Caribbean Contributions at Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management Meeting

[August 4, 2011 – Auckland, New Zealand] A Caribbean delegation is attending the Pacific Platform meeting this week in Auckland, to exchange experiences and best practices with colleagues from across the Pacific region.  The similar geography, climate trends and limited size of populations of small island states in both regions creates similar challenges for disaster risk management.


The Pacific Platform conference is convened by SOPAC Division of SPC and hosted by the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management in Auckland. Over the course of the week-long conference, the Pacific Platform brings together national disaster managers, regional agencies, donors and other stakeholders involved in reducing the impact of disasters on this region’s population.

During a High Level Dialogue on disaster management policy at the meeting today, Jeremy Collymore, Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) made a statement on behalf of his agency.   First he noted that SIDS in both the Pacific and Caribbean share common realities;  island countries in both regions are highly exposed to a range of hazards, frequently impacted by disasters and have uneven capacity to address disasters across the countries.  He expressed a concern that in SIDS countries there is a widespread perception of a lack of commitment by policymakers to improving disaster risk management.  He observed that “for too long we have promoted the disaster risk management and climate change adaptation agenda as a technical one, but despite the plethora of solutions, technical and otherwise, the momentum forward is almost imperceptible.”  Mr. Collymore further suggested that securing this commitment from policy-makers is essential, as “politics is at the heart of vulnerability reduction.”

Another message conveyed by Mr. Collymore is that “starting at home, SIDS countries need to reduce the tendency to seek external assistance as the first point of departure in addressing disasters.”  In order to build their resilience, small islands must first rely on and expand their own resources.

Allison Wiggins from Barbados’ Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) yesterday shared examples from Barbados of innovative coastal protection measures in place in that island country.   Barbados is an island country only 430 square kilometers in size, in which 70% of the population lives within 4 km of the coast.  The country is quite dependent on tourism as the motor of its economy, as with many Pacific countries.  Ms Wiggins stated that Barbados has five natural lines of defense protecting its coasts:  bank reef, fringing reef, sea grass and coral rubble, sand dunes and finally mangroves.  However, due to climate change and activities by residents and tourists, on many parts of the island these natural systems are being eroded and destroyed.  As a consequence Barbados has invested in costly restoration and construction projects structures to protect the coast from erosion and disaster impacts, and each of these investments cost millions of dollars.  These examples led to discussion of the comparative advantage for small islands of conserving natural barriers as opposed to undertaking engineering projects to compensate for the loss of these natural systems.  The Coastal Zone Management Unit undertakes continuous monitoring and measurement of the coastal areas in Barbados, using a range of scientific expertise and community engagement.

The Caribbean delegation was brought to the Pacific meeting under the auspices of the project “South-South Cooperation between Pacific and Caribbean Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management”   which encourages a systematic sharing of knowledge and experiences to strengthen community safety and resilience to a range of natural disasters in both regions.

The project is coordinated by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Centre, with extensive support from the regional UNDP programme Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI).   Partners in the Caribbean include Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), INSMET (National Cuban Meteorological Institute), CARICOM Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and University of the West Indies (UWI).  Key partners from the Pacific region include the Pacific Islands Applied Geo-Science Commission (SOPAC), South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and University of the South Pacific (USP). National agencies in both regions also play an important role.

The south-south project is supported by the UNDP’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation and by the UNDP-Japan Partnership Fund.


For further information contact UNDP Communications Specialist, Shobhna Decloitre on (679) 3300399 or (679) 9926396 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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