CARICOM support for hurricane devastated island continues

Steering Committee meeting
Representatives of Member States and Institutions participate online

Following on from the successful staging of the CARICOM-UN High Level Pledging Conference at UN Headquarters in New York on 21 November 2017, the Steering Committee has continued to meet with renewed focus on translating pledges into concrete programmes and initiatives.

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CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque (2nd left) and other CARICOM Secretariat Officials at the meeting

The Steering Committee, comprising representatives of the CARICOM Secretariat, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Regional Institutions and CARICOM Member States including those devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria, held its most recent meeting on Tuesday 9 January 2018. The Committee is examining the option of a follow-up meeting to the Pledging Conference to map out actions  to meet the objective of building a more climate resilient Community.

The Pledging Conference mobilized a broad partnership to support the rebuilding effort including through US1.3 billion in pledges and over US1 billion in loans and debt relief. This support came from nearly 400 high-level representatives from governments, multilateral and civil society organisations and businesses.

Irma and Maria – two category five hurricanes, hit the region during a two week period in September, decimating decades of development gains in Dominica, Barbuda – the sister island of Antigua, the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla.  The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis and Haiti also suffered damage.  Other Caribbean Islands, notably St. Maarten, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominica Republic were also significantly impacted.

Caribbean felt full brunt of climate change in 2017

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Dominica hurricane

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados,  CMC – In 2017, the Caribbean felt the full brunt of climate change with a warning that current trends indicate that there will be no respite.

Within a two-week period, Hurricanes Irma and Maria brought home the reality of the impact of climate change as they churned their way across the Lesser Antilles destroying everything in their paths. Hurricane Harvey had in August set the stage for what was to come; with devastation in Houston, Texas, amounting to nearly US$200billion.

“The unprecedented nature of this climatic event highlights the unusual nature of weather patterns that continue to affect nations across the globe,” the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said in a message to United States President Donald Trump, as Harvey made landfall in the United States after whipping up strong winds and heavy rains in the Caribbean.

It took less than a month for his statement to bear fruit. Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two Category 5 storms left so many Caribbean islands devastated in September that the CARICOM Chairman and Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said “there can be no question that for us in the Caribbean, climate change is an existential threat”. (more…)

2017 In Photos

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As 2017 ends and we usher in 2018, we take a look back at a challenging year, but one in which CARICOM showed its formidable strength and resilience.

Here are some highlights:


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CARICOM records noteworthy successes in 2017 despite challenges

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Secretary-General at the CARICOM-UN High Level Conference with the UN SG Antonio Guterres and Head of UNDP Achim Steiner
CARICOM Secretary-General Amb. Irwin LaRocque (l) at the CARICOM-UN High Level Conference with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (r) and Head of UNDP Achim Steiner

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The more than US$2B pledged at the CARICOM-UN Conference for long-term recovery for hurricane-affected countries and the establishment of the regional renewable energy center are among the successes CARICOM recorded for 2017 in spite of the year’s challenges.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque said in his End of Year Message that the Community was ending 2017 with several other noteworthy achievements, including a change in posture by International Financial Institutions and some Development Partners with respect to access to concessionary development financing.

“It is encouraging to note that our relentless advocacy with respect to the lack of access to concessional development financing appears to be bearing fruit. There is some re-thinking on this issue taking place at the level of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and some of our international development partners (IDPs),” the Secretary-General stated.

Adding that CARICOM will continue to advocate for this change he said the Region’s vulnerability to external shocks, which the hurricanes laid bare, emphasised the urgent need for the international community to dispense with GDP per capita as a primary criterion for access to concessional development financing. (more…)

How a custom Microsoft app is helping the Caribbean rebuild after hurricanes

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Workers gather data using the Microsoft Building Damage Assessment app in Barbuda. The island was home to 1,600 people, all of whom were evacuated after Hurricane Irma. (United Nations Development Program Photo)
Workers gather data using the Microsoft Building Damage Assessment app in Barbuda. The island was home to 1,600 people, all of whom were evacuated after Hurricane Irma. (United Nations Development Program Photo)

CODRINGTON, Barbuda — Last month at a United Nations donor conference, the international community pledged $1.3 billion to rebuild the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean. But how did they know how much the region, which was hit with back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes in September, needs to recover? In part thanks to a new app and software bundle from Microsoft, developed in collaboration with U.N. relief workers.

The prosaically named Building Damage Assessment app turned out to play a vital role in assessing the devastation of Barbuda and Dominica, two islands that faced the full force of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, respectively. Optimised for tablet, the Building Damage Assessment allows volunteers in the field with minimal training to quickly input data about structural damage through a series of drop-down questions, and collect photographs for visual evidence. The data is stored offline and then uploaded via the cloud when the tablet gets back in mobile data or wi-fi range. Professionals, meanwhile, can analyze the data using Microsoft Power BI to tabulate the total amount of damage and detect trends, like certain types of building materials that were more prone to collapse.

The results have impressed even seasoned post-disaster professionals like Ugo Blanco of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). “It’s going to change the way assessments have been done,” he said. “It can be deployed any time, anywhere. In a few days, we can have the teams in any country in the world.”

Read more at: GeekWire