Speeches / Presentations

Opening Remarks at the CARICOM-UN High-Level Pledging Conference Technical Consultation at UN Headquarters, New York

As prepared for delivery.

Secretary-General of CARICOM, Mr Irwin Larocque,

Excellencies, Special Invitees, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am honoured to join CARICOM in welcoming you to the technical segment of the CARICOM-UN High-Level Pledging Conference.

The impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria has been devastating. Dominicans are struggling to rebuild their lives, while the population of Barbuda is not yet able to return home.  Other small islands in the Caribbean have also been severely affected: British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, Turk and Caicos, Bahamas, Anguilla, and Cuba. Many affected people across the region have lost their homes and lack access to electricity and running water. Our thoughts and support remain with the people affected in such difficult times.

This Conference is exemplary of the way the international community is coming together for the recovery and resilience building in the Caribbean. This effort builds on the incredible work of the partners involved in the emergency and humanitarian response in the immediate aftermath of the hurricanes.  Assessments have since been conducted to provide a strong basis for planning recovery. Now we have commenced the crucial phase of implementing recovery, for which financial and institutional capacities are required.

This is, therefore, a critical inflection moment for tough decisions on how to do development differently, not only to rebuild, but to rebuild to a more resilient standard. Recovery is the opportunity to ensure that underlying and structural vulnerabilities are addressed. By “building back better” a foundation can be laid for setting the Caribbean on a path to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This means not only upgrading damaged infrastructure and houses with climate-resilient technologies and specifications, but also the need to strengthen risk governance systems, improve life-line services, strengthen and expand capacities of the private sector, diversify livelihoods, and provide social protection mechanisms for the most vulnerable households and communities.

UNDP is proud to be a partner for national institutions and affected communities, providing technical advice and supporting data collection for evidence based decision making. Early recovery initiatives for the reactivation of local economies through emergency employment programmes and quick impact projects are already ongoing. In Barbuda, a comprehensive Building Damage Assessment has been completed and in Dominica more than 10,000 structures have been assessed providing relevant authorities with reliable information and real-time data management and reporting. Thanks to the generous support of countries like China and India as well as the European Union, housing repair programmes will be implemented throughout the most affected islands promoting resilience, building back better and sustainable development. These actions promote sustainable and resilient societies and help restore progress towards the path to development and the 2030 Agenda.

The 2030 Agenda recognises the centrality of the need to integrate disaster and climate risks into development processes at all levels. The 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean reminds us once again of the importance of addressing underlying risks, and the need for integrated climate change and disaster risk reduction efforts, and linking this to the SDG implementation.

I commend the work that national governments have already undertaken in aligning disaster risk reduction, climate change and the sustainable development agendas. Similarly, regional organisations such as CARICOM, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (5Cs) are providing frameworks for a more coherent regional approach to this end. UNDP is proud to support the region in its efforts to pursue such an integrated approach. We are pleased to join forces with other UN agencies and ECLAC, as well as with other partners such as the World Bank, the European Union, the Interamerican Development Bank, and the Caribbean Development Bank, which are all committed to the recovery and resilience of the Caribbean.

The 2017 hurricane season has reaffirmed the need for more appropriate risk financing strategies to mitigate the financial, economic and social impacts of disasters in SIDS. The affected governments as well as the international community, are called upon to deliver financing in ways that ensure that recovery and development are ‘risk-informed’ and reflect the realities of small, vulnerable countries that are highly indebted with limited access to concessional finance and ODA.

In October, I attended the World Bank’s Annual Small States Forum in Washington where UNDP emphasised the need for a new financing architecture to address the resilience building of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as the ones affected by Irma and Maria. I am pleased to see a dedicated session this afternoon focused on this issue.

I am also pleased to see wide participation in this discussion, including the private sector, because strengthened collaboration and partnerships are necessary to address these complex challenges. As we are looking for innovative approaches to managing and reducing the risks associated with climate hazards, UNDP together with the insurance industry, the World Bank and other development partners, is leading the “Insurance Development Forum – IDF”, an initiative to optimise insurance for greater financial protection and risk transfer and to capitalise on the industry’s risk expertise to build resilience.  We need a stronger partnership with the private sector to help diversify the economies of SIDS which is so vital to the longer-term economic growth and prosperity of the region.

Indeed, we know that both recovery and resilience building measures are collective efforts that cannot be delivered by one single agency but require concerted support from governments, international organisations, NGOs, private sector, civil society actors and donors – many of whom are participating in today’s discussions. UNDP is delighted to join such collaborative efforts.

I welcome you again to the deliberations here today and wish you a successful conference.