PHILIPSBURG, St Maarten – Caribbean disaster experts meeting here for an annual conference on comprehensive disaster management have been told to delve deeper into disaster financing in a bid to cushion the shock from hazards.
Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson suggested greater disaster risk reduction mechanisms to build resilience as he addressed the 11th Comprehensive Disaster Management conference under the theme: The Road to Resilience: Safeguarding our Communities, Livelihoods, and Economies.
Calling on Caribbean governments to examine the concept of disaster financing before an event, he suggested this could be achieved by combining self-insurance, which would involve building fiscal buffers or contingency funds; risk transfer arrangements, such as catastrophe insurance or capital market options, including issuing catastrophe bonds or participating in regional risk-sharing solutions; and contingency financing.
The Minister painted a picture of staggering loss in the last seven decades of impact from earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and other disasters: Between 1950 and 2016, the Caribbean was hit by 324 natural disasters, during which approximately 250,000 people died, and more than 24 million were affected through injury or loss of homes.
Hinkson added: “The economic impact of natural disasters in our region has been huge, exceeding US$22 billion over the period 1950 to 2016, according to the IMF.
“Natural disasters have ten times a greater adverse impact on the people in small states when compared to those of larger states.”
In the aftermath of the devastating impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, CARICOM leaders requested that the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) further define resilience through a CARICOM lens.
As a result, the Caribbean Resilience Framework was adopted by the heads of government in July 2018. The framework identifies five resilience pillars: Social Protection for the Marginal and Most Vulnerable; Safeguarding Infrastructure; Enhancing Economic Opportunity; Environmental Protection; and Operational Readiness and Recovery.
“The resilience pathway provides a means of directing national and international investments towards building the resilience of our Caribbean nations,” Hinkson declared.
He stressed that building resilience was not an option for Caribbean countries, which were vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Reducing risk and preparing as thoroughly as is possible for a natural disaster, can be more effective than responding after the disaster strikes,” he said.
The Home Affairs Minister explained that the resilience mechanisms could include establishing risk maps for high-risk areas; organizing information campaigns to raise awareness; establishing early warning systems; implementing targeted public infrastructural projects; and enforcing land use and zone rules, building codes and retrofitting requirements to reduce exposure to disaster damage.