JIS News

Founder and President of the Institute of Caribbean Studies, Washington D.C., Jamaican Dr. Claire Nelson, was Tuesday (October 12) awarded the prestigious Antonio Ortiz Mena Award by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The award was presented by the President of the Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno, at a brief ceremony at its Washington D.C. head office.
It is named after the IDB’s second President, who served from 1971 to 1988, and is awarded annually to a member of staff for outstanding contribution to the work of the institution. Dr. Nelson enjoys a hard-earned reputation across the Black community in Latin America, as the ‘voice of the voiceless’. Since 1992, she has been heavily involved in the issue of racial discrimination in Latin America, and the relationship between race and poverty on the agenda of Washington’s development institutions. She is credited with being the architect of the first study of people of African descent in Latin America, done by the IDB in 1994, as well as with convening the first Conference on Poverty Alleviation for Blacks in Latin America in 1996.
She was the frontrunner in placing the issue of Diversity in Development on the Washington Agenda, authoring the first paper on the issue as far back as 1993, and was also founding Co-Chair of the Diversity Group at the IDB, established in 1999.
In nearly 30 years at the IDB, Dr. Nelson has also been credited with many other firsts, such as organising: the first Private Sector Conference in Guyana; the first Caribbean cultural event at the IDB, through the Staff Association; and the first Caribbean Consultants Conference.
Dr. Nelson’s selection for the Ortiz Mena Award marks the first time a woman of African descent has received the award.
She currently serves as Vice President of the IDB Staff Association and Co-Chairs the recently established Working Group of Experts of African Descent, organised by NGO leaders to ensure visibility and progress on the work on “Advancing Equity” during the commemoration of the UN Year of African Descendants, 2011.
Antonio Ortiz Mena served as President of the IDB from 1971 to 1988. One of his most outstanding achievements was the Declaration of Madrid, which permitted countries outside the Western Hemisphere to become members of the IDB, bringing with it a substantial increase in the bank’s financial resources.
During his tenure, membership increased from 23 to 44 countries, including 15 European countries, Israel, Japan and Canada. Several English-speaking Caribbean countries also joined the IDB under his leadership.
The IDB is the main source of multilateral financing and expertise for sustainable economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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