Barbados is among several Caribbean countries that have failed to adopt model disaster management legislation recommended by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to help better manage hazards.
The Model Comprehensive Disaster Legislation, which dates back to 2010, would regulate a coordinated disaster management plan for the region.
Jamaica is the only country to have adopted the legislation, CDEMA’s Executive Director Ronald Jackson said today after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between his agency and the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD) at CDEMA’s Lower Estate, St Michael headquarters today.
The proposed legislation, which was amended in 2013, outlines the rights and obligations of the participating states, and speaks to the reform of existing laws relating to disaster management to better reflect the goals and principles of comprehensive disaster management and international disaster risk management best practices.
Jackson contended that the absence of firm legislative guidelines to drive the coordinated disaster management effort had given rise to several challenges.
“What we would recognize is that some of the challenges we are facing in terms of the impact of hazards on our respective environments is based solely on a failure to address some of the underlying issues. Whether they are issues related to affordability, development planning issues or social policy related issues, we realize that a part of dealing with these issues is within the realm of law, some of which are centrally located in the disaster management legislation,” he stressed.
To press home his point, Jackson gave the examples of relief persons, search and rescue dogs, as well as the transportation of arms for military support, needing provisional security protocols other than the conventional clearances of the impacted jurisdiction.
“There is wide range which we have to look at which is located within the disaster management legislation. The issue of evacuation, which is a matter of great debate in several of the member states, is treated in the legislation and provided a platform for the states to consider how they should be treating with this particular matter. [For example], what is mandatory evacuation and how is it treated within the context of the state? That’s all wrapped up within the context of disaster legislation.
“The issue of financing, we are talking about insurance versus national catastrophe fund and how that is to be legally entrenched. So those are very critical issues,” he added.
Jackson said while Barbados was among nine countries which had considered enacting the legislations, much of the process was buried under the parliamentary process.
“I can’t say where each country is in the process. I know that they [Barbados] are in the nine considering the law,” said Jackson, who added that the British Virgin Islands was closest among them to enacting the recommended law.
The disaster management official was of the opinion that in order for more urgency to be paid to the issue of disaster legislation, there must first be a change in the cultural approach to disaster management in the region.
“I am going to be very frank here. I think that across the region the issue of disaster risk management is not enough of a priority, not at the level of the population itself, because that then translates into how governments prioritize the issue. Therefore, there is the understanding that there needs to be some action.
“One of the things that we have to look at, and I am going to be one of the first persons to say that laws are important but they mean nothing if you only have the laws and there is no implementation, enforcement and monitoring that is going to be a very important part. So even the one state that has implemented new disaster management legislation still needs to focus on the monitoring of that legislation,” Jackson said.