Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project
Implemented by the Organization of American States
Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment
for the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Caribbean Regional Program


Final Evaluation of the
Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project (CDMP):
Executive Summary

Note: The final evaluation was carried out by a team of independent consultants contracted by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance of the U.S. Agency for International Development, during the period of February through July, 1999. The team visited nearly all countries where the CDMP was active, and interviewed representatives of government agencies and private sector interests that were involved in the project.

1.1 How This Report is Structured

The evaluation begins in this section, the Executive Summary, with a brief description of the project and then presents the evaluation team’s major conclusions and recommendations. Section 2 provides a more complete discussion of the context in which the Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project (CDMP) has been carried out, along with details of the project’s budget, management issues, the team’s methodology, the purpose of the evaluation and the relationship between CDMP and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance’s (OFDA) overall strategy. In section 3, the team presents a detailed review of the nine separate subject areas it was asked to examine. Section 4 takes a brief look at the disaster management and mitigation situation in each of the countries which the team visited. The Annexes contain the team’s scope of work, list of contacts, responses to questions that the scope of work specifically posed, and the detailed results frameworks of the CDMP and OFDA.

1.2 Background of Program

Over the past two decades the Caribbean region has experienced a dramatic upsurge in the level of destruction caused by hurricanes, tropical storms, flood events and volcanic eruptions.

As a result, and based on the increasing importance accorded disaster preparedness and mitigation in the region in the 80s, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Offices of Foreign Disaster Assistance and Regional Housing and Urban Development Office for the Caribbean (RUDO), in conjunction with the Organization of American States (OAS) formulated the Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project. The OAS was selected as the project implementation agency.

In September 1993, the OAS and USAID signed a $5 million, OFDA funded, Cooperative Agreement to provide technical assistance for disaster mitigation in selected countries of the wider Caribbean. The RUDO provided initial management oversight until its closure in 1996, after which OFDA/Kingston provided this oversight.

A Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) comprising representatives from OFDA, RUDO, USAID Missions in the project area, and regional organizations involved in disaster management was formed to provide policy guidance, technical direction and periodic review of the project activities.

In 1998, USAID awarded a one year no cost extension to the CDMP to allow the project additional time to focus on the sustainability issues related to the project. This was extended for a further three months because of funding delays. The new Project Assistance Completion Date (PACD) is now December 31, 1999.

The broad purpose of the CDMP is to establish sustainable public/private sector mechanisms which measurably lessen loss of life, reduce the potential for physical and economic damage, and shorten the disaster recovery period in the project area. The project seeks to make development more sustainable by strengthening the linkage between development and disaster mitigation.

The program objective of the CDMP is the adoption of disaster mitigation and preparedness techniques, technologies and practices by the public and private sectors in targeted communities.

To support this objective, CDMP sought to achieve three program results. The first was that pilot activities would be conducted with collaborating public and private sector partners to promote acquisition and application of disaster mitigation skills, techniques, and methodologies. The second program result was an increased pool of public and private sector professionals in the Caribbean region with disaster mitigation skills. The third program result was that mitigation activities would be incorporated in post-disaster reconstruction and recovery programs.

Finally, six project outcomes were posited, achievement of which would lead to the results above and to the program objective - 1) Reduced vulnerability of basic infrastructure and critical public facilities, 2) Improved building standards and practices to reduce natural hazard vulnerability, 3) Increased availability and access to natural hazard/disaster risk information for use by public and private sector developers, investors and insurers, 4) Increased community awareness of and involvement in disaster preparedness and mitigation measures, 5) Improved ability of public sector and private property insurers to link premium structure to risk, and 6) Incorporation of mitigation activities in post-disaster reconstruction/recovery.

For this report, the evaluation team was asked to closely review not only the six outcomes noted above, around which were built corresponding activity streams, but in addition, to look at another three focus areas of interest - mitigation policy and planning, working with development finance institutions, and training and information dissemination.

1.3 Findings and Conclusions

For much of the 1990s, CDMP was the only major region wide disaster mitigation program. This project raised awareness of mitigation issues in the region by carrying out a number of different pilot projects and replication initiatives in eleven different countries. This is a very significant achievement.

In terms of specific activities, summaries of the team’s conclusions concerning each of the program subjects that were reviewed are set forth in the table below. The evaluation team was impressed by the collaboration with the CDB, the community development activities in the Dominican Republic, and the storm surge model that was developed and put into use in the region under the project. Several of the vulnerability studies components were also successful. Hazard mapping, building codes, housing retrofits, and the insurance initiative present a mixed picture, but there are valuable lessons in each of them. These are detailed in section 3.

Summary of Activity Streams

Activity Stream

Description and Remarks

Mitigation Policy and Planning

The major purpose of this stream was to put in place the framework for the development of regional and national level mitigation plans. Principal efforts were in St. Lucia and Jamaica. The team believes both will be sustained and are replicable in other countries. This was a successful activity and should be expanded to include additional government departments and should be supported in future OFDA programs.

Community Based Preparedness and Prevention

This stream supported community based preparedness and prevention initiatives in two countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It was successful in the Dominican Republic, much less so in Haiti, and will be sustained in the Dominican Republic. Well crafted community preparedness programs, appropriate to each country, are replicable in other countries. Community oriented activities should be a major emphasis in future OFDA programs.

Vulnerability and Risk Audits

CDMP worked with governments and associations of electricity power companies and the hotel industry, to develop basic information, manuals, and model retrofit options to reduce the vulnerability of key lifeline infrastructure. This stream had useful results and served to raise awareness about the benefits of this type of approach. Its most important lesson is to ensure that potential users are committed to using the audit results. The team believes that the hotel industry will continue to undertake this kind of activity on its own, that CARILEC will not, and that governments, because of absence of resources, may not widely do so in the absence of outside donor support, but will actively seek this support.

Building Standards and Housing Retrofits

This stream concentrated on two activities, encouraging the promulgation of building codes that would contribute to a reduction in vulnerability, and promoting the retrofitting of low cost housing to make them hurricane resistant. There were mixed results and many delays, but the project was able to initiate building code promulgation in 4 countries and test a number of housing retrofit approaches. The team believes that the housing retrofit pilots are unlikely, except for perhaps St. Lucia, to be sustained. Building code efforts are likely, however, to continue. Future code and training efforts in this field should be undertaken as part of comprehensive initiatives that seek to fundamentally alter the building culture.

Hazard Assessments and Risk Mapping

There were several levels of activities in this stream with two major regional activities; the regional seismic mapping project and the development of the TAOS storm surge model. There were also several country hazard mapping projects. This stream successfully demonstrated the TAOS storm surge model, but mapping generally suffered from many delays and has had limited country impact thus far. The team’s overall view of this stream is that it is unlikely to be replicated in the various countries in the absence of continuing outside donor assistance. Hazard assessments need to ensure up-front government involvement, coordination, and support. The TAOS model should continue to receive support.

The Insurance Industry

CDMP worked with the insurance industry in the region to promote incentives for measures that would lead to reductions in losses from disasters and would promote hazard mitigation activities. This component faltered because of regional economic realities, but was nevertheless worthwhile and has encouraged a number of private sector initiatives. The team concluded that the initiatives begun are likely to continue, but at a very low level of intensity in the absence of further major disasters which might alter the economic reality picture.


Activity Stream

Description and Remarks

Post-Disaster Recovery Mitigation

This stream was a practical response to aid reconstruction efforts, and at the same time expose affected persons to mitigation issues and tools. Integrating mitigation principles into post-disaster recovery efforts provided a number of useful lessons which can generally be used in future OFDA efforts. With continuing education, this component has the potential to become a part of the standard operating procedures of disaster management agencies.

Development Finance Institutions

CDMP worked closely with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on mitigation policy development, and also with the World Bank. The team concluded that these institutions will continue to support the policies adopted. Activities were productive and should be supported in future OFDA programs.

Training and Information Dissemination

Training was a primary ingredient in each of the activity streams and was one of the key CDMP tools aimed at raising awareness and training a corps of Caribbean professionals. The team believes most countries will continue with these activities and that OFDA should continue to support them.

At the present time, the team has identified programs that seem likely to continue on their own: the community preparedness program in the Dominican Republic, the housing retrofit program in St. Lucia, and the mitigation policy work in Jamaica and St. Lucia. Modification of the building codes in several countries will also likely be pursued to a successful conclusion by the countries. The Vulnerability and Risk Audits stream, insofar as its shelter program and collaboration with the hotel association are concerned, will also continue. Issues of sustainability are discussed in detail in sections 3 and 4 of this report. In addition, the team has attached, as annex 2, a CDMP Program Performance Report, prepared by the evaluation and mitigation consultant under contract to the project. This report, which covers the period through March 31, 1999, discusses in detail each of the project’s outcomes and results.

The longer term impact of the project is likely to be more positive than is evidenced at this moment, just before the close of the project. For example, the team notes that the June 1999 Jamaica conference on the various mitigation activities that have taken place has provided evidence that, after a number of years, several of the activities are beginning to bear fruit. Also, the Belize insurance activity, begun in 1996, has now been resurrected in 1999 by the private sector following hurricane Mitch. This does demonstrate that mitigation activities have a longer gestation period.

The team believes that CDMP made a valuable contribution toward the achievement of the project objective and the three program results during the 1990s.

The fact that the region is comprised of a number of different countries with many of them small island states made the project a difficult one to manage and implement.

Efficient implementation in some of the streams was clearly an issue at times, and this complicates the overall substantive evaluation.

The project has provided a useful base for carrying forward further work in disaster mitigation in the region.

The sharing of pilot experiences through training and workshops undertaken or fostered by the project is an excellent tool and should be supported in the future.

The evaluation team was impressed by the range of initiatives undertaken in the CDMP. The design of this project mandated streams of rather small, pilot activities located throughout the region. The total amount of project funds, $5 million, meant that substantially less than $1 million was spent each year on these pilots. Spread over a number of countries, this represents a very small amount for each activity. Evaluation of this project reflects this reality.

Government institutions and organizations are almost universally weak. This was recognized in CDMP from the very beginning. For this reason, it seemed to make sense for the project to work to encourage various private sector "drivers" in the region that might lead to broader mitigation pressures. The hotel associations are one example of this. In addition, work to promote better building codes and enforcement might also be considered to be both a public and private sector driver. Looking for pressure points outside the public sector that would influence actions seemed to make sense. The project confirmed that the private sector can be a valuable part of the solution to disaster mitigation issues, but will be more effective if it is supported by and operates within a framework established by the government that actively promotes mitigation programs.

Connected to this issue is the issue of donor coordination. There are an abundance of donors and major NGOs in the region. The coordination of diverse programs makes sense. We did not discern that this kind of coordination is being systematically undertaken. While it is an issue on which everyone seems to agree, making it happen is very difficult. The team found the TAC to be a very useful device for sharing information and would welcome initiatives by its members to find a means to continue as a coordinating/information sharing entity.

The role of local authorities was not emphasized in CDMP. This is quite different from the Asian Urban Disaster Mitigation Project, which was organized around local authorities. This needs to be put in context as well. Asia is not the Caribbean. When the CDMP was being designed the presence or involvement of local authorities was not an issue. The smaller countries are truly small. They might not merit a local government emphasis, although some of them are tending in this direction. However, the larger countries such as Jamaica need something now and in the future because of the decentralization changes over the past several years. This need not and should not be an automatic emphasis. It is simply something that needs to be examined. Local government may be just as unresponsive as central government. The real answer may be community involvement.

CDMP’s design strategy centered on the idea of pilots in a few countries, followed by a sharing of information through visits and workshops and an attempt to interest other countries in replicating and adapting the successful pilots or the lessons of pilots where appropriate in their own countries. The team found that this approach was valid and did indeed work on a limited basis. However, the team believes that the project attempted to do too much with very few resources. The team also concluded that, by itself, this approach will not be sufficient to substantially impact or jump-start similar initiatives in other countries. However, the sharing of information is important and serves to validate fledgling approaches.

Political will is an important element - there did not appear to be a public relations policy in any of the countries that the project attempted to foster and that would elevate this interest. At a certain point in the project, we understand the addition of a project publicist to OAS staff was turned down. The role of such a person in helping to generate political will in support of disaster mitigation may not have been fully appreciated. In the future, this kind of activity, supported through workshops and training, should be a priority.

The project design was correct to attempt to supplement the activities of central governments, which are generally strapped for resources. There is a need to find outside drivers and the project attempted this with the insurance stream and through its work with hotel associations. Local community efforts and local authorities, with all their drawbacks, also are potential avenues to explore and should have been in some countries.

The evaluation team also looked briefly at whether USAID itself incorporates disaster mitigation in its project activities. It is not clear that this has been accomplished, although we were encouraged by our discussions with Jamaica USAID Mission officials and the program design team for the Caribbean Regional Program, which is currently being designed. The project will likely concentrate in three areas - economic development and diversification, improved environmental management, and increased efficiency and fairness of legal systems. We were advised that the project will develop best practices associated with siting and other facility planning issues, and that room for disaster mitigation activities to occur would be left to be developed as part of the annual project planning exercise. The team understands that disaster mitigation is not specifically earmarked in the project at this stage and that, therefore, there is a possibility that as annual plans are made and as resources become more limited, mitigation issues might be lost. This needs to be sharpened up as the project design proceeds.

Coordination and integration of OFDA programs with USAID efforts in countries in which there are Missions is very important. The team found that this had happened in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, but less so in Haiti.

The presence of an active OAS representative in some of the countries seemed to have had a positive impact on the program effectiveness. This was observed in Belize and Grenada in particular. The location of the Disaster Mitigation NGO in the Dominican Republic within the OAS offices has been an advantage, the team believes.

1.4 Principles Governing Future OFDA Activities

The activity streams and country profiles discussed in sections 3 and 4 provide details concerning the activities the evaluation team believes should be emphasized in future OFDA mitigation programs. The team recommends that the following principles should guide OFDA’s interventions:

The team believes that OFDA’s emphasis should clearly be targeted to what has worked in CDMP. This means support throughout the region for training, information sharing, mitigation policy and planning, and community preparedness and prevention.

In general, more technically oriented activities such as hazard mapping should only be undertaken as part of efforts in which the government has committed itself to broad changes in its approach and is willing to put in the resources to see these changes through. The storm surge model has been successfully developed under CDMP, but the same principles should apply in seeking its wider adoption in the region.

Changing the culture of the way building construction is carried out in countries is worthy of pursuit. As a part of an overall effort, that should include training of artisans at the local level, support for building code modifications, and effective enforcement programs. The team found that isolated efforts were unlikely to have significant impact because of the relationship between all elements in the building process. To have an impact in the informal sector requires a different approach than the approach in the formal sector. Overall, both sectors need to be addressed.

Activities that emphasize partnerships between the public and private sectors should also be supported.

Likewise, activities that emphasized a combination of approaches such as vulnerability audits for shelters and community participation may hold promise for achieving results, even in the absence of large government resources.

Collaboration with development finance institutions is clearly justified as long as OFDA is convinced that there will be an effective mechanism in place in the partner institution.

Post-disaster mitigation efforts provide an excellent opportunity for beginning a process, but most mitigation efforts are longer term and there needs to be some assurance of long-term support for the activities being undertaken.

Isolated activities with governments that are not a part of a broader mitigation approach that the government commits itself to carrying forward should be minimized.

1.5 Recommendations

The most important question presented is what OFDA should now do, in the light of the rich mosaic of experience developed under the CDMP. This evaluation hopes to provide some insight and answers to this question. In order to provide context for the detailed discussion on each of the streams that follows in section 3, the following basic recommendations are made.

CDMP home page: Project Contacts Page Last Updated: 20 April 2001