Press Release:- Representatives from 12 OECS Member States met on 17th
and 18th October, in Saint Lucia, to assess how they can enhance preparedness
for natural hazards, such as hurricanes, floods and droughts, when weather
forecasts show that trouble is on the way.
The 50 participants looked at how forecast information could be used to
trigger emergency actions, such as checks on critical infrastructure, distribution
of supplies to secure property, and evacuations, that would reduce the impacts
of natural hazards on communities. This proactive approach, which seeks to
reduce damage before a disaster occurs – rather than waiting to clear up
afterwards – is called ‘forecast-based early action’.
The event was hosted by the OECS Commission, with the support of the French
Development Agency (AFD)’s Adapt’Action programme, and run by the
Overseas Development Institute, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre
and Ramboll Consulting.
Caroline Eugene, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Sustainable
Development, Saint Lucia, opened the workshop, saying:
“We have been reminded of how fragile our countries are as we witness the
devastation of (Hurricane) Dorian on our neighbours. Could we have been
better prepared? We have to cushion the deadly blows that are meted out to
us year after year.”
Ms Eugene added that in light of recent damage from natural hazards in the
Caribbean, OECS member states should seek innovative ways to pursue
forecast-based early action. The approach could significantly improve the lives
of vulnerable populations.
“We must ensure that measures are in place to adapt our institutional
frameworks,” she said. “We must also systematically assess and adapt to the
financial framework demanded by disasters.”
The workshop brought together a broad mix of stakeholders, including
representatives from meteorological agencies, environment and planning
departments, disaster risk management agencies, humanitarian organisations,
sectors at high risk from natural hazards (such as Health and Agriculture), local
authorities and indigenous peoples’ representatives.
Workshop attendees learned about successes in applying forecast-based early
action in Peru and they analysed opportunities for taking similar actions in
response to natural hazards in the Caribbean, such as rainy and windy
hurricanes and droughts.
Participants took stock of OECS members’ existing resources and debated how
these could be marshalled to protect lives and assets more effectively when an
extreme weather event is forecast. They especially focused on how OECS
members could pool their resources so as to help each other when needed.
Participants’ ideas are being compiled into recommendations for a forecast-
based early action mechanism for the OECS, which will be presented to
Ministers for feedback next year.
According to Crispin d’Auvergne, Programme Coordinator for Climate Change
and Disaster Risk Management at the OECS Commission: “This workshop has
been extremely valuable in raising awareness and interest in forecast-based
early action and in gaining the perspectives of participants. We at the OECS
truly look forward to the recommendations which, once finalised, will lay the
basis for advancing forecast-based early action in the OECS region.”