Premier Makes Bold Challenge To Regional Leaders

On the doorsteps of the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season, Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal has once again called on regional leaders to pay more attention on disaster management programs.

The bold call was made during the opening ceremony for the 2nd meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) at the Long Bay Beach Resort.

According to Premier O'Neal, going forward "political buy-in from our leaders across the region is a must". The Premier told the gathering that he often disagrees with regional leaders as it relates to disaster management. "I am tired of talking to them about it so I will save my breath," Premier O'Neal said.

"I challenge you the delegates to return with my words of encouragement to your leaders to embrace and wholeheartedly support the required legislative and policies needed to strengthen the disaster management capacity in our respective islands," the Premier stated.

He added that unfortunately, not enough leaders are paying attention to disaster management programs.

"I believe that one of the keys to reducing our vulnerability to disasters is not just to say that we need to do more, but to do more. I can say it with confidence that there has been political buy-in here in the Virgin Islands," the Premier stated.

Governor Boyd Mc Cleary declared the meeting open and urged delegates to work on a number of disaster-related issues, with special attention placed on packaging the messages to ensure that the ordinary person understands.

The Governor pointed out that more than ever, cooperation is needed. Governor McCleary also stressed the need for accountability, pointing out that investors will not continue to invest without seeing results.

During the opening ceremony, Executive Director of CDEMA, Mr. Jeremy Collymore announced that new agreements have been initiated with the Governments of Australia and Brazil. Mr. Collymore said this week he signed an AusAid $3 million grant to advance the implementation of the Comprehensive Disaster Management Program at the national and regional levels.

Additionally, Mr. Collymore said that the Government of Brazil has provided $562,000 within the framework of CARICOM/Brazil cooperation that is already addressing risk reduction in rural livelihoods.

The Executive Director said he is delighted by the increasing number of students, graduates and professionals who are seeking to make careers or generate business.

"Our strong push for our tertiary and vocational institutions to initiate programs that respond to and inform this demand now needs to be reinforced. Coupled with our vision, hopefully soon to be realized of a regional operational and logistics training centre, this quest for knowledge and standards can only but advance our goal of building a culture of DRR in the region," Mr. Collymore stated.

Inaugural Awards

During the opening ceremony, CDEMA held its inaugural awards ceremony, recognizing individuals who have served their respective countries for at least 10 years.

Among the regional award recipients were employees from the Department of Disaster Management (DDM). Jasen Penn, Cecil Jeffrey and Dale Lake received CDEMA Bronze Star of Merit for 10-14 years of service. DDM's Director, Sharleen S. DaBreo received CDEMA's Silver Star Merit for 15-19 years service.

Premier O'Neal congratulates Judy Thomas after she received a long-service award last evening. Thomas has been the Director of Barbados' Emergency Services for 28 years.

Mr. Georges will chair the meeting when close to 40 delegates deliberate various agenda items.

Conference delegates will discuss the Draft National Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) Policy, the Model Disaster Management Legislation, a strategy for adaptation of both Disaster Management Legislation and CDM Policy by CDEMA Participating States, a Comprehensive Disaster Management Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting System, and a proposal for advancing comprehensive disaster management beyond 2012.Premier O'Neal congratulates Judy Thomas after she received a long-service award last evening. Thomas has been the Director of Barbados' Emergency Services for 28 years.

The meeting will also focus on the implementation status of the 2007-2012 regional Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) Program and receive input from the committee on the CDEMA work plans for the coming year.

A representative from the CARICOM Community Climate Change Centre is also expected to brief the TAC on the Draft Regional Climate Change Implementation Plan which highlights the convergence between climate change adaptation and disaster management.

TAC comprises the National Disaster Coordinators of the CDEMA 18 participating states and representatives of specialized regional organizations, such as those engaged in technological, meteorological and seismological fields whose programs are directly related to the regional disaster management agenda.

The TAC, one of CDEMA's decision-making organs, will provide critical stewardship required for advancing core areas identified by the CDEMA Coordinating Unit. The regional meeting is being hosted locally by the Government of the Virgin Islands through the Premier's Office and the Department of Disaster Management in collaboration with CDEMA.


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