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CDEMA Annual Press Conference by Jeremy Collymore, Executive Director, May 31, 2011

Welcome to our Annual Press Conference, the intent is to give you an overview of what we have done this year in relation to what we set out do and to look at some of the developments, instruments polices etc, opportunities and challenges that we have encountered over the year and finally to talk to you about the upcoming hurricane season and what is on the table.


I would like to be bold and characterize the period under review as a very intensive one in which we had significant activity directed at addressing the organizational structure and enhancement of the Caribbean disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). I think we have made significant process now that based on the input from the MCC we are in a position to recommend at least a structure that will address the deepening of the technical capacity more predictability, and  responsiveness to the needs of the  states.

Additionally as you are quite aware we have had a period of extreme events .whilst we have looked at it as flooding you will note that the events in Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, representing180 years events very extreme events when we speak to the hurricane season that had past You will also notice that we are on record for many things it suggests to us therefore that we have to revisit a lot of the assumptions we have made about how we do business.

In the area of technical assistance we have been able to conduct more than 25 workshops, training more than 200 more than 500 persons across our communities. We have assisted the countries in developing or improving at least 20 national contingency plans including general plans as well as plans related to earthquake enhancement, tsunami and early warning systems.

We have addressed our operational readiness by elaborating and enhancing weready.org which is a public handle where you can get information geared to our constituencies at all levels .from the kid and I mean literally the kid for the grandmother, to the business etc.

We have sought to address our operational deployment capability and the communications challenges experienced frequently in the impacted areas through the enhancement of acquisition of some BEGANs   and these are very small digital equipment that gives us capability in all dimensions of the communications area. We have also agreed on a system for the integration and redundancy of all elements of emergency telecommunications.

I want to talk now about  what I call strategic positioning clearly as you recognize  in a constrained  resource  environment  our Participating States  have been challenged in two (2)  critical areas that have the potential to constrain  implementation of our COMPREHENSIVE DISASTER MANAGEMENT  Strategy if not directly addressed

The first relates to funding, many of the good intents are not realized because of the inadequacy of resources and secondly even where resources may be available access to expertise to facilitate action is limited or not available in many cases.

In that context we have been able to advance our commitment to support the countries through what we call a CDM enhancing cooperation mechanism and we have embraced with the support of our donors/ partners a facility that will allow some modicum of dedicated resources to be allocated to country implementation work programs and work implementation plans and programs.

And so the point is that these resources have to be linked to programs that is within the national work programmes and approved. So we are trying to build commitment at all levels.  Additionally we had started piloting the idea of a core of expertise that responds to the deficits, the technical gap deficits in the Participating States and with the support of the Government of Australia we are now in a position to even deepen that with 4 additional person s so we shall have at least 6 technical experts who are now able to work directly at the demand of the countries to support their technical implementation.

Monitoring and evaluation and reporting you would appreciate that with the amount  of activities  ongoing and resources  being put into the COMPREHENSIVE DISASTER MANAGEMENT   program  that we need to be  in a position to report  comprehensively  on what progress we are  making and also to be accountable to our donor partners  who provide these very  scarce resource for us .

And At the past Meeting of the second meeting of Technical Advisory Committee it has been agreed a Monitoring an Evaluation Framework.

You have asked very often  how prepared are we how prepared the countries are,  I would say that this year we have  been able complete within schedule thanks to the support of the ACP¬EU Natural Disaster Facility Resources  an audit of all the countries  I  must therefore caution you before you want to  ask for the details that  we have...that these are under consideration by the states for discussion and we will only speak to the summary of the issues of those findings, country details will be discussed at country level  
We have also agreed on standards of assessment s the question has been asked  many of our  partners   and  our own partners often want to find out what is happening in the context of a country’s program or region’s initiatives  and so to minimize the burden and to provide some common frame works for undertaking these assessments  the TAC has agreed to recommend  to our Council some standards to  inform this  process and therefore any documents  that relate to our assessment  will be driven by those  standards
Additionally we have noted that in most of the states that whilst there are shelter policies , and  mitigation policies and emergency  assistance  polices there  is  no overall national  policy on disaster risk reduction And we have  at least  now have at a point where we have a  draft framework k  for finalization of that policy and  the countries’ endorsement that we should go to go forward  with those fundamentals.

There are some Issues that are sometimes deeper than money and I want to   talk about what I call governance this CDEMA has really been built around an expectation that governance architecture will be enhanced.  I am Pleased to say that over the last year we have had the engagement of all the sub-committees of the  Technical Advisory Committee and who have been working diligently to provide some of the model tools the standards  etc and the policy comments and guidance that is informed by what I outlined above.   Additionally, we have had present at this Meeting 2nd Meeting of TAC) for first time the presence of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), Regional Security System (RSS) and CARICOM as the regional entity, This is part of our commitment to engage the regional institutions to really create this frontline of alliance to link to a larger agenda of sustainable development DRR. If I am missing something please advise...  and the Seismic Research Centre was also present.

We have recognized that the growing dynamics of the traditional disaster management  have changed significantly and  it requires  new tools  for engagement  and with the support of the Government of Australia  we have been able to train 55 person s from the 15 countries on the whole question of leadership for Disaster Risk Reduction in my comments on that I would simply say that I think we have  Sworn the seeds for new professional  practice  in the area for disaster management in this region and we are really committed to be building on that, and so we have again under the support of the  Government of Australia  identified additional resources to continue that exercise  over the next year at least.

Climate Change and Adaptation and DRR - The TAC had an extensive discussion on this matter and I think we  reinforced the emerging consensus that the CCA and Disaster risk reduction  are largely twins they are not cousins they are twins and I am saying that to say sometimes one is born before other  so the disaster  risk reduction really is the now on the frontline dealing with current risks and issues  the climate change and adaptation  gives us a lens to some of  the issues that we have more uncertainty about what will happen with these changing events  I think that that alliance is very critical if we are to address the issue of resilient development  in this region   In that context we have considered how the disaster risk reduction actors can help contribute to the  information that will inform any negotiations on the regional side and national level or other as may be  appropriate.

You know ah when you look at some of the actors in this very hard business it is a long time sometimes thankless of course we always have to Shoulder the blame of non effective operations  and that is what we do and  we do with grace I hope. But this year we took the opportunity to recognize 47 persons who have served in this region for ten yrs or more consistently in the area disaster risk reduction and our first Awards ceremony was held in Tortola where 47 persons were recognized and I think that is something we need to continue as part of our tradition and we are committed to that.

Language We capture our region as a very diverse in language and even though we are a CARICOM organization we have Haiti  and Suriname who are part of that  process and our neighbours are largely  Spanish also and so we have initiated a language training programme across our community. And all the language of the region which is committed which is already..Committing to create the dialogue   In our Mission to Suriname they were very happy to know that we have an office member of staff who could at least engage in the basic elements of their language. And that is part of this commitment to make CDEMA something that is owned by the countries and not something that is headquartered in Barbados we want to change that feeling and experience.

Finally let me talk about events of last year I said that it was a very intense year and one of the things that has emerged from our position is this question of extreme events. you are wondering why Tomas caused so much damage it was only a storm Why Are the April why did the floods in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in April  create so much damage  the record..the answer  is that they are extreme events  Extreme events and severe  weather  events are issues that now have to be factored  in more directly in our contingency planning arrangements  and so we should expect that we can have storms and associated  rainfall that can be  more devastating that some of the catastrophic wind event s so people from Barbados  and  those places raise a lot of questions so how do we explain this

In  2010 we had 19 named storms,  12 of which were hurricanes , and this is the second  highest  hurricane season  in the Atlantic g basin and s coincided with  1969 we also had 5 major hurricanes  this made 2010 the third most eventful year coinciding  with 1887 and 1995 I remember ah  Luis and Marilyn and those events but that is the kind of year it was but we did not have the big  hurricanes we had the  flood events associated with it.

We had over 400 felt earthquakes in region I don’t know if you have noticed the frequency of which we hear of felt events in Dominica, or Saint Lucia or Trinidad or Jamaica a very active region, and We are also addressing that in our contingency planning that is why we were able to support at least seven countries, additional countries in advancing the earthquake readiness planning exercise over the year.

2011 is scheduled to be above average as you are all aware 17 storms are predicted 9 to be hurricanes and 5 to be major events and I don’t like to cite the last element about the hard unusual probability of one of these taking place in the Caribbean.
Ladies and gentlemen what this says is the idea of seasonality is out of the window we are now reviewing very carefully our capability and readiness and how  to measure that  in the context of something that  countries can recognize and score and we will continue to work on that given the multi dynamic nature of our region.

Finally, much of this work that Ihave just referred to would not have been….could not have been possible without the dedicated support of our partners and they are many. I run the risk of trying to not  missing others so I would  say,  I want to  thank our partners, our bilateral partners, our multi lateral partners, our  regional and institutional  partners who have very much  worked with us and  civil society actors who are very much a part of this process.

Ladies and gentlemen, I now invite you to offer any questions you may wish.

Click below for audio.




CDEMA Annual Reports