Caribbean must rise to the resilience challenge

Gaiac tree, St. Maarten. Image credit: Mark Yokoyama.
Climate Change

Speaking at the recently held Americas Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, Andria Grosvenor of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), along with other regional experts, called for countries to learn from the experiences of the 2017 hurricane season and to seize opportunities to strengthen national and regional resilience:

The deadly 2017 hurricanes in the Caribbean posed huge challenges but they also offer opportunities to build better disaster preparedness and response systems, a conference heard.

With the region now bracing for the 2018 season, key lessons that emerged from the havoc wrought by hurricanes Irma and Maria, category 5 storms in 2017, include the need for enhanced response capacity for fast-moving, multiple and catastrophic events, and to tackle environmental and development questions, such as building standards and codes for land use and management.

Resilience-building measures and responses must also take account of the needs of the most vulnerable, including young children and those with disabilities.

“This is a transformational opportunity. True resilience in the Caribbean will require transformation in our economies, our social programmes, in our environmental programmes, in our critical infrastructure, in our risk governance and in key institutions,” said Andria Grosvenor, Planning and Business Development Manager, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

She urged the Caribbean to take advantage of the various global development agendas – on sustainable development, climate change and the Sendai Framework on disaster reduction – and leverage them to achieve more sustainable societies. Policies designed to face up to the consequences of climate change could, for example, help strengthen resilience to natural disasters.

The Caribbean’s ability to prepare for natural disasters and respond to them effectively is limited by its economic weaknesses – its low economic growth and productivity and its high levels of debt, said Dr. Justin Ram, Director Economics, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

A crucial element in recovery from natural disaster is getting people back to work in a region where most people are employed in micro and small enterprises. Better insurance schemes could help in allowing these businesses to get up and running quickly.

But the situation also calls for greater regional integration. “You cannot have a resilient island, we need to have a resilient region,” Ram said.

Read more in the full report from the United Nations office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

[Image: Mark Yokoyama via Les Fruits de Mers]

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