Address by Most Hon. P. J. Patterson, ON, OCC, PC, QC - "Sustainable Development: Pathway To An Integrated Agenda For Resilience" at 9th Caribbean Conference on CDM Opening Ceremony


I am so pleased to have the opportunity to join you today for the opening of this 9th Caribbean Conference, which in these delightful surroundings will address the important topic of Sustainable Development: Pathway to an Integrated Agenda for Resilience.

Despite my retirement from public office, CDEMA realized that any subject of importance  to the development of the Caribbean would arouse my interest – but that even moreso a subject of such timely relevance and importance to all the people of our Region would lure me to the wicket.

This Conference has become well known to regional and international stakeholders engaged in the enhancement of the capacity of the Caribbean to withstand disasters of all kinds.   It is acknowledged as the forum which brings together the policymakers, the development agencies, stakeholders, the academic gurus and professional experts for meaningful dialogue in the search to chart a strategic course of action for the way forward.

Our regional  Heads of Government and our people are well acquainted, many of us through adverse experiences, with the challenges our countries face as small island developing states in a highly hazard prone region of the world.  At times, it seems that the rich natural endowments with which we have been blessed are borne by curses that serve to impede our advancement.

As a region, we have recognized through the Liliendal Declaration  and the Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change, the significant threat posed by the impact of  global climate change to our development . It is therefore imperative that we take a consolidated approach and pursue collective action to protect our environment;  to avert disasters where we can, or at least, to mitigate their effects, and at the same time, to spur sustainable development.


Nationally, regionally and internationally, the term Sustainable Development  has been a central part of our most recent conversations related to development. The most widely accepted definition is that given by the Report of the Brundtland Commission in 1987:

“Sustainable development is the kind of development that meets the needs of the present  without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

These “needs” represent the present and future economic, social and environmental goals that we set for our countries.

For us in the Caribbean, we live in an almost constant state of tension in the achievement of sustainable development. Almost every year, we go through the cycle of responding and recovering  from severe natural disasters. The experiences just in the last few months of Dominica and of the Bahamas are testimony not only of the challenges, but of the tenacity of our people to overcome and move on.   The task is not made any easier by the fact that several of our disasters are triggered or aggravated by human behaviour.


That very Resilience has shaped our conversations on sustainable development, resulting in the idea of individuals, communities and countries being able to adapt to and recover from the effects of hazards in a way that will maintain their long terms goals with respect to development. So the terms are closely linked. Our approach to achievement of sustainable development globally, regionally and nationally must be through integrated efforts to achieve resilience. The building of a resilient nation has to begin and proceed on the base of community resilience. We can learn a great deal from the Cuban model, which has been tested and proven.

2015 has been a watershed year in the international arena with respect to the setting of a global agenda for resilience. In March of this year, the Sendai  Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 was adopted. The Sendai Framework is the first major agreement of the Post-2015 development agenda and seeks, through its four priorities for action and seven targets, to build on and enhance efforts to foster the resilience of nations to disasters which was begun under the Hyogo Framework for Action.


In September of this year, United Nations Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of a new sustainable development agenda that builds on the work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were established in 2000 and targeted for achievement in 2015.  The outcome, the 17 SDGs and their 169 targets, seek to balance economic, social and environmental objectives in the achievement of sustainable development.

Particular note should be taken of Sustainable Development Goal 13 which speaks of Member States commitment to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact”, within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate as the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.

The targets for this SDG emphasize the importance of increasing education and awareness on climate change mitigation and adaptation. That education must be both formal and non-formal. It has to include civic education at all levels, as well as professional education and training.

Every one must understand how poverty breeds pollution and pollution breeds poverty in abundant return.

The case to integrate climate change measures as critical elements of national policies is compelling and irrefutable. This must resonate with us in the Caribbean. We have great cause to be concerned about the effects of climate change;  rising sea levels which threaten our coastal developments, and devastate our agricultural production; more severe tropical storms which can eradicate years of hard work in a few short hours;  and proliferation of tropical diseases.

Each one constitutes a clear and present danger to our lives and well being.   It could wipe out the tourism  product entirely and destroy all our  prospects for economic growth.


The World will be dealing with many of these issues related to climate change this week in Paris.

I trust the Leaders of our Planet, in the aftermath of such abominable terrorist atrocities, will gather in France with a renewed sense of urgency.

For climate change, depletion of the ozone shields, desertification, rising sea levels, disappearance of species are manifestations that all who inhabit earth – the single planet to which we belong - can no longer ignore the threat of an environmental holocaust unless we take decisive action today. The destruction of our environment is a prelude to the extinction of us all if we fail to do so.

The outcome of the CDP21 is very important to our countries as we are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The countries represented here are in the main Small Island States. While we fall within the same category of landlocked and developed countries which are also most disadvantaged, I believe the Caribbean and the small Pacific Islands should be singled out for very special and urgent attention by the Developed World and the International Institutions as is now the accepted case for Africa.

There is a need for the converging of these agendas so that there can be a more integrated approach to dealing with the inter-related issues of disaster risk management, climate change, sustainable development and resilience.  Integration will also assist us in making more efficient and effective use of the finite financial resources available to our region for interventions addressing these issues.


It is in this context, I dare to suggest the broadening of your outreach for the 10th Conference to include, possibly as Associates in the first instance, all nations which are part of the geographic space – Guadeloupe, Martinique, Curacao, St Maarten, Cuba, the Dominican Republic  and Puerto Rico as well.

Natural disasters, when they come, do not seem to respect national borders.  They spread their fury, regardless of flags.

In avoiding, moderating and responding to disasters, we need a more inclusive approach to secure the best deployment of personnel, technology and equipment.


The Caribbean Regional Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) Strategy, in its several iterations, has gained broad based support from national, regional and international stakeholders over the past 14 years. It continues to be a strong force for harmonization of efforts to promote resilience in the region.

I commend the 2014 to 2024 Strategy as an integrated risk management approach that responds to the Sendai Framework and which can potentially provide a basis for the harmonization of the SDGs, and climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) interventions at the regional level.


If this is to have maximum effectiveness, there is the need for strong political awareness of the relevant issues and support for the process of integration of climate change and disaster risk considerations into the broader development planning agenda. This is best fostered through close collaboration with regional agencies with mandates in these areas, such as CDEMA;  the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs);  the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) and others to provide the data which can bring greater clarity in understanding of the issues.

Political awareness and support are key in order to ensure full support at the highest level of Governments for appropriate allocation of national funds to address these issues.

It is my hope that my presence here tonight and lending my voice to these discussions and issues will serve in some way to sound the alarm to persons at all levels of society in the region, of the importance of a unified Caribbean voice and approach in building resilient societies.

I expect you to fully ventilate all these matters and to share experiences and ideas throughout this week, and at the end of it to have come to an agreement on the way forward.

My very best wishes for a successful CDM Conference 2015.

The Region eagerly awaits the fruits of your accumulated wisdom in our struggle to achieve a proper balance between the profligate exploitation of our natural endowments and the sustainable development for which our people yearn.

Back To Top