My 2 weeks in the Caribbean (well sort of...)

So today is Saturday, and I have to admit I’m very relieved to have made it to this point. Although it’s always a relief when the weekend arrives, this weekend brings the completion of our work on the proposal for a Justice Sector Assistance program in the Caribbean. While the project gave me a lot of valuable experience, it nonetheless will be nice to move on to other assignments and put this one to bed.

The project started about 2 ½ weeks ago when JoAnne, one of the program directors, sent Amanda and I a research assignment for a proposal they were writing. The proposal was to provide justice sector assistance, specifically regarding certain areas, to the 13 member nations of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago). Much to my own dismay, the project did not involve traveling to the Caribbean and enjoying the beaches. Our assignment was to research and summarize the situations in each country regarding human trafficking and money laundering. Particularly we were to break down the justice sector’s capacity to prosecute and prevent these crimes, looking to relevant legislation and enforcement mechanisms, and their overall efficacy. In this way, the people writing the proposal could use our research to demonstrate an understanding of each country and the region as a whole, tailoring the programs we’ll conduct to their needs.

So that week we delved into the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report. My experience with this area of the world is fairly limited, so it was beneficial for me to be given an assignment that expanded my knowledge base to more places. The subject matter, however, was pretty grim. Much of our research focused on the institutional capacities of these countries. As such, we broke down and summarized the trafficking legislation, the task forces combatting this issue, their ability to investigate cases and provide assistance to victims, and the ability of the prosecutors and courts to prosecute and convict violators. Underlying all of this, however, was the saddening reality of the horrifying experiences that these victims go through. Reading about the prevalence of human trafficking in these countries, where men, women, and children are often exploited in prostitution and forced labor, very much lends perspective on the advantages in our own country. But for these 13 countries, Amanda and I summarized the information and sent it off to JoAnne to be incorporated into the proposal.

The next area on which our research focused was money laundering. For this we relied on the reports by each country in response to the guidelines and ratings of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF). While the Trafficking in Persons reports were fairly concise and on point, summarizing the CFATF reports was much more challenging, because these reports covered all aspects of financial crime in these countries. In this way, the reports not only focused on the legislation or enforcement and prosecution  of these crimes, but also detailed the various regulations imposed on the financial institutions, including reporting requirements and other internal measures. Additionally, the reports offered significantly more detail than could be incorporated into the proposal. Consequently, the challenge for Amanda and I was not only digesting this information so that we could summarize it in a brief and effective form for the proposal writers, but also sifting through all of the extraneous information that wasn’t immediately relevant to us, so that we could focus on only the facts critical to NCSC’s prospective programs in the Caribbean. While it took multiple days, we succeeded in finishing our analyses of all 13 countries, and once again sent off the information to JoAnne.

So we had completed our research assignments, and I naively believed our work on the proposal to be done. But as Amanda and I were to discover, these proposals are never truly finished until the moment they are submitted, and so it would continue to be all-hands-on-deck for the following week. My next project I would actually find particularly engaging though. Since the Dominican Republic is very different than the other Caribbean nations, particularly being a Spanish-speaking nation that has relied since the mid-nineteenth century on an adaptation of the French Civil Code, we had very little particularized information for the country. As such, my next assignment was to provide specific information on the Dominican Republic, particularly looking to their code reform, victim/witness protection measures, and judicial training institute. While this was generally similar to what Amanda and I had already been doing, this assignment gave me the opportunity to utilize my Spanish language skills. When JoAnne first spoke with Amanda and I about the assignment, she was concerned about the amount of information we would be able to find in English, especially for the judicial training institute, whose website was obviously in Spanish. But since I had a background in Spanish, I was able to take on the assignment, and for a moment I felt like I was brining something else to the table other than my legal research and writing skills. Thus my afternoon that day was brightened by my passion for the Spanish language, which kept me invigorated as I conducted my research on the Dominican Republic.

Once again I would find myself at what I thought would be the completion of my Caribbean assignments. Next, though, would be determining what similar reforms/programs had already been undertaken, or were in progress, in the region. So Amanda and I split the agencies we were to look at, and I delved into the previous and current programs of the UK, EU, and other European nations. This assignment would also be fairly challenging, as the UK and EU websites did not provide clear and centralized breakdowns of the programs they had performed in the region. Despite this, I was able to compile a summary of these programs and ongoing efforts, and it was intriguing to see where these organizations were focusing their efforts. For instance, I hadn’t realized how much of a priority eliminating the death penalty was to the EU and UK until I came across their various efforts and international policies aimed at fulfilling this end.

Luckily, at this point we had pretty much finished with our research for this proposal. Amanda and my next few days were spent helping the program-writers organize this information, usually into tables, so that our proposal could concisely and clearly demonstrate our knowledge in these areas. Finally, on Friday (yesterday) we were given the draft proposal, which we edited and offered feedback for since we had done much of the research that went into it. Once finished, I tentatively began to enjoy our ultimate completion of this project. The day ended without anymore last minute assignments popping up, and the relief finally began to sink in. As I reflect today on the process as a whole, I definitely believe it was a beneficial experience. Getting to be part of the proposal writing process for justice sector assistance in the Caribbean is an opportunity I could have gotten at few other places other than NCSC. Through it all I gained familiarity with a region I previously knew little about. In addition, I was exposed to various administrative reports on the topics of money laundering and human trafficking and got to apply my foreign language skills as well. Overall, while I’m extremely relieved to be done and able to move on, I’m definitely glad that this proposal came up during my internship with NCSC.