Official address in observance of International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2021

Fellow Citizens & Residents of St. Kitts & Nevis:

Our Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis today joins other United Nations (UN) Member States in observing the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR) which, this year, is being held under the theme #OnlyTogether and the sub-theme #DRRday. Of course, this year’s observance of International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction maintains the over-arching aim of the UN in promoting a global culture of disaster risk reduction through collective action that is designed to save our planet. Such a combination of effort is manifested in advocacy and adoption of best practices that positively impact the lives of persons living in disaster-prone areas of the world by (a) reducing the number of such persons who are affected by natural and man-made hazards; and (b) lessening the economic losses due to disasters.

It should be noted that this 2021 observance of IDDRR is happening at a time when the G20 nations must urgently extend a meaningful hand of international cooperation and funding to developing countries who must establish sustainable climate change adaptation priorities that will reduce risk and build resilience, especially since it is these same 1st World countries that account for about 80% of greenhouse gas emissions that directly contribute to global warming, rising sea-levels, droughts and floods.1 It is also worthy of note that the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is taking place just a few weeks before COP262, the UN’s Climate Change Conference that is charged with delivering increased levels of commitment to effect a marked reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and support climate change adaptation across the globe.

Since its inception in 1989, observances of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction have been organised in an effort to achieve two core objectives:
To create a global culture of risk awareness and disaster reduction; &

To celebrate the ways in which global communities and individuals are
reducing their exposure to disasters; and (b) raising awareness of the importance of controlling risks that are being faced by these same communities and individuals.

1 The cost of such climate change adaptation strategies to developing countries is estimated at US$70 billion but could easily reach up to $300 billion by 2030 and $500 billion by 2050, according the UN Adaptation Report that was published in January 2021.

2 COP26 will be held in Glasgow, Scotland from October 21-November 12, 2021, in partnership with Italy.

The international observance of IDDRR is also intended to assess the progress being made to reduce disaster risk, loss of lives, livelihoods and health. This assessment is being done in keeping with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction that was adopted by the UN at the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction that was held in Sendai, Japan in 2015. Essentially, the Sendai Framework is intended to guide disaster risk reduction programming until 2030 – and calls for a people- centric and action-oriented approach to disaster risk management, regardless of the relative sizes of disasters, whether they are natural hazards or have been caused by man-made, environmental, biological or technological actions.

Our National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) wishes to reassure the general public that the annual work programme of the Agency is guided, in large measure, by the Sendai Framework which is comprised of some seven (7) global targets – lettered (a) through (g) – and four (4) priorities for action, in order to reduce existing disaster risks and prevent new ones. These seven targets – which are to be assessed based on the reduction in disaster-related losses – are intended to be met during the years 2016-2022. However, for this year 2021, Target (f) calls for UN Member countries to “substantially enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of the present Framework by 2030”.

As was the case with the other five (5) targets tackled between 2016 and 2020, Target (f) is intended to be met by adherence to the following four (4) priorities:
Understanding disaster risk;

Investing in disaster reduction for resilience;

Strengthening disaster risk governance in order to manage the said risk; and

Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The UN has set some eight (8) indicators by which success in attaining Sendai Framework Target (f) can be measured. Some of these indicators are:
Total official international support (ODA) for national disaster risk reduction actions provided bilaterally and from multilateral agencies; – an example of this indicator is the donation of the two, new field hospitals by the Government and people of the USA – which were handed over earlier today. This donation is a major contribution to health risks’ reduction as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its potential, negative impact upon the Country’s institutional health care infrastructure;
Total official international support (ODA) for (i) transfer and exchange of disaster risk reduction-related technology; and (ii) disaster risk reduction capacity-building in developing countries; and

Number of developing countries supported by international, regional and bilateral initiatives to strengthen their disaster risk reduction-related statistical capacity.
It should be noted that these targets and priorities of the Sendai Framework are expected to be met within the next 9 years – the same time by which UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should come to fruition.

NEMA has decided to observe the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2021 via a week of activities designed to sensitize the public to the work of the Agency, its role in disaster mitigation, and the imperative for community and citizens’ engagement insofar as disaster risk reduction is concerned. This week-long public awareness campaign would have started on Friday, October 8th with the launch of a Scavenger Hunt dubbed “Finding NEMA”. This was followed on Monday, October 11th by an innovative, virtual “Service of Guidance and Renewal” that was streamed live on YouTube from NEMA’s headquarters at Lime Kiln, Basseterre, in order to keep in line with Covid-19 protocols. Other activities planned for the Week include the following:
Wednesday, October 13th – Official Address by the Co-Chair of the Disaster Mitigation Council, Hon Wendy Phipps, on the occasion of International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction;
Thursday, October 14th – Launch of a NEMA Staff Video; and

Friday, October 15th – NEMA Staff Retreat;

All of these activities are meant to strengthen the capacity of NEMA’s staff; reinforce partnerships and collaboration with national stakeholders such as NEMA’s District Groups, other critical state agencies such as the Ministry of National Security’s Fire and Rescue Department, emergency support agencies such as the Ministry of Health, and non-governmental agency (NGO) partners such as the Red Cross. The management and staff of NEMA wish to use this special occasion to say a sincere “Thank You” to every one of its partners and stakeholders, along with our citizens and residents who remain steadfast in their partnership with the Agency as it executes its mandate of disaster risk reduction that is meant to save lives and reduce losses due to man-made disasters and natural hazards.

The Federal Cabinet commends the management and staff of NEMA for their tireless efforts to help keep the people of St. Kitts and Nevis well informed and safe, insofar as disaster mitigation and risk reduction are concerned. The Cabinet does not take this commendation for granted, particularly when one considers the inordinately high demands that have been placed on the tiny staff complement at NEMA: exceptionally heavy demands have been placed on the small human resource base of NEMA as a result of the sustained and unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – for which the Agency has had to play a pivotal leadership role over the past 19 months. On behalf of the Federal Cabinet, and the Co-Chair of the Disaster Mitigation Council, the Hon Vincent Byron, I take pleasure in congratulating the National Disaster Coordinator, Mr Abdias Samuel and the rest of NEMA’s staff for their yeoman service to our Country during these difficult and challenging times. I extend best wishes to the Agency for the continued, successful staging of the week of activities designed to observe the 2021 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction which is being observed under the theme #OnlyTogether.

Thank you for your attention.

Featured Image – Hon. Wendy Phipps

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