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Human Rights & Reconciliation U.S. – Cuba Relations

A Big Step Forward

Cuba | United States | 2002 - 2016

In December 2014, more than 50 years after the United States and Cuba had severed their ties, the two countries re-established commercial and diplomatic relations. The policy change followed stepped up advocacy efforts that Atlantic and partner funders had been supporting since 2013 to normalize relations between the two countries. Atlantic, which had been making public health related grants in Cuba since 2002, timed its relatively modest $1.4 million investment to take advantage of what proved to be a correct reading of the political will to begin a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Watch: On December 17, 2014, President Obama delivered remarks on next steps he’s taking to chart a new course on U.S.-Cuba relations.

What We Learned From This Work

  1. A relatively small, but highly focused investment, when targeted to the groups best positioned to pursue policy change, can lead to successful outcomes.

  2. Opportunities to advance policy change may suddenly arise and funders need to be nimble enough to respond quickly.

Making the Case for Normalizing Relations

Providing a Winning Argument

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) used its $30,000 Atlantic grant to develop a legal brief outlining presidential authority to institute changes in U.S.-Cuba relations. WOLA’s recommendations were reflected in the final executive order.

Bringing Together Diverse Advocates

Atlantic support helped bring together groups that normally don’t partner on issues, such as the Cuban-American National Foundation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Participating groups exchanged best practices and regularly consulted each other on ways to coordinate advocacy efforts.

Amplifying the Message

Pro-normalization groups used the hashtag, #CubaNow, as the rallying cry for an advocacy campaign calling for a new Cuba policy. The effort drew considerable media coverage and even caught the eye of the White House.

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