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Opening ceremony remarks of Executive Director, CDEMA at the 4th Annual CDM Conference

The Honorable Bruce Golding, Prime Minister of Jamaica, Distinguished Representatives of Government, Invited Guests, Conference Delegates, Members of the Media, and Other Partnersin Disaster Management:

This 4th CDM Conference is taking place at a critical anniversary juncture in the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) historical landscape in the Caribbean. These include the initiating, thirty years ago, of the dialoguing on actioning a regional isaster preparedness and prevention programme which gave birth to the infamous Pan Caribbean Disaster Preparedness revention Project (PCDPPP); the birthing of ODIPERC, now ODPEM also thirty years ago; the pioneering international conference on disaster mitigation twenty five years ago in Ocho Rios; and theagreement of the Conference of the Heads of Government of CARICOM twenty years ago in Grande Anse, Grenada to establish a regional inter-governmental framework for coordinating its policies and programmes in DRR, CDERA now CDEMA.

It is also interesting to note the coincidence between the above transition points and major hazard impacts in this region. Among these are Hurricanes David and Frederick in 1979 (30 yrs ago), the Market River Floods (30 years ago), the eruption of the Soufriere Volcano in St Vincent and Grenadines (30 years ago), Hurricane Gilbert (21 years ago), and Hurricane Hugo (20 years ago).

This suggests that there has been some relative longstanding recognition of the need to address both the political and technical issues associated with managing inherent elements of our society and their interface with natural and anthropological hazards. It may well have been the beginning of a silent search for what is now a global concern, LIVING WITH RISKS.

We are indeed fortunate to have many of the key actors associated with those defining periods in our DRR landscape here with us today. These include Franklyn McDonald, Eleanor Jones, Keith Ford, Andrew Maskrey, Frederick Krimgold, Stephen Bender, Richard Olson, Ian Davis and Judy Thomas. Not with us is Claude de Ville de Goyet and resting in peace is Paul Bell.
Honourable Prime Minister, we have not forgotten that you provided the feature address at the Ocho Rios Conference, twenty five (25) years ago, during the early days of ODIPERC. PM we are pleased that you have stayed the course and can join us today as we reflect to reform. Ladies and gentlemen, there can be no doubt that disaster management in the Caribbean has
benefitted from very strong technical, passionate and committed leadership buttressed by consistent international partnership. The representation and diversity at this Conference is testimony to our continued commitment to sharing and learning. There are approximately 250 persons registered and attending this conference from 37 countries, and 4 regions of the world.

Also present with us is a new generation of Disaster Risk Reduction practitioners who bring to the table an equally diverse set of skills and interests driven less by passion and more by science and knowledge. Ladies and gentlemen, we are already beginning to see how trans-boundary threats (climate change, terrorism and epidemics) are necessitating that we revisit, with some urgency, some of the longstanding assumptions that have hitherto informed our contingency planning policy and
practice, as well as, the nature and scope of training to support this.

This emerging reality of the consequences of trans-boundary threats has created a new urgency and complexity to our DRR agenda. There is an explosion of new actors, new issues, new scales and a myriad of dialoguing focal points that require a revisit of the governance arrangements to meet the needs of this dispensation towards integrated and comprehensive approaches to DRR and especially its link to sustainable development.

To move forward, disaster risk reduction must be seen and embraced as a development issue. Given the potential disruption to the world economy, Disaster Risk Reduction requires more sustained presence in our international diplomacy. It necessitates that the subject matter be taken off governments “elective” list and be placed on its recurrent policy framing agenda. This CDM Conference is one stakeholder’s forum that can advance the discussion on this disaster development issue. We strongly encourage deepened national dialogue on disaster risk management and development. The re-launch of the regional DRR initiative, through the revised mandate, function and governance of CDEMA is an important step in this direction. When considered against the background of the goal of the CDM strategy, it has required a re-articulated discourse with CDEMA national focal points on their fuller and deeper engagement in framing this new path that will facilitate the adoption of policies and practices that promote a culture of resilience in our communities. This must be done in an environment in which our primary shareholders, the Participating States, have become more sophisticated and specific in their assistance needs
whilst at the same time being regularly questioned about the relevance and benefit of their programmes.

The complexity and diversity of the issues above are reflected in the programme of this Conference. It presents us with an opportunity to frame the issues and actions of tomorrow based on our understandings of yesterday and the realities of today.
Among the many items on our agenda include ICT and disaster management, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, community resilience, knowledge, innovation, education,youth empowerment and business continuity management.
I want just want to take a brief moment to remind all that DRR is the frontline for managing the conspicuous consequences of climate change and for actioning adaptation. We must see the platforms we are developing today as our launching pad for adaptation. This gives many of those at risk the connection to their livelihoods and other realities, necessary to get their full attention and participation.

One of the key elements of the CDEMA mandate speaks to the development of a culture of Disaster Risk Reduction. We believe that this must be anchored on sound public information and education programmes. Given the increase in the diversity of actors in DRR in all aspects of our communities, if this is to be realized, we will require a broad-based country delivered training programme.

Honourable Prime Minister, I recall the passion you expressed on the issue of communitycentred capacity development, at my courtesy call with you shortly after you took up office. My understanding is that this passion is helping to drive the national community programme here.

CDEMA is pleased to announce that we are working diligently to move this forward. We have drafted the idea of a DRR college mechanism in this region to ensure that all of those who work in the public, private and civil society sectors have the requisite tools to share the skills at all levels of engagement.

Another matter that needs to be brought under our radar is that of urban vulnerability. Most of our peoples, production and service assets are city located and are generally located along our coasts. We need a more clinical and urgent look at the risks associated with our urbanisation.

Finally, there is one thing we know for sure. Most of the disasters experienced are local and are generally a blip on our information scope but the cumulative impact can be telling on economies of the Lesser Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. The better unmasking of these may provide some light on challenges in our public sector financing.
Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to maximize the networking and learning that this Conference offers.

Let me thank all of our partners for their growing support for the CDM Conference. I am sure that our founding sponsors, EU, CIDA, DFID, USAID and UNDP are more than pleased at the momentum this has generated. We welcome our new conference partner CCRIF and session sponsors, IFRC, ITU, CDB and the UNISDR.
I also invite you to join me in expressing our deepest appreciation to the Government of Jamaica and especially the ODPEM for the co-host and logistical support for this Conference.



CDEMA Annual Reports