Royal Antiguan Resort

August 1, 2000


The meeting convened at 9:30 a.m. Rosemary Georges, Antigua and Barbuda’s Coordinator for the PGDM project welcomed everyone. She outlined the primary purpose of the meeting: To facilitate multi-sectoial consultation and collaboration, through which to establish a National Mitigation Council, which was proposed by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda as part of the NODS Work Programme for the year 2000.

She added that while the Government’s proposal preceded the inception of the PGDM project, an institutionalized council at this time, would guide the PGDM project’s planning and implementation processes.

Introductory Remarks:

In his introductory remarks, Philmore Mullin, Deputy Director, National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) highlighted the fact that: "mitigation is something we in Antigua have been talking about for years. The time has come for some kind of permanence to be given to mitigation as we give to preparedness and response".

Mullin emphasized the importance for participants to consider incentives, institutions, resources, practices and potential members of the mitigation council and committees as "a true reflection of a broad cross-section of the community. Said Mullin," we must consider what can we do differently in terms of enforcement that will ensure we do not fall in the typical practice of non-enforcers".

Role of the NMC:

Eden Weston, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Home Affairs and Social Improvement outlined the role of the NMC as being responsible to develop policies for strategic planning and management of natural disaster mitigation interventions in the development of Antigua and Barbuda. According to Mr. Weston, these strategies and programs "should be institutionalized so that they would become a part of the national development plan and policies and thus, part of every day life".

Objectives of the NMC:

Four primary objectives were cited:

  1. To produce a list of Council members for submission to Cabinet for approval.
  2. To produce a list of Committee members for submission to Cabinet for approval/ratification.
  3. To develop strategies and incentives to enforce disaster Mitigation-friendly policy and legislation, as motivation for the compliance of both public and private sectors, as well as by all residents.
  4. To develop a plan to achieve nation-wide consensus of the importance of mitigation, to reduce the negative impact of natural hazards on national infrastructure, and in turn, reduce loss of human life, as well as financial and economic losses.

In his remarks regarding the NMC’s objectives, Vincent Benjamin, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning, Implementation & Public Service Affairs told participants: while the NMC’s role deals with WHAT the council’s responsibilities are, the objectives outline HOW the council and committees will fulfill these responsibilities.

Mr. Benjamin emphasized the importance for the council to establish a common mitigation language to enable everyone to understand what exactly is to be done. He said: the council should "encourage public awareness through information sessions in schools, workplaces and media publicity". As well, he stressed that the general public be made aware of building standards and that existing building codes be enforced". According to Benjamin, "even if one is building a ‘foul coup’, building inspectors MUST inspect building sites regularly, so that the effects of disaster is reduced".

With regard to establishing policies and programs for shelters, Mr. Benjamin suggested that the council encourage shelter managers to commit to the task of shelter management. Said he: "they must be willing and committed".

Mr. Benjamin added a fifth objective as follows:

Any mitigation policy should enable the country to get back on Its feet quickly after a disaster: utilities must also be put up quickly so that people can get on with cleaning up, etc. Electrical conduits should be run underground to prevent accidents from downed poles. The media should not exaggerate the damage done, so that tourists are not hindered from coming. We should share the recovery process with these services, so that they know what is going on.

NMC and Health:

Barbara Belle, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health informed the gathering "the Ministry of Health is responsible for cleaning the debris after hurricanes and should be a primary concern of the NMC". Mrs. Belle said she hopes "the council will implement programs that will deal specifically with the health of the nation before, during and after disaster, as health is a very vital aspect of a country when disaster strikes".

She made special mention of the social component of mitigation as it relates to health institutions such as the Fiennes Institute (public home for the poor elderly), the mental hospital and the general hospital with reference to stress, drug supplies and clean water in shelters to reduce incidents of diarrhea, etc.

Presentation of Definition, Types and Management of Mitigation:

Philmore Mullin, Deputy Director, NODS defined disaster mitigation as "measures taken to reduce loss of human life, livelihood and property by disasters by (a) reducing vulnerability and/or (b) modifying the hazard where possible.

His presentation which was aided by overhead transparencies, focused on:

In summing up his presentation, Mr. Mullin repeated some of the problems or obstacles to effective mitigation measures by emphasizing "if disaster management planning is inadequate the effectiveness of disaster mitigation may be reduced". He added: "political will is essential, since political consideration may rule out or restrict mitigation programs".

Comments/Suggestions by Participants:

After Mullin’s presentation comments and suggestions made by participants included:

Minister Gaston Browne’s Presentation:

Honourable Gaston Browne, Minister of Planning, Implementation and Public Service Affairs was not available to participate in the opening ceremony. When he joined the meeting at 11:15, he started his presentation to the 27 persons present by saying: "Antigua and Barbuda has become one of the most vulnerable countries within the commonwealth to hurricanes. In the past 5 years, we have been hit by 4 hurricanes, thus, disaster mitigation MUST be a number one priority in our efforts towards sustainable development".

He then complimented the commitment and expertise of the NODS in disaster preparedness and response, as well as their persistent efforts, despite resource constraints in building capacity in the area of disaster mitigation.

According to minister Browne, his Government is totally committed to and supportive of the goal and objectives of the National Mitigation Council. On a personal level, will work relentlessly in pursuance of these objectives and the speedy ratification of the list of potential Council members upon its presentation in cabinet.

The Minister went on to say: "disaster mitigation is a critical component of his government’s people-centered National Strategic Development Plan for the year 2000". Said he: "we must protect our natural, human and financial assets to ensure the sustainable development of our country".

In his words: "we are extremely pleased with the assistance that our developmental partners, including USAID and the Organization of American States (OAS) Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment (USDE) have extended to us, in building disaster mitigation capacity which is so critical to our survival and development".

In addition, Minister Browne said: "as a mark of my Government’s commitment to improving the disaster management process in Antigua and Barbuda, presently, we are seeking funding to build shelters".

In closing, the Minister complimented participants on work done so far. He then made a plea for public awareness efforts, which would foster public input, participation and consensus in the planning and implementation phases of disaster mitigation in Antigua and Barbuda.

Interactive Group Exercise to Identify NMC & Committee Membership:

Participants were asked to form two groups, Group 1 to identify membership for the council, and Group 2 to identify membership for the Committee.

Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Weston chaired Groups I and 2 respectively.

After some deliberation, participants produced the following names of institutions and organizations, each of which would submit one representative to serve on the council or committee upon approval by Cabinet (Antigua and Barbuda Government):

Group I: National Mitigation Committee Group 2: National Mitigation Council
  1. Environmental Awareness Group (EAG)
  2. Disaster Committee – Commissioner
  3. Engineering and Contractors Association
  4. Ministry of Public Works
  5. IT Specialist
  6. Hotel Association
  7. Ministry of Legal Affairs
  8. Transport Board
  9. A.P.U.A.
  10. NGO – e.g. Red Cross
  11. Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries
  12. Insurance – Private Sector
  13. D.C.A.
  14. Unions
  15. Christian Council (Church groups/Assocs.)
  1. APUA – General Manager
  2. A private sector Organization (eg.AHTA)
  3. Tourism – Permanent Secretary
  4. Agriculture – Permanent Secretary (P.S.)
  5. Public Works P.S.
  6. NGO – e.g.: S.Y.N. (Something U Need)
  7. Ministry of Health – P.S.
  8. Secretary of Defense Council
  9. D.C.A. – Town & Country Planner
  10. Transport Board – General Manager
  11. Barbuda Council – Secretary

The discussion that followed was interactive and produced additional comments from participants as follows:

Interactive Group Exercise - Incentives and Enforcement Ideas as Mitigation Tools:

Group 1 was designated to generate incentive ideas, which would serve to motivate persons to comply with hazard mitigation strategies.

Group 2 would generate ideas to enforce hazard mitigation policy (i.e., building codes, etc.).

Both Groups had lively discussions. Rosemary Georges, intervened occasionally to ensure that group discussions remained topical, as well as to suggest pro-social incentives to enforce mitigation strategies/policy, as opposed to punitive enforcers.

After lively discussion and deliberation, the following results emerged from groups 1 and 2:

Group 1 – Incentives: Group 2 – Enforcers:
1. Personal: Home owners save money by having securely constructed houses fitted with hurricane shutters Survey existing laws and regulations and identify their agencies.
2. Insurance: (e.g. United Insurance) offer 40% discount on premiums to home owners whose houses are constructed based on set guidelines and approved materials, such as hurricane-worthy screws vs. nails. Disseminate information, sensitize the public on health and other issues, such as post-disaster stress management, and use media to publicize and involve the viewing public.
3. Government: Offer discount on import duties and taxes to home owners who agree to contract builders who work in accordance with building codes and cooperate with building inspectors. Develop political will to enforce existing laws, plug loop holes and avoid double standards, without ill-will, malice or bias.

It was suggested that NODS would monitor inspection on a phase basis.

In summing up this exercise, participants wanted to know what role would NODS play in efforts to increase public awareness of the importance of mitigation.

Mr. Mullin responded that the NODS is online and hopes to have a website. Presently, any person may come to the office and make suggestions. NODS educator goes out to schools, etc. and is looking to increase the NODS public relations scope.

Participants suggested that surveys be carried out to get more input from the general public.

Closing Remarks & Interdenominational Prayer:

Rosemary Georges thanked everyone including the media for taking time out from their busy schedules to attend the meeting and to participate as interactively and productively as they did media. She invited all present to join her in extending special thanks to Ms Naomi Williams and Ms Eden-Ann for providing secretarial support for the meeting.

Mrs. Blondel Matthery a staff member of the Ministry of Planning said the closing prayer.

The meeting adjourned at 3:30 p.m.

Prepared by Rosemary O. Georges, Consultant – Coordinator