Natural Disaster Risk Mitigation 

On February 27th, 2006, the Government of Canada transferred CAD$2 million to the OAS to support sustainable development efforts in the hemisphere.  Of that total, approximately CAD$750,000 is directed to the DSD to support natural disaster risk reduction measures.  Canadian Ambassador Paul Durand noted that one of the priorities of the Government of Canada and countries of the hemisphere – in particular countries of the Caribbean and Central America – involves strengthening natural disaster risk mitigation programs. “Over the last two years we have had a series of natural disasters in the Caribbean and in Central America” he said, underscoring the Organization’s commitment to these programs. Durand emphasized that one of the specific priority areas identified for implementation under this agreement is for strengthening policies to support governments that must face the destruction caused by natural disaster.

In this context, OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza recalled that the Organization, within its multidimensional approach to security, has made significant progress towards developing policies that provide aid to the most vulnerable countries that suffer from these disasters.  Insulza also said that OAS “will strive actively to engage with other development actors such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank as other countries in the region. “Each agency cannot continue to work by itself in matters of preparedness, relief and risk reduction. We need to coordinate efforts and collaborate with those organizations,” the Secretary General concluded.  The CAD$750,000 Canadian support will focus on (a) strengthening governance with respect to the adoption and enforcement of appropriate buildings codes and standards for schools as well as low and middle-income housing in the Caribbean, and (b) supporting institutions collaboration in relation to natural disasters.

In a related initiative, the Canadian International Development Agency held a meeting at the OAS Department for Sustainable Development on March 2nd, 2006, to discuss their recently-launched CIDA Commonwealth Caribbean Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Fund of CAD$7.5 million.  The purpose of the meeting was to seek the input and advice of H.E. Gordon Shirley, Ambassador of Jamaica to the White House and to the OAS; as well as co-chair of the OAS Joint Consultative Body (JCB) on Natural Disasters, and H.E. Denis Antoine, Ambassador of Grenada to the White House and to the OAS, as well as chair of the OAS Working Group on Sustainable Development

Participants of the March 2nd consultation included the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Pan-American Health Organization and the DSD.  Among the priorities addressed at that meeting included how to coordinate CIDA-related actions in natural disaster risk reduction activities with the initiative of the World Bank to launch a regional natural hazard regional insurance pool and other activities, and on-going work of the IDB in mainstreaming natural disasters in development and financial planning, institution building and other areas, the work of PAHO in disaster response and relief actions, with a particular emphasis on human health, and the focus of the DSD in governance-related issues.  As a follow-up, the OAS/DSD will host an information meeting for the Caribbean missions to the OAS on new initiatives of the World Bank and others in early April, 2006.