It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this workshop for Building Inspectors, on behalf of the Organization of American States (OAS). I bring greetings from the Secretary General, Dr. Cesar Gaviria and the staff of the OAS, in particular from the Unit for Sustainable Development and the Environment (USDE), which has responsibility for implementation of the USAID/OAS Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation Project, of which this workshop is a component.
Concerned by the annual toll of storms and hurricanes on their communities and economies, Caribbean member states in the OAS have consistently lobbied over the past years for priority status for the issue of natural disasters. They have sought to draw attention to environmental conditions and ecological disasters, which threaten the viability of small island states. Recent demonstrations of the Organization’s increased commitment to this issue have therefore been extremely welcome. At a meeting of the OAS Committee on Hemispheric Security in November, 2000, natural disasters were identified as one of the four major threats to the hemisphere’s security, along with drug trafficking, trans-border crime and illicit firearms trafficking. The Committee has also established a working group on natural disasters, which is chaired by His Excellency Lionel Hurst, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the OAS.
Another welcome development is the priority being attributed to the issue of human security, in which people provide the point of reference for development. This has been placed on the agenda of the OAS and will be a major concern at the 2001 Hemispheric Summit, scheduled to be held in Canada in April. It is expected that this topic will encompass the negative impact of natural disasters on lives and development in Caribbean communities and attract increased funding for mitigation programs.
The OAS has a long record of involvement in the area of disaster mitigation in the hemisphere. However, much of its earlier assistance to member states was concentrated on the post-disaster period, with the emphasis on recovery. The Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation project is typical of the more proactive approach adopted by the Organization in the last decade, which focuses on hazard mitigation and vulnerability reduction as part of the development planning process. This workshop falls within the ambit of the second objective of the project, namely, " to adopt National Building Codes and improve building practices." By making our infrastructure more resilient, we can reduce the damage caused by hurricanes, floods, fires and the like to property and to the economy, and most importantly, minimize the loss of human lives.
In Antigua and Barbuda, the devastation wrought by hurricanes in recent years, particularly on the tourism sector, which fuels the economy, is a major cause for concern. For its part, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has demonstrated its commitment to hazard mitigation, by inter alia, the establishment of the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) and a National Mitigation Council. In the specific area of building safety, the creation of the Development Control Authority (DCA), the upgrading of development control regulations and making the Building Code and Building Guidelines mandatory for the construction of all buildings, are further indications of the Government’s conviction that hazard mitigation and vulnerability reduction must be incorporated into development planning.
Institutional commitments and policies, however, do not work in a vacuum. Standards, codes and regulations are useless unless enforced. It is up to the practitioners to give effect to the work of the policymakers. It is therefore incumbent on you, the participants in this workshop, to recognize the importance of your role as Building Inspectors. You must ensure that the policies and regulations instituted by the Government are faithfully observed. Short cuts and cost-cutting practices, incompetence and negligence at the expense of human lives and property must be eliminated. It is your duty as well to foster public awareness of the established codes, so that homeowners and developers are not short-changed by builders and are sufficiently educated to demand that the necessary safety criteria are met.
During the course of this workshop, you will examine problems related to your functions as inspectors and strategies for dealing with them. You will also seek to upgrade and improve existing codes and guidelines. The success of this workshop will be measured not merely by what is accomplished over these two weeks, but by your ability to inculcate your experiences here into your work, by your increased effectiveness in enforcing regulations, by your refusal to compromise standards, by your renewed commitment to safer buildings, safer communities and by extension, to the saving of lives.
I know you are in competent hands with our Facilitator, Mr. Alwyn Wason, who has already made a significant contribution in this area and our Coordinator, Ms. Rosemary Georges, a driving force behind the project.
On behalf of the OAS and on my own behalf, I wish you a successful and rewarding workshop and take this opportunity also to extend best wishes for a prosperous, healthy and safe 2001.
|USAID/OAS Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation: http://www.oas.org/pgdm||
Page last updated on 07 Jun 2001