As part of its mandate, the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Response Agency (CDEMA) has worked with the islands of the Dutch-speaking Caribbean, providing them with assistance in the case of natural disasters and training the agencies responsible for disaster mitigation in those territories for quite some time now.
However, that collaborative effort is expected to grow in the future as the CDEMA signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands today.
Speaking during the signing ceremony which took place at CDEMA’s head office at Lower Estate in St Michael Business Development Officer with CDEMA Andria Grosvenor noted that, “For many years, whenever CDEMA held its regional conferences, we used to have one representative from St Maarten, a senior fire officer who was in charge of disaster management on the island. About seven years ago, representatives from the Kingdom of the Netherlands visited our offices, seeking to explore opportunities to develop a relationship, but a stronger relationship grew in the wake of the 2017 hurricane season. Based on that experience, we believe that now would be the best time to formalise that relationship.”
Prime Minister of St Maarten Leona Marlin-Romeo said her island was currently faring quite well in its recovery process following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.
“Hurricanes Irma and Maria, however cruel their lessons, taught us a lot. They tested our preparedness and disaster management systems as well as our resilience as a people and a country. Right now, St Maarten is doing all it can to ramp up its disaster management systems and functions and to rebuild our resilience, and through our partnership with CDEMA, we have found a trusted and professional regional agency to help us.”
She added that the MOU also meant agencies from the Netherlands would become more involved in the disaster relief process. “The Dutch Royal Navy, from its base in Curacao, has previously acted swiftly and with determination in the wake of natural disasters in the Caribbean, including the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and Hurricane Irma in 2017. With this MOU, the Kingdom of the Netherlands aims to further embed the Royal Dutch Navy and other assets at its disposal into the regional disaster coordination mechanism, enabling them to deliver the Kingdom’s assistance even faster and more effectively to any nation in the region where necessary.”
Executive Director of CDEMA Ronald Jackson said the events of 2017 “reaffirmed the urgent need for regional cooperation and coordination to optimise preparedness, relief and resilience. The MOU will broadly facilitate information exchange, development of disaster response capabilities though training in disaster management, building resilience and to foster a relationship between each party to respond in emergency situations when and wherever their capabilities and mandate allow.”
Also present at the signing ceremony were Canadian High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Marie Legault; Dr Godfrey Xuereb of the Pan American Health Organization representing the United Nations agencies in Barbados; a representative from the European Union, and Hein Knegt the Regional Envoy for the Caribbean from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands.
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