Aim is to wean Caribbean nations from dependence on global donor aid
Miami — Caribbean countries especially hard-hit in recent years by hurricanes, tropical storms and severe flooding emphasize the need for a unified regional approach to deal with natural disasters and want to wean the region from its dependence on aid from the international community, a disaster-management specialist tells America.gov.
Luis Carpio, director of transport and natural disasters for the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) — a 28-nation group that fosters cooperation among the bodies responsible for disaster reduction policy, planning and response in the Caribbean region — elaborated on this topic in advance of the December 1-3 Miami Conference on the Caribbean and Central America.
Carpio said the regional approach is particularly important because “a more appalling tragedy elsewhere can always be counted upon to eclipse our misery and divert aid” from donors globally. The regional approach, he added, becomes “ever more imperative given the growing trend for one phenomenon to affect two or more of our countries” in the Caribbean simultaneously.
He said “it is only through this type of umbrella arrangement that the Greater Caribbean can harness the economies of scale necessary to take effective advantage of both the international cooperation mandated” by the United Nations “as well as the wealth of experience which is ripe for tapping in our region.”
The ACS, based in Trinidad and Tobago, provides a forum in which member nations can exchange experiences and share best practices for developing risk-reduction strategies.
Carpio is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion about disaster preparedness at the Miami conference. Caribbean-Central American Action, the Washington-based group that organizes the conference, says the Caribbean Basin is one of the most disaster-prone regions of the world, a factor that poses constant threats to regional stability.
ISSUES FOR SMALL DEVELOPING ISLAND STATES
Carpio said developing countries, especially small island states, “warrant particular attention” given their “pronounced vulnerability and risk levels, which often greatly exceed their capacity to prepare and respond to, as well as recover from, disasters.” He said that over the past several years, the “ferocity and frequency of natural phenomena affecting human settlements” in the Caribbean have increased, and loss of life and property has soared.
The United States and other nations involved in the Summit of the Americas process have expressed support for addressing the special concerns of small island states in the Caribbean and worldwide.
The Summit of the Americas' Plan of Action says that in addition to environmental vulnerability, threats to the security of these small states include illicit drug trafficking, the illegal trade in arms, increasing levels of crime and corruption, transport of nuclear waste and economic vulnerability, particularly in relation to trade, health threats such as HIV/AIDS and increased levels of poverty. (See “U.N. Meeting to Discuss Special Concerns of Caribbean Nations.”)
The State Department said in a May 2008 fact sheet that the fifth Summit of the Americas, scheduled for April 2009 in Trinidad and Tobago, will address a broad range of environmental sustainability issues, including natural disasters, water resource management, biodiversity protection and climate change. A “Draft Declaration of Commitment” for the 2009 summit says the countries of the Americas aim to share “early warning information on natural disasters, for disaster planning and preparedness, and for managing and coordinating response and relief programs following a disaster.”
The United States provided humanitarian relief funds to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica to help alleviate the effects of hurricanes and tropical storms that hit those Caribbean nations in August and September of 2008. (See “United States Aids Caribbean Victims of Natural Disasters.”)
CHALLENGES FOR CARIBBEAN ON NATURAL DISASTERS
The greatest disaster-related challenges facing the Caribbean, according to Carpio, involve the need to “generate effective policies for disaster risk reduction which take into account the adaptation of our communities to climate change.” He said establishing and strengthening early-warning detections against natural disasters also will need “consistent and effective investment regionally.”
Carpio pointed to the first conference for ACS nations on disaster reduction, held in November 2007 in Haiti, aimed at fostering better intraregional cooperation.
The conference produced a 27-point document to serve as a guide for the ACS on disaster risk reduction, he said. The document takes into account the five priorities adopted by a 2005 international conference, held in Japan, on a plan of action for disaster reduction. Those priorities include ensuring that nations make disaster risk reduction an important goal, identifying, assessing and monitoring disaster risks and enhancing early warning systems against such disasters.
At that Japan World Conference on Disaster Reduction, the United States discussed with international partners the development of a global warning system to provide alerts on multiple hazards, including tsunamis. The United States also discussed mitigating disaster risks due to climate variability, reducing earthquake risk and strengthening the role of the international community in preparing for drought, fire and disease.
More information about the ACS is available on the group’s Web site.
Additional information on the Summit of the Americas and the Summit Draft Declaration are on the Web site of the Summit of the Americas Information Network.