Building Resilience and Saving Lives: A Conversation with Elizabeth Riley, CDEMA Executive Director

Ms. Elizabeth Riley (Photo via CDEMA)
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(Smith Warner International) For Elizabeth Riley, Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Atlantic hurricane season can be an especially busy time. The agency coordinates and provides disaster response and relief and encourages risk reduction efforts. This year, in addition to providing aid during the pandemic and after storms and flooding in the region, CDEMA has helped victims of the La Soufrière volcano eruption in St Vincent and the major earthquake in Haiti.  Our conversation in mid-September focused on issues affecting Caribbean coasts, from the difficulties of modelling the interactions when complex coastal processes are at work… to making weather forecasts clear to the public at risk… to the effects of climate change.

Ms. Riley has spent two decades at CDEMA, which has 19 partner states, and has taken a leadership role in coordinating responses to every major regional disaster since 2004. She was named Executive Director in June of this year. Two of the stalwart tools Ms Riley clearly favours in her work are strong communication and collaboration. “One of the things CDEMA works on is horizontal cooperation. It’s one of our principles,” she explains.

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