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Welcome Remarks from B. Nyarko-Mensah, UNDP

Chairperson, USAID Mission Director, H.E. Mosina Jordan, CDERA Coordinator, Mr. Jeremy Collymore, CERO Director, Ms Judy Thomas Fellow Development Partners, Representatives of national and regional institutions, Ladies and gentlemen,

I would first of all like to extend a big welcome to you all to this regional conference, particularly those that have traveled down from other countries. I am also extending to you the apologies of Ms Anne Forrester (Res Rep) who would have wished to be with us but is currently on Mission to Haiti.

Across the globe, natural and man-made disasters of all types have been on the increase. By some measures, nearly a quarter of the world's population is now facing some type of crisis or post-crisis situation. In the Caribbean, our small island states are affected annually by the occurrence of hurricanes and a number of them have suffered the impact of volcanic eruptions. Considerable material damage has been experienced, estimated in the case of St Kitts and Nevis at over US$200 million for Hurricane Georges. In 1989, Montserrat suffered a near total destruction of housing and infrastructure as a result of hurricane Hugo only to be struck in 1995/97 by the eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano. Lately, Hurricane Lenny's havoc on several Islands of the Eastern Caribbean remains fresh in our memories.

And while the links between such crises and development or its failure are complex, they are indisputable. Whether we are talking about natural disasters made worse by a weakened environment or technological disasters that are triggered or exacerbated by inadequate institutions, poverty is not merely a contributing factor: the poor and socially disadvantaged groups are also forced to bear a disproportionate share of the impact since they are least equipped to cope with them. Furthermore, as a result of the inherent vulnerability of Caribbean states, high cost of domestic insurance and international re-insurance presents such countries with the need to seek open market borrowing, deplete external reserves or divert resources from other critical areas to finance relief and reconstruction efforts. It is therefore obvious that there are no winners when hurricanes, volcanic eruptions or other disasters occur when adequate mitigation, preparedness, or recovery measures have not been put in place.

So there is a clear development challenge facing Governments, civil society, UNDP and other development partners in such situations. Not simply because of the way in which the crises affect our respective constituencies but also because of their broader impact on societies and states. In some cases development gains are set back decades or more. Recovery, if it happens at all, is a slow, difficult process that is often complicated by a myriad of different actors with differing, sometimes conflicting agendas. Sometimes, the end result is another crisis that imposes further burdens on thinly stretched governments and other institutions. UNDP recognizes that disaster reduction and recovery comprise essential components within other areas of development priorities such as poverty eradication, environmental and natural resource sustainability and sound governance.

M.. Chairperson We are happy to note that the process of embedding Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) by ensuring that disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response as well as recovery are integrated into national development programmes in order to reduce human, economic and social losses is gradually gaining momentum. The shift from our previous preoccupation with response to the neglect of other important elements of the disaster management process is occurring. This must be sustained and deepened, coupled with capacity building and re-organisation of key institutions. Disaster response alone is not sufficient, as it yields only temporary results at a very high cost.

The participatory development of a regional strategy for dealing with this issue is one of the key objectives of the UNDP/USAID/CDERA project initiated late last year. I would urge you all to provide your critical input into the Strategy and Results Framework for CDM that will be presented and reviewed today. As you would note from the presentation of the Strategy, sustainable development in the Caribbean could be seriously undermined if we do not achieve the identified results and reduce our vulnerability to hazards. This calls for sustained commitment by each and every institution, cutting across sectors. On a daily basis, we can and should all play our part.

It is recognized that the adoption of a comprehensive regional strategy is only part of the solution. This strategy has to be translated into national plans and actions. Stakeholders, including policy makers across relevant sectors, technocrats in the institutions and community members who implement have to be adequately sensitized. It is expected of all of us present, having participated in shaping up the strategy, to carry the message to our respective constituencies. A third component of the project seeks to build support for CDM at the national level and will therefore facilitate the process at that level.

M.. Chairperson On a final note, I would like to recognize and thank CDERA for the key role it has played to date in managing the CDM project; USAID/OFDA, our funding partner in this endeavor, the Stakeholders Working Group which provided a critique of initial drafts of the strategy as well as the consultants Conrad Ornstein, Eleanor Jones and Paul Bisek.

I wish you all a successful deliberation of the regional Strategy and its component parts. Thank you.

 

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