Virgin Islands (UK) Premier welcomes name change for regional disaster agency

Tortola, Virgin Islands (UK), September 1, 2009 (GIS) – Premier Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE has welcomed the change in name for the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) which became effective today, September 1.

The change has been long in coming and according to a CDEMA Press Release, it “represents the concretization of an organizational transition and strategic shift in focus from disaster preparedness and response to comprehensive disaster management.”

The transition is primarily reflected in “the organization’s structure and mandate which has been widened to include the adoption of disaster loss reduction and mitigation policies and practices, at the national and regional level and cooperative arrangements and mechanisms to facilitate the development of a culture of disaster loss reduction.”

A change in the governance of the organisation will accompany its new mandate. CDEMA will now be governed by a council comprised of the leaders of participating states or their assigned representatives. In addition, a Management Committee of Council will be established.

Honourable O’Neal said “disaster management in the BVI has evolved over the years, we started with preparedness for hurricanes only and now we are prepared to deal with other disasters like earthquakes and oil spills. Similarly, the new mandate and governance structure for CDEMA means that the agency is responding to the changing needs of the Caribbean with regard to disaster management.”

“We have to keep improving our disaster management and prevention as much as possible,” the Premier added as he reiterated the BVI’s commitment to work with CDEMA in its disaster management efforts.

“The BVI is very much prepared to work with CDEMA and help them to continue the good work that has been going on for some years and the BVI looks forward to participating fully,” Honourable O’Neal stated.

“We realise that an ounce of precaution is better than a ton of cure and you would realise that the Caribbean has lost a lot economically when territories have to repair the damage caused by hurricanes. So we will continue to support CDEMA and look to them for advice in the case of any disaster,” he said.

The Premier also expressed great confidence in the management of CDEMA. “I have great regard for the work Mr. Jeremy Collymore has done in his role as Executive Director. I am sure he will keep up the good work and make sure the organisation is very much alert and alive to what is going on in the field of disaster management.”

CDEMA’s Executive Director, Mr. Jeremy Collymore has also welcomed the name change saying it indicates the readiness of participating states like the Virgin Islands to “embrace policy, systems and programmes that are appropriate for the rapidly changing risks to their development arising from the changing magnitude, frequency and costs of hazard impacts, the onset of climate change and other trans-boundary threats like pandemics.”

The Barbados-based CDERA was established by CARICOM in 1991 as an inter-governmental agency responsible for disaster management. Now replaced by CDEMA, the agency will “fully embrace principles and practice of Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) which is an integrated and proactive approach to disaster management. CDM seeks to reduce the risk and loss associated with natural and technological hazards and the effects of climate change to enhance regional sustainable development.” The BVI is one of 18 participating states in CDEMA.

Philomena Robertson
Information Officer II
Premier’s Office
Telephone: 468-3701 ext. 2076
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