Caribbean and Pacific Regions work to reduce disasters

Bridgetown, Barbados, August 15, 2011 (SOPAC; CDEMA) - Common threats based on similar geography and vulnerabilities of small islands, have been a major influence on the increased cooperation between the Caribbean and Pacific Regions.

Two of the major players in this developing relationship are SOPAC, a division of SPC, and CDEMA (Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency).

The Executive Director of CDEMA, Jeremy Collymore has been instrumental in fostering the exchanges between the two regions that have led to a growing recognition of the range of learning capabilities, and practices for improving effective disaster prevention and management at the national level.

He was recently in Auckland to address the 3rd Session of Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management, a meeting organized by SOPAC and ISDR.

Collymore told the 200 participants at the meeting that small island developing countries, like those in the Pacific and Caribbean, are widely acknowledged to be among the most likely to experience a range of natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, landslides, and volcanic eruptions, as well as being disproportionately suffering by the adverse impacts of climate change.

The increasing frequency and magnitude of recent events require urgent action to address fundamental weaknesses with disaster response and management mechanisms, both nationally and locally.

“The message,” he said, “is that the contingency planning systems must be capable of dealing with diversity, variability, and extreme nature of the threats we are likely to face.”

Collymore pointed out that countries in the two regions often have entirely different impacts from damage caused by the same type magnitude of storms or earthquakes.  This is because of lack of coordination, lack of communications, poor citizen participation and poor awareness from those responding to the event.

“This lack of capacity and capability gap of island nations in responding to climate changes and disaster risks has been a key factor in the establishment of regional agencies such as CDEMA and SOPAC.”

He emphasized the need to look at response practices, mechanisms, products, tools and services that serve to promote a culture of loss reduction, whether this is centred on the preparedness side, response side or the recovery side.”
With an estimated three quarters of the population in small islands developing states living in at risk areas and one third in areas highly exposed to hazards governments are extremely challenged in meeting their responsibility to deal with these predicatable threats.  

“There exists a gap between the will and the wallet,” said Collymore.

He observed that politics is at the heart of vulnerability and disaster risk reduction and it starts with decisions about where to build, what to build and what incentives to offer and to whom.

He indicated that in the region, where there is demonstrated and sustained political support for DRM there is a dramatic shift in the loss reduction culture of the state.

Collymore highlighted the Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) Strategy as one of the key approaches being utilized in the Caribbean to accelerate the strengthening of sub-regional, national and community level capacity for DRM programmes.   “The establishment of a CDM Governance Mechanism (the CDM Harmonization Council) has created a space for all key stakeholders at the DRR table,” he said.

The model DRR policy being developed, leadership training for DRR managers, the ongoing collaboration among stakeholders on the integration of DRR with Climate Change Adaptation and the Climate Smart DRR Programmes are further indication of the regional recognition to build capacity and widen the scope and level of involvement in DRM.

Under this South-South cooperation both Caribbean and Pacific  institutions will play a key role in furthering the  development and implementation of  DRR and climate change policies. In addition to CDEMA and SOPAC a division of SPC these institutions will include the CARICOM Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), the Caribbean Risk Management Institute (CRMI), Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Caribbean Meteorology Organization (CMO), Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) and the Cuban National Institute of Meteorology (INSMET), University of the West Indies and other regional and international  organisations associated with DRM

This collaboration on the challenges that disaster reduction measures must address allows for partnering with other programmes associated with climate change, sea-level, rise, poverty reduction, national development and investment planning. Initiatives being advanced by the alliance include, sharing of information on best practices, deepening of gender mainstreaming in DRR, transfer and exchange of technologies and lobbying for greater political action on coordination and prioritizing national risk

In reiterating his commitment, Collymore said, “We (CDEMA) share the vision of SOPAC on the need to work harder to protect communities from the potential dislocation from threats of all kinds especially those related to climate change.  To this end CDEMA is resolved to continuing and deepening its cooperation.” with the Pacific region”

Note: Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is located in Suva, Fiji Islands. The SOPAC Division’s work focuses on providing assistance to Members in three technical programme areas: Ocean and Islands, Water and Sanitation and Disaster Reduction.

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