The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) closed its meeting of its Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) held in Belize City. At a press briefing held after the conclusion of the meeting, executive director Ronald Jackson outlined the key points of the 5 year strategic direction plan approved at the meeting and which is now to be sent up to the meeting of the Council of Ministers on emergency management for approval:
Ronald Jackson – Executive Director CDEMA:
The documents that were observed, endorsed, reviewed, and commented on really focused on a number of areas, including the capacity strengthening of countries, noting that countries are the ones that are impacted. They are the first line of response and so one of the things we are doing at CDERA is mobilizing resources towards improving the capacity of our offices, of our NEMOs, of our National Disaster organizations as they are called in different countries to be able to deal with that first line of response. It looked at also of building capacity for response. [Referring to] the hurricane season; strategically we are looking at how we are going to be supporting at country level, but also the regional level, to mobilize the kind of support external of countries who are impacted, if they call on CDERA. It looked at the whole area of resource mobilization in this time of fiscal tightening and resource shortages. We have to look at how we’re going to be trying to advance the program of work of our countries and our regional organizations through donor support, through private sector support, and really packaging these skills and capacity, the tools that we have for harnessing additional resources.
Chairing the meeting was Belize’s national emergency management (NEMO) minister Godwin Hulse. Senator Hulse said that despite the always crippling constraints caused by reduced funding in an economically stressful time, CDEMA has been and continues to be there for Belize:
Hon Godwin Hulse – Minister of NEMO:
We are not out on our own in the true sense of the word. We’re connected to the region. We get a lot of support from CDEMA. we get technical support, training. We get some financial support as well, so that we can deliver when there is an emergency like this. [For example] a storm coming through, we’re able to mobilize people and all of that. CDEMA has helped us with draft legislation, which we can then take to the national Assembly,and that legislation is harmonized. So basically it’s coming across the region. They help us with warehousing, designs, facilities, how we work that. they help us with training with our people, all the elements that are relevant. What is important about it is that in a disaster, if we ever call on our partners in the Caribbean, everybody knows what to do, because everybody has basically the same training, the same layout, the same setting. so we don’t have to be fumbling and getting in each other’s way.
And the Senator, looking ahead to the upcoming hurricane season, stressed the importance of national cooperation:
Hon Godwin Hulse – Minister of NEMO:
In Belize we do a lot of planning. We have to be pretty much always ready, because they don’t give much warning, 4 / 5 days, to anyone, but it’s still not enough to be able to do everything, and then you don’t want to miss steps as well, because to miss steps in Belize, and I’m sure in the other Caribbean islands, leads to tremendous criticism. You yourselves and some of you in the media reported during the last storm that some we’re saying Minister Hulse close too early. Well I was prepared not to err on the side of caution, ’cause it’s not err. I am prepared to be safe that sorry.
So that is part of our planning.
Other issues discussed include the integration of climate change and gender into the disaster planning and how planning, finance and environment can be given greater prominence in the process of disaster management. The intermediate CDEMA meeting takes place in Suriname in May with the meeting of Council of Ministers to follow