Commonwealth SIDS & Climate Change; Who are the “Stakeholders”……

#SIDS #ClimateChange    “Policy Brief”

Key Terms; SIDS: Small Island Developing States, PAHO: Pan American Health Organisation, WHO: World Health Organisation, CCS: Commonwealth Caribbean States, SVG: St Vincent and the Grenadines, UNISDR: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction reports, ECLACs: Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean

Executive Summary

National disasters is an inevitable “thorn” that causes a catastrophic amount of damages in any state or region. Furthermore, it stymies any chance for economic growth within a state and makes it even more difficult for developing states to improve their livelihoods. For instances, “more than 2.7 billion people were affected and more than $1.3 Trillion were lost between the years of 2000 and 2011 due to natural disasters”[1]. However, there are ways in which government, insurance and community can mitigate the effects caused by natural disasters. For instance, Governments can improve natural disaster warning systems, review government policies, private sector can provide affordable risk insurance and improve disaster awareness in the community.

However, the severe damages ensued in the wake of natural disasters was evidently clear by UNISDR statistics, but, only highlights the impacts at the global level. Albeit factual, it does not necessarily highlight the impacts on Commonwealth Caribbean States (CCS). Thus, for this “policy briefing” I will be focusing on “CCS” vulnerabilities to natural disasters. Commonwealth Caribbean States have a number of “vulnerabilities” such as; lack of diversification, openness, market size and geographical location. Also, in the Commonwealth Caribbean States “exogenous shocks are becoming an almost annual occurrence” as stated by Minister of Foreign Affairs, SVG, Camillo Gonsalves in reference to Minister Peter Phillips at the annual ECLACs conference 2014[2]. Also, Min. Gonsalves stated in reference to Minister Peter Phillips, “that the average occurrence in Jamaica is every other year they experience a “climate shock”[3]. So in other words, the vulnerability of Commonwealth Caribbean states are severely impacted by the burgeoning events of natural disasters and or “climate shocks”.

Take for instance; “CCS” geographical location makes them vulnerable to “climate shocks” amid they are at the forefront of global warming. To support this, St Vincent and the Grenadines in the last 4 years had the following; a drought causing 11% damage to GDP mainly to agriculture, Hurricane Thomas 13% damage to GDP, December 2013 Flood result in 10% damage to GDP and most recent flood estimated at 17% damage to GDP[4]. Thus, such major hits to GDP ensued by “climate shocks” are not trivial concerns amid “the regions annual growth have been either “flat or negative”, while getting double-digit hits to GDP” ensued by natural disasters[5].

Government Role; There are many vulnerabilities to Commonwealth Caribbean states. For example, St Vincent suffer from the vulnerabilities of openness, small size and lack of diversification amid limited natural resources. In addition to that, St Vincent is unable to access sufficient financing due to its “middle income state status”. While, St Vincent vulnerabilities are further exacerbated by “climate shocks”. Climate shocks make it more difficult for governments of “CCS” to maintain economic stability and improve the social welfare of their state. Because they have to allocate funds to clean up the effects caused by unexpected and severe natural disasters. Although, the occurrence of natural disasters can’t be prevented, the impacts however, can be mitigated. Governments can put in place policies and sophisticated warning systems that are “proactive” rather than “responsive”. Case in point, the trough storm on December 24, 2013 affected “more than 30,000 people in St Vincent and St Lucia”[6] and resulted in a “15% ($108 million) damage to St Vincent GDP mostly in agriculture”[7]. The point is to highlight, as Commonwealth Caribbean states there is real need to review government’s policies on “disaster risk management”.

Recommendation; Governments of the Commonwealth Caribbean states can create policies that requires all homes in disaster prone areas to be analysed and established a “safe-housing” program, similar to the “safe-school” program in Columbia[8]. Moreover, set up “task force” specifically to dismantle houses constructed illegally on disaster prone areas (banks & near rivers). Also, government make use of “Geo-space” information to make risk management investments[9]. Thus, in the case of a “climate shock” it does not infringe on government’s committed role to reduce poverty in its state.

Insurance roles; a major problem that haunts most if not all Commonwealth Caribbean states is their “indebtedness”. Commonwealth Caribbean states burgeoning debts stymies government’s social policies aim at providing and or maintaining that “safety net” for the most vulnerable population (Indigent). Because of “CCS” mounting debts they are unable to effectively assist victims of “natural disasters”. In addition, the most vulnerable population in most cases can’t afford to build houses that can withstand the devastating impacts of natural disasters and are unable to afford disaster risk insurance. For example, in the aftermath of the December 24, 2013 “trough Storm” in SVG, the government was entrusted with the responsibility to provide shelters and rebuild homes for victims h lost their home. Although, the government response to assisting the people of SVG in the aftermath of the “trough storm” was hailed for its benevolent actions, some may argue that government’s role should be limited amid envisage burgeoning political corruption. Thus, insurance companies must play a more active role separate from governments in providing affordable insurance, especially for people who live in disaster prone areas.

Recommendation; Insurance companies can take a more proactive approach rather than being responsive to natural disaster impacts. For instance, insurance companies can have readily evacuation vehicles in the more disaster prone areas to evacuate people before the impact of a natural disaster. Also, insurance companies can offer affordable insurance packages to “Farmers” to cover losses as a result of a natural disaster. Similar, to Mexico’s agricultural insurance system known as “mutual insurance funds” (Fondos de Aseguramiento)[10].

Community roles; In most Commonwealth Caribbean states political culture, political leaders have a proclivity to view the community as “trivial” to decision-making of matters concerning their own well-being, until election time of course. Ironically, CCS are known for their sense of “togetherness” embedded in their culture and community togetherness is important for resilience building amid community are the “first responders” in the wake of natural disasters. Moreover, Government’s and insurance companies do not always have the monetary capacity, manpower and take long to respond to community needs. Especially, the fact that communities are at the forefront of the impacts ensued by natural disasters, a sense of community “togetherness” is significant in starting the rebuilding process of the community. For instance, in the wake of a natural disaster that have destroyed homes and shops in a community and leaving them expose can embolden “looting”, increase crime/violence and due to lack of resources and bureaucracy, victims are left “out in the cold” waiting on assistance. For example, Jamaica suffered at the hands of one of the most powerful hurricane in 1988 and thousands were left “still waiting” on supplies[11]. Hence, in the aftermath of a natural disaster “community togetherness” is imperative in helping those most in need and for victims of natural disasters to be resilient.

Recommendation; Community can practice preventative methods by engaging in “environmental cleanliness” such as;  proper waste management and stop dumping garbage in the streets or on the road sides. Because these garbage blocks up drains and exacerbate floods ensued by torrential rains and they also become weapons in times of hurricanes. Moreover, the community can pay into a monthly disaster funding program that can be readily accessible and use to buy basic necessities (bottle water, food etc.) for victims most in need amid government and insurance companies lethargic response to assist victims.

In closing, Governments, insurance companies and the community are all important stakeholders in reducing the social and economic impacts ensued by natural disasters. Commonwealth Caribbean states vulnerabilities are prone to all range of natural disasters that varies state by state. For instance, Jamaica is more prone to “earthquakes” amid their deforestation problem [12] as oppose to St Vincent and the Grenadines more prone to “flooding” which severely destroys agriculture in its wake. Thus, Government and insurance companies must remain committed to building resilience through climate change adaption, investing in disaster risk management, provide affordable insurance to stakeholders and encourage community involvement.

– Emmanuel Quashie

Reference:

[1] UNISDR (2014). The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction [online]. Available: http://www.unisdr.org/who-we-are/what-is-drr

[2] Minister of Foreign Affairs et al, St Vincent & the Grenadines (2014). Minister Camillo Gonsalves addressing ECLAC’s Third Meeting of the Caribbean Development Roundtable on the subject of “Articulating the Essential Elements of a Caribbean SIDS Response to Development Challenges” [online]. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngjFShx4VPg

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Minister of Foreign Affairs et al, St Vincent & the Grenadines (2014). Minister Camillo Gonsalves addressing ECLAC’s Third Meeting of the Caribbean Development Round-table on the subject of “Articulating the Essential Elements of a Caribbean SIDS Response to Development Challenges” [online]. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngjFShx4VPg

[6] The World Bank, (2014). Eastern Caribbean Islands Rebuilding from Flash Floods [online]. Available: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/03/21/eastern-caribbean-islands-rebuilding-from-flash-floods

[7] Ibid

[8] The World Bank, (2014). Ecuador: United against disasters in Latin America [0nline]. Available: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/06/10/ecuador-unidos-contra-los-desastres-en-latinoamerica-reduccion-riesgo-desastres

[9] Ibid

[10] C. Ribeiro, (2014). Insurance Funds in Mexico [online]. Available: http://www.swissre.com/latin_america/insurance_funds_mexico.html

[11] J.B Treaster, (1988). Jamaica Reviving after Hurricane but Food Shortages Are Predicted [online]. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/20/world/jamaica-reviving-after-hurricane-but-food-shortages-are-predicted.html

[12] World Health Organization, (2012). Caribbean Hazard Assessment Mitigation and Preparedness [online]. Available:  http://www.champ.gatech.edu/node/1857

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