Opening Remarks by Elizabeth Riley Deputy Executive Director (Ag) CDEMA at Regional Consultation on the Review of Existing Disaster Management Legislation and Regulation and Adaptation

Good morning, it is a pleasure to deliver brief opening remarks at today’s Regional Consultation on behalf of the CDEMA Executive Director.

It is with particular pleasure that I welcome my colleague Ms Helena Stare, from the Delegation of the European Commission which have provided the financial resources for this work. I also wish to welcome the delegates representing the CDEMA Participating States, members of the Legislation Advisory Committee supporting this work, partners, CDEMA Coordinating Unit colleagues and the team from the Disaster Management Consortium of St. Kitts and Nevis who will be facilitating the workshop.  

Ladies and gentlemen, we in the CDEMA system have come a long way since the inception in 1991, of a designated regional agency to address the issue of disaster management - the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA).

One of the early priorities of CDERA was to support the strengthening of the national enabling environment for disaster management through addressing the then glaring gap of legislation. In this regard, in 1996, the Agency with the support of the then British Overseas Development Administration, engaged the Caribbean Law Institute Center of the Faculty of Law – University of the West Indies to develop the ‘Disaster Preparedness Model legislation’.

The value of this work is reflected in the fact that prior to the 1996 model, only one of the sixteen CDEMA Participating States, Jamaica, had enacted disaster management legislation - the Jamaican Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management Act, No. 42 of 1995. Subsequent to the development of the model, at least ten other CDEMA Participating States have utilized this document to pattern national legislation. In some instances, however the legislation has been drafted but not enacted.

We wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of the Caribbean Law Institute Center team led at the time by Professor Ralph Carnegie who undertook this pioneering task.  

The naming of the 1996 Model legislation, the ‘Disaster Preparedness Model legislation’ reflected the discourse of the times. Through the latter 1990’s and into the early 2000’s the realities of the Caribbean disaster risk experience necessitated a relook at our approach to the issue.  

From Hurricane David in 1979 to the drought of 2009/2010, three decades of repeated losses have resulted in damage to the estimated value of between US$700Million and 3.3 Billion dollars in direct and indirect costs from extreme weather events alone (IDB). These losses affected our productive sectors and livelihoods have brought us to the necessary position that managing disaster risk is a development issue and demands from us as technical specialists and policy makers the reflection of this position in our decision making, national policies, programmes and legislation.

Complicating the landscape is the phenomena of climate change and its potential implications for increasing both the frequency and intensity of the hydro-meteorological hazards with which we are all familiar.

There has also been an evolution in the hazards which need to be considered within the context of legislation. Our focus has expanded beyond the traditional natural hazards such as floods, drought, tropical cyclones, landslides, earthquakes and now embraces complex emergencies and trans-boundary threats. With this has also come a revisit of the institutional arrangements necessary to address them. In this context, national legislation becomes a pillar upon which advancing disaster risk management is dependent since it puts in place the necessary institutional frameworks and facilitates the shift towards greater accountability within our national systems.

The birth of the Caribbean brand of managing disaster risk came about in 2001 with the introduction of the Comprehensive Disaster Management or CDM concept. CDM challenges us to give consideration to all hazards, empower all sectors and build a culture of safety. The strategy which has been broadly embraced at the national level within the CDEMA Participating States and at the regional level through adoption at the level of the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development - COTED.

The formal mandate of the regional agency embraced a full reflection of the CDM philosophy in September 2009, some 18 years after the genesis of CDERA and with it came the transition to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). It is appropriate therefore, that the timing of revision of this legislation comes within the embryonic stages of CDEMA, operating under its expanded Comprehensive Disaster Management mandate (CDM).

The processes utilized in the 1996 and 2010 legislation initiatives however have key similarities. Firstly, they represent the desire of the CDEMA Coordinating Unit to be responsive to the needs of the Participating States within our system and secondly, it reflects broad stakeholder participation, which we at the CDEMA Coordinating Unit value as one of the underlying principles in the work that we do.

Today we have an ambitious agenda. In addition to undertaking a review of the amended document, we will also finalize criteria for identification of six Participating States who will be supported in the adaptation process and select those states, discuss the procedures for adaptation and share the schedule for finalization of the legislation.

Let me express appreciation to the Delegation of European Commission, who have provided the resources which enabled CDEMA to undertake this important work. Thanks are also extended to the United Nations Development Programme, ACP/EU Natural Disaster Facility of the European Commission, the Inter American Development Bank, Canadian International Development Agency and UK AID whose resources have ensured that two delegates from each of our Participating States have been invited to this meeting. It is notable that the United Kingdom is also supporting the CDEMA system in the model legislation process as was done 14 years ago.

The CDEMA CU also wishes to acknowledge the sterling contribution of the Office of the General Counsel of the CARICOM Secretariat, and the Work Programme Development and Review Sub-Committee of the CDEMA Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). This latter, as a new feature of our enhanced governance mechanism has tangibly demonstrated the value of a closer working relationship between the CDEMA CU and the Participating States in the area of programming. Please allow me to convey our thanks to the representative of the Virgin Islands who has provided very strong leadership of this group coming out of the TAC in May 2010.

In closing, let me urge you as participants to speak frankly and fully engage the consulting team from Disaster Management Consortium today. This is the opportunity to gain clarity as well as to make concrete recommendations on how the draft document can be enhanced.

We at the CDEMA Coordinating Unit are confident that this consultation’s outcomes will be positive and country centered.

I thank you.

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