programming in the coming months.
From a business perspective, the Dominican Republic represents a strategic opportunity for bilateral trade with the United States. According to the World Bank, the Dominican economy has experienced one of the fastest growth rates, with an average GDP growth rate of 5.5% over the past two decades. Moreover, according to the Bank’s 2015 Doing Business Report
, the Dominican Republic ranks among the countries of Latin America that have implemented the most legislative reforms aimed at increasing the ease of doing business within the country.1
From an LGBT rights perspective, amidst a region characterized by homophobia/transphobia, discrimination, and violence against LGBT individuals, the Dominican Republic provides hope of serving as a positive example of acceptance, diversity, and the value—social and economic—of LGBT inclusion to neighboring counties. In the Dominican Republic, consensual same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1822, and NGLCC and USAID believe that projects aimed at the Dominican LGBT business community can champion a wider movement and bring about important changes throughout the Caribbean region.
NGLCC will certainly not act alone towards these goals; in fact, NGLCC will conduct this work at the request of and in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo and the local USAID Mission. For this in-country evaluation, NGLCC timed the trip to coincide with the Embassy’s LGBT Pride Celebration, which included an event for leaders from the Dominican LGBT community at USAID Mission Director Alexandria Panehal’s residence, as well as a reception at the Ambassador’s residence. Ambassador James “Wally” Brewster Jr. assumed the post as ambassador to Santo Domingo in November of 2013, joined by his husband, Bob Satawake, making Ambassador Brewster and Mr. Satawake the first openly gay couple to represent the United States at the ambassadorial level (Pictured, with NGLCC Global's Michael Castellano). With such incredible support from the U.S. Embassy, the time is ripe to begin programming in the Dominican Republic.
To see a video message from Ambassador Brewster and Bob Satawake in recognition of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, click here.
During the in-country evaluation, team NGLCC Global found eager partners with familiar friends as well. The team met with NGLCC Founding Corporate Partner American Airlines, where representatives welcomed the idea of a local LGBT chamber of commerce with open arms. The team also had successful meetings with the American Chamber of Commerce in the Dominican Republic, as well as a number of small business owners who will be instrumental in forming a new chamber.
As LGBT Pride month concluded, NGLCC has been proud to reflect on the achievements we have achieved around the world for LGBT entrepreneurs in partnership with USAID, and we look forward to continuing this success in the Dominican Republic and in the Caribbean. NGLCC co-founder and President, Justin Nelson, had the honor of delivering the keynote remarks at USAID’s Pride Event on June 25, and in his remarks, Justin said "There is no denying there is still a long way to go, but we’re confident that we can get there together. Together we must continue to bring out innovative ideas for addressing the complex development problem of LGBT equality and inclusion. We look forward to the day when all citizens of every country can celebrate pride as freely as we do here today… [when] LGBT people can be free from violence and discrimination, share in the bounty of opportunities, be recognized for our economic contributions, and live our lives authentically no matter what country we may call home."