Irma, Harvey, Maria and beyond: We need to talk about finance

Devastation in Dominica

Heavy-hitting and repeated cyclones in the Caribbean, intense and devastating flooding across South Asia – and this in just the last few weeks. Unabated, unmanaged disaster risk is wreaking havoc across our planet, killing, destroying and setting back progress.

A few months ago, not far away from where Harvey, Irma and Maria touched land, a key international conference took place in Cancun – the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which ended with a call for all countries to “systematically account for disaster losses by 2020”, a critical baseline to assess progress, challenges and opportunities ahead.

Several weeks earlier, Robert Glasser, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, blogged that “disasters – 90 percent of which are classed as climate-related – now cost the world economy US$520 billion per year and push 26 million people into poverty every year”.

Read more at: Zilient.org

Hurricane Irma damage in the British Virgin Islands
Hurricane Irma damage in the British Virgin Islands

Role of renewables, efficient energy, in focus as Community observes Energy Month in November

FLASHBACK: Energy Walk 2015
FLASHBACK: Energy Walk 2015

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) citizens will focus attention on the role of renewables and the importance of efficient energy use when they observe CARICOM Energy Month (CEM) next month.

CEM is a collaborative initiative to address the key energy issues and promoting cooperation based on the needs and common interest within the Community. It is a celebration of the significant strides that have been made within the Region in its transition to a sustainable energy pathway towards achieving long-term behavioural changes. This year marks the second time that the CEM will be observed.

The Month will be launched at the Quisqueya University, Port‑au‑Prince, Haiti, on 30 October, under the theme ‘Re-thinking Energy – Shaping a Resilient Community’.  The launch will take the form of a mini symposium and exhibition.

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All hands needed on deck for post-hurricane recovery – WB Meeting hears

Statement on High Level Meeting on Recovery and Resilience in the Caribbean

The participants highlighted the need for a response involving all partners, including regional organizations, development partners, private sector, national Governments and civil society, to leverage comparative advantages for building resilience to disasters in highly vulnerable small-island states, as extreme weather events have added to their existing economic vulnerabilities. The contribution of the private sector will also be critical, offering both resources and expertise.
Washington, October 13th, 2017– Leaders and representatives of CARICOM countries and territories, and international partners, including the international financial institutions, and the representatives of territories in the region, convened (Friday) in a high-level round table on recovery and resilience in the Caribbean hosted by the World Bank Group (WBG), as part of the WBG-IMF Annual Meetings.

During the discussion, participants examined the impact of and recovery from the destructive hurricanes that struck the Caribbean in September, reviewed the instruments available for disaster risk management and response, and considered the need to innovate further in order to address the long-term challenges and strengthen resilience of affected islands.

Participants expressed solidarity and support to the affected islands and communities, and reaffirmed their commitment to working together to build back better and in a more resilient way, following the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria. They highlighted the need to ensure active engagement of communities, especially women, in the recovery and reconstruction process, as well as the importance of putting in place building standards that will mitigate the impact of future extreme weather events. The participants also noted the importance of making progress on the World Bank’s Small States Roadmap which proposes various initiatives to promote resilience of small states. (more…)

Caribbean storms show urgency of rethinking aid for small island states

Aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, BVIs (Photo via OECS)
Aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, BVIs (Photo via OECS)

A series of devastating storms in the Caribbean has highlighted the vulnerability of small island states, where a single hurricane can undo years of development and plunge prosperous households into poverty from one day to the next.

Hurricane Irma turned 90 percent of homes on Barbuda to rubble and left financial losses of USD 100-200 million. Hurricane Maria has knocked out power to the entire US territory of Puerto Rico.

For most developed countries, a natural disaster triggers action from national governments to provide emergency relief and compensation – witness the recent emergency spending provided by the US Congress following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. But unlocking emergency funds is not always straightforward for small island developing states, not all of which have easy access to capital markets. Small island states often have high public debt ratios and insurance coverage among households and businesses can be limited.

Grenada is still paying the consequences of being hit successively in 2004 and 2005 by Hurricanes Ivan and Emily. Estimated losses amounted to 200 percent of gross domestic product, and Grenada is still in “debt distress” according to the International Monetary Fund. The Cook Islands are still subject to austerity measures under a 1998 debt restructuring agreement prompted by the reconstruction costs that followed Cyclone Martin two decades ago.

Read more at: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

Hurricanes can turn back the development clock by years

A street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after Hurricane Mathew.  (UN Photo/Logan Abassi)
A street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after Hurricane Mathew.
(UN Photo/Logan Abassi)

The everyday names of Hurricanes like Irma belie their unprecedented fury and ability to claim not just human lives, homes, bridges and roads. The silent and barely visible victim of these extreme weather events is, increasingly, human and social development.

World Bank studies indicate that some 26 million people – the equivalent of the combined population of Chile and Bolivia – fall into poverty each year due to natural disasters.

No one can stop a hurricane or earthquake, but there are ways to minimize their impacts, as disaster risk management expert Joaquin Toro explains in the following interview.

Read more at: World Bank