NASSAU, The Bahamas, Dec 5, CMC – The 10th Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) has begun here with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis noting that small-island developing states in the region are at great risk of climate change.
The conference, which ends on Saturday, is being held under the theme ‘CDM: The Road to Resilience Check Point 2017 – Building Resilience through Partnerships’.
It is taking place as the region continues the rebuilding efforts following the end of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season that saw two category five storms – Irma and Maria – cause widespread destruction and death across the Lesser Antilles as well as the Bahamas.
Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin islands were among the islands hard4est hit after the hurricanes pounded the region with winds in excess of 200 miles per hour.
The five-day conference is being facilitated by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), and has attracted participation from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Islands and the Virgin Islands.
The conference is also being attended by observers from Latin America, the Pacific, and international partners.
In his address, Minnis told the delegates that small-island developing states in the region are at great risk of climate change, and “we must develop new mind sets and protocols in this era of super storms”.
He said the conference was taking place in the aftermath of several devastating storms which ploughed through the region this year, leaving massive destruction in their wake.
“Hurricanes Irma and Maria are hurricanes we will long remember. Sadly, the economic, environmental, social and psychological damage will remain for quite some time,” he said, adding that the hurricanes have also reminded the region “that we must act collectively as a region in response to such storms.
Minnis said that in the midst of such storms the urgency of addressing the mitigation of climate change is paramount.
“Various climate models suggest that damage from natural disasters have increased sharply. Such damage is likely to worsen, especially from flooding,” he said, warning that “tropical storms are likely to bring: higher wind speeds; more precipitation; and bigger storm surge in the coming decades.
“As a region, we must continue to press through CARICOM, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the United Nations and in other international forums, for the promised assistance from developing countries to help countries in our region to mitigate against the effects of climate change, overwhelmingly caused by developed countries,” Prime Minister Minnis added.
CDEMA executive director, Ronald Jackson, said that this year represented a key milestone for the CDM agenda and “sends a clear signal that the CDM community remains committed to the agenda despite the numerous challenges we have faced along the way.”
NEMA director, Captain Stephen Russell, said the conference is taking place “at a time when the region is recovering from major, catastrophic storms” that affected several Caribbean countries.
He said the conference stands as the keystone for the region’s thrust to building disaster resilient communities.
“This year, the theme, “CDM: The Road to Resilience Check Point 2017 — Building Resilience through Partnerships,” means we must be cognizant of the fact that as a region of Small Island Developing States we need the support of each other, especially during vulnerable times,” Russell said.
The conference will focus on several topics including the recommitment to regional integration for Disaster Risk Management and the CDM Agenda; institutional strengthening; national level experiences and perspectives and lessons learned from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.