Message of the CDEMA Executive Director on the Commemoration of the Agency's 27th Anniversary

On September 9, 2018 the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is proud to be commemorating our 27th year of providing Disaster Response Services and support to the region in the areas of Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management including Disaster Response.  CDEMA, formerly the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) was created in 1991 as a specialized regional institution with a mandate to advance and deepen functional cooperation across

CARICOM Member Countries in Disaster Risk Management.  

Nine (9) years ago the transition from purely a disaster response focus commenced. Our transformation to provide expanded services in the area of disaster risk information and intelligence; strengthening national capacities in our 18 member countries to deal with disasters, including through the provision of model policies and tools; and planning, coordinating, measuring and evaluating a regional programme for Disaster Risk Resilience allowed us to fulfill the institutional vision that was framed for the Agency at the end of the 1980’s. 

In that regard, CDEMA has become the main broker of the Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy as the regional mechanism for advancing Resilience through the promotion of vulnerability and hazard risk reduction. The CDM Strategy is also widely accepted as a vehicle for the achievement of the objectives of the Global Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Resilience is the underpinning theme for the 2014-2024 CDM Strategy and reflects our growing understanding of the critical need to strengthen our individual and collective capacity to resist and recover from the impact of natural and man induced hazard.  CDEMA has over the past few years been pursuing and promoting a Regional Resilience Agenda and has remained in the forefront of the dialogue by articulating an Enhanced Resilience Pathway as a corollary to the 2014-2024 CDM Strategy. The proposed pathway focuses on actions to be advanced towards achieving: Social Protection for the Marginal and Most Vulnerable; Enhanced Economic Opportunities; Improved Environmental Protection; Safeguarded Infrastructure and Operational Readiness for Response and Recovery.

On this occasion, we are pleased to commemorate the fact that the Agency remains a unique and innovative mechanism created by the Caribbean people for Caribbean people. It also remains relevant today and for the future in light of the hazard and risk challenges the region faces and will continue to face given the realities of a changing climate. 

This past year, our response capacities were significantly tested as we grappled with the devastating onslaught and effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  As most of us are aware, these two weather systems collectively resulted in significant damage and losses in Dominica, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Fortunately, the total death toll in the CARICOM Member Countries was less than fifty (50) persons. While the death toll was low compared to other jurisdiction it was still too high if we hold the view that one death is one too many. Recovery efforts in these countries are still ongoing, and this with the support of our numerous committed corporate, diaspora, development partners from the Caribbean around the world.  We ourselves are proud of the fact that with their support we have been able to advance recovery projects in all of the islands supporting housing rehabilitation, school repairs, health facility repairs and short-term sustenance for the displaced. 

These events though challenging have provided some opportunities for improvement as we move forward.  The rebuilding efforts have provided an opportunity for building back better in the affected countries, inclusive of using better building techniques to improve hazard resistance and ensuring adherence of building codes.  The events have also fostered a greater awareness around the region about the possible impacts of natural hazards and the need for a higher level of preparedness amongst our communities. As a result, we are seeing greater acceptance of the need for integration of disaster risk reduction considerations in all aspects of development planning.  Further, this last year’s events have provided validation of the Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy and Framework promoted by CDEMA as the most appropriate vehicle for driving the strengthening of resilience in the region to disasters and climate change. 

I am heartened that there is also recognition of the ideal of resilience at the highest levels as demonstrated by the renewed commitment of the CARICOM Heads of Government to pursue a strategic approach to addressing the need to build the region’s resilience to disasters.  

It is fitting at this juncture for me, on behalf of CDEMA and the region, to acknowledge and convey our appreciation to our member states, regional agencies and development partners who have remained supportive and faithful on our journey and efforts towards strengthening the Disaster Risk Management Agenda in the Caribbean.  We are grateful also for their unwavering commitment towards working together to achieve the results of the CDM Strategy and Framework. I also want to thank the staff of CDEMA for their continued dedication and perseverance to provide excellent service to the region, under sometimes very challenging conditions.

In closing, I want to encourage us all as Caribbean people not to become complacent.  As we look at and listen to daily reports of hazard events that have necessitated emergency responses around the world, and even as we recall last year’s hurricane season in the region, it is clear that the dynamics of emergency events are constantly changing.  We all need to maintain a state of awareness and readiness at the level of our families, communities, countries and the region as a whole.

For our part, I want to assure you of the commitment of CDEMA to continue to pursue further innovation to build resilience the region and to provide even greater standards of service.

Thank you.