As regional leaders prepared to meet behind closed doors and agree to the Regional Action Plan, attendees gathered for the second day of the VIII Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean (RP23).
Local and federal government officials and other stakeholders emphasized the importance of innovative policies and multisectoral coordination in risk governance.
“Having the right governance is the foundation of disaster risk management,” said Stéphanie Durand, the Director General of the Emergency Management Policy and Planning Directorate at Public Safety Canada.
She spotlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the risk governance paradigm, challenging the traditional roles of government, the military and industry, while focusing on the role of civil society and the private sector instead.
Sergio Rico, Head of Uruguay’s National Emergency System, agreed with this analysis, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive political multisector approach in disaster risk management, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“The pandemic taught us the systemic character of the risk is very important,” he said. “It used to be health-related. Then it spread to the production and economic sector.”
“Disaster risk is systemic, and the approach is multidisciplinary; the community should be engaged in the selected governance,” Rico added. “We need to have a comprehensive political multisector approach.”
Roger Tejada, the Minister of the Government of Panama, emphasized the need for any multisector approach to include local community participation and be coordinated across countries and the region. “Policies cannot be national but must be regional,” he said.
Tejada added that these policies must not leave any group behind and look forward when implementing disaster risk governance policy. “It is important to emphasize that we must anticipate the situations that will occur not only in the country but the region,” he said.
Martha Keays, the Regional Director for the Americas of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, added to the idea of leaving no one behind, discussing how poverty, inequality, natural resource degradation, urbanization and marginalization have compounded the impacts of climate-related disasters.
According to a 2021 assessment report, 80 per cent of urban areas in Latin America and the Caribbean, the most urbanized region on Earth, were affected by disasters of natural origin.
“Our ability to deliver the sustainable development goals will depend largely on the performance of towns and cities,” said Ronald Jackson, the Director of the United Nations Development Programme’s Risk Reduction and Recovery Unit. “In the Americas, and the Caribbean, disasters are affecting more and more urban areas, particularly small and medium-sized cities and municipalities.”
Panelists told RP23 attendees that inequality and a lack of investment in rural areas were among the leading drivers of migration to urban areas and subsequent inequality in those same urban areas.
As a result, Myriam Urzúa Venegas, the Secretary of Comprehensive Risk Management and Civil Protection of the Government of Mexico City, said local, national and regional governments must develop capacities to improve risk management.
“We need sufficient financial resources to do our work and to serve our population,” she said. “If budgets are reduced instead of increased, we cannot serve the population in these essential areas, such as risk mismanagement.”
At a separate event, Keays said investing in science and technologies for the most severely impacted communities, such as at-risk urban areas, makes a difference.
“Communities require access to key and actionable information to respond to future crises,” she said. “This includes data to analyze historical crisis trends and operational learning from past responses to support risk and needs analyses.”
“This information is needed to identify and plan effective anticipatory action, preparedness and response at the national and sub-national levels,” Keays added. “The data provides people with concrete evidence to help and access funds for forecast-based action, as well as response financing.”
Many of the most affected countries in Latin America and the Caribbean need low-cost solutions, which require the cooperation of local communities and may be supplemented with traditional knowledge from indigenous communities.
According to Manuela Pinilla, the Country Director of Build Change in Colombia, 120 million people in the region live in precarious and unsafe conditions. She said low-cost solutions should involve making existing homes more resilient.
Among the solutions she cited are using new technology to produce more robust building materials, constructing second floors in areas prone to flooding and putting more resources into improving the resilience of informal housing.
Low-cost solutions may also be used in the development of multi-hazard early warning systems, with panelists telling RP23 attendees that modest investments can save lives, but only if local communities trust the reliability of these systems and actively participate in their implementation and management.
For example, homemade devices that measure rainfall combined with access to WhatsApp allow residents in floodplains to provide the real-time data to authorities, which helps them respond with timely flood warnings.
Francine Baron, the CEO of the Dominica Climate Resilience Enforcement Agency, who is supporting the implementation of the Dominica Climate Resilience Recovery Plan, confirmed the need to put citizens at the forefront of disaster resilience planning.
“As part of the resilience effort, one of our focus areas is community readiness,” she said. “The disaster response is civilian led, and experience has taught us that communities that are prepared can minimize loss.”
Eventually the conversation turned to the role of public planning, budgeting and public and private partnerships in funding disaster risk reduction and resilience efforts.
Diana Cardenas Monar, the General Coordinator at the Climate Finance Group of Latin America and the Caribbean, emphasized the importance of data and evidence to understand the financial needs and costs associated with climate change.
Citing World Bank data, she said climate change damage-related costs account for 1.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and may cost developing countries US$500 million by 2030.
However, developing countries face challenges in accessing climate financing and commitments made by developed countries have not been met. As a result, a climate debt crisis is a mounting concern.
To overcome these challenges, the panel said regional leaders must incorporate green taxonomies into financing sustainable and resilient development.
“To begin with, incorporating green taxonomies provides a common language and standard for all of us,” said François Borit, the Country Representative of Uruguay at the Development Bank of Latin America. “This common standard is important because this helps us work towards sustainability and allows us to channel the capital in an efficient way, and this gives us a long-term.”
Panelists added that green taxonomies also create transparency and accountability mechanisms that are key in the implementation of funds, which allows investors to assess the environmental benefits and uncertainties of their investments. In turn, this creates better opportunities for them and makes it more attractive to access green financial markets.
Panelists discussed the best practices for financing disaster risks, including financing bonds tied to environmental indicators and creating sustainable debt for public investment projects.
Lizra Fabien, the ARISE Coordinator for Dominica and Global ARISE Board Member, applauded these efforts, while spotlighting the need for prescient and meaningful public and private partnerships.
“It is really important to ensure the private sector is involved and we have meaningful partnerships,” she said. “We need to form these partnerships before disasters happens.”
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