Remarks of Mr. Ronald H. Jackson Executive Director at the CDEMA Annual Press Conference May 29, 2013

Greetings and salutations to all and welcome to our Annual Press Conference and to the offices of the CDEMA Coordinating Unit. To those tuning in on the various social media and ICT Platforms -a pleasant good morning to you.

I wish to first acknowledge the work of the previous Executive Director, Mr. Jeremy Collymore and the CU team in establishing CDEMA as a regional and Global leader in Disaster Risk Management. An enviable regional platform or network of institutions and partners now exist that are poised to collectively take on the challenge of achieving regional resilience to disasters including those driven by climate change. (Please click here to listen)


I have taken the baton at a very strategic point which has itself provided an opportunity to contribute significantly to shaping the vision and providing the direction necessary to further entrench Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) while ensuring that the organization I now lead is fit and ready to pilot that process.

We are in a period of change in many respects, and a major plank of that change process is the current transitioning from the CDM Strategic Framework which ended in 2012 to the new Strategy which is expected to take us to 2023.

This transition period is timely as it again places CDEMA in position to provide Regional and Global leadership and as a driver for change in the Sustainable Development and overall Development landscape. We are in a position to provide key inputs to the Global Blue Print and Disaster Risk Reduction which will be due in 2015; inputs into the SIDS+20 agenda.

Efforts in this regard are progressing smoothly and we hope to unveil the new Strategy towards the end of this year at the Annual CDM Conference scheduled for December 2-6 in Jamaica.

Within this context I am sure there are questions as to what is the vision I bring to the organization. Will there be change? In bringing my vision to the organization there will be some change; the extent of the change necessary to keep the organization successful and to deliver on our obligations to our participating states will become even clearer in the ensuing months. I come from heading a national disaster management organization. Whilst there I would have had some perception of the regional organization and I am now developing a different perspective from this vantage point. Hence, there has to be some appreciation for the fact that within the first 100 days there will be some internalization and reflection. This contention of the real and the perceived will allow for an analysis of all the facts necessary to firm up the vision that I am framing for the organization. I will share however, that the vision is being informed by the philosophy that the Member States remain central to the regional success. Ultimately strong national systems will redound to a stronger regional system.

In that regard we will be continuing on a path to identify the modalities necessary to facilitate the deepening of country centered programming and capacity enhancement through greater technical support from the regional level. We have begun the exploration and implementation of such models through the establishment and operationalization of the Roving Technical Support Team.

It is my expressed belief that the mechanism and experience built through CDM provides the best modality for the delivery of Climate Change Adaptation. We will be providing the leadership necessary to illustrate the nexus between CCA and DRR. We must address the current dichotomy which exists in this arena to ensure that there is greater harmonization of resources and programming taking all precautions to ensure there is no wasting through duplication of efforts.

It is also clear that there has to be a repackaging of our language that will allow for clearer illustration of the fact that the Disaster Risk Management/CDM is an economic development issue. I applaud the UN Secretary General’s recent comments: “We have carried out a review of disaster losses at the national level and it is clear that direct losses from floods, earthquakes and drought have been underestimated by at least 50%.” He further points to skyrocketing losses. “This threatens the prosperity of our nations.”

Here in the Caribbean, we recognize that Anguilla, TCI, Cayman and Guadeloupe could all expect to lose 30% of their urban capital in the case of a high magnitude tropical cyclone. Many of our small islands are dependent on tourism an activity which is largely coastal and exposed to the ravages of climatic hazards. An impact can have devastating impact on the overall economy of these countries. A situation clearly illustrated in Grenada and Cayman after Hurricane Ivan. In Guyana the 2005 floods lead to 4.6% losses to GDP; Hurricane Tomas in St. Lucia lead to losses in excess of US$336M and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti between 114-117% of GDP. I do believe that these figures again underscore what all our National Disaster Management Officials have been saying in their respective national jurisdictions. It is my sincerest hope that Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s statements will enhance their voices thereby leading to greater regional and national investment is reducing disaster risk enhancing our efforts towards sustainable or sustained economic development.

In tackling the challenges faced by our Participating States as illustrated above, the CDEMA Coordinating Unit through support from its Development Partners have mobilized a total of US 3.5M in Direct country level resourcing support. We have been able to provide 4-5 dollar to every dollar contributed to our participating states. This illustrates the Agency’s commitment and that of our Partners. Here I wish to pause to acknowledge the support provided by our development partners and regional institutions. They have already begun to signal their continued commitment to the regional resilience building agenda driven by CDEMA and its participating states.

June 1, 2013 marks the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Already the forecasters are predicting that it will be an above normal one. It will be active. NOAA suggests that there is a likelihood that there will 13 to 20 named storms of which 7 could become hurricanes 3-6 possibly becoming major hurricanes. These predictions are well above the seasonal averages hence the message is clear. The extent to which we could be impacted will depend on the level of investment we put into preparing for and preventing as best as possible the negative consequences of this hazard.

We are advocating that there be significant efforts taken to boost sector level, business, family and individual readiness, a message being promoted by the National Authorities. In this regard I wish to commend the many NDMA’s which have initiated their national campaigns.

Looking beyond awareness raising, several initiatives have been undertaken to bolster operational readiness at the National and Regional levels. The Regional Level readiness has been built on the readiness for all hazards concept. We have revised the Regional Coordination Plan elaborating more clearly the roles of our Sub-Regional Country focal points and the mechanisms for activating their sub-regional coordination centres. We have also conducted and scheduled exercises which will test key aspects of the regional readiness. Exercise “first step” has already been completed and plans are far advanced for Region Rap and Exercise Tradewinds. Training and equipping of our CARICOM Disaster Relief Unit has also taken place through support from the US Southern Command thereby sharpening the tip of the spear of our response architecture.

Other partnerships with regional and intergovernmental organizations such as the Seismic Research Unit and IOC Caribe have served to strengthen tsunami and seismic readiness. Capacity for forecasting and providing early warning for climate hazards have also been vastly enhanced through partnerships with CIMH.

Country Level Readiness has also been bolstered through arrangements for planning for catastrophic events including planning for continuity of government operations; enhancement of national response architecture, improvements in national EOC’s (physical plants and operational arrangements). Plans have been reviewed and improved and national level simulation exercises conducted. This investment represents continued efforts to strengthen emergency response capabilities primarily ensure greater country level success.

Ladies and gentlemen June 1 is fast approaching I wish us all across the region the very best of luck and I thank you the media for coming out today to cover the event. You are a critical part of our efforts to change mindset, culture and practice thereby developing a risk reduction culture.

Thank you and do have a great day.

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