The Americas and Caribbean countries pledge to reduce disaster risk and protect lives in RP23 Ministerial Declaration
Ministers and senior officials from 31 countries in the Americas and the Caribbean have committed to the implementation of the Early Warnings for All Initiative announced by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in November.
The delegates also reiterated their commitment to substantially reducing disaster risk, protecting lives and health and lessening the economic loss caused by disasters of natural origin in the region.
These were the main takeaways from the Ministerial Declaration published at the conclusion of the three-day VIII Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean (RP23), which ended on 2 March in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
The ministers and officials noted with concern the increasing frequency, intensity and unpredictability of disasters of natural origin due to “the coupled effects of the structural, social, economic and ecological vulnerabilities of countries and communities, the influence of climate change, socioeconomic and sociopolitical crises.”
They said that populations across the region, from those living on islands and low-lying coasts to those in the mountains, were at risk from a growing number of hazards, extreme events and ecosystem deterioration.
The ministers and officials further noted that these vulnerabilities had been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic along with “the fragile global socioeconomic outlook, geopolitical tensions and conflicts and multiple current crises.”
In the declaration, ministers and officials acknowledged that disasters are socially constructed and disaster risk reduction is crucial for sustainable development and climate change adaptation.
They added that disaster risk management must involve all levels of government and sectors of society to prevent new disaster risks, reduce existing risks and manage residual risks.
The declaration further states that vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as women and girls, children, persons with disabilities and Indigenous Peoples, are disproportionately impacted by disasters and require focused consideration.
To that end, the declaration said people-centred multi-hazard early warning systems are proven to be effective in mitigating the negative effects of disaster risks and provide a positive return on investment when acted upon in a timely manner.
The ministers and officials acknowledged the progress made in the implementation of early warning systems in the region but noted that success in this area has been variable. The declaration also recognized that disaster losses and damage are likely to increase, along with the costs of response and reconstruction.
Delegates said investments in disaster risk reduction are insufficient to address existing challenges, with a need for more funds going towards prevention and resilience rather than response and recovery.
They added that there is a need for more local approaches to disaster prevention and resilience, noting that large-scale approaches have proved to be ineffective so far.
After everything that ministers and delegates agreed upon in the first half of the declaration was laid out, the second section was dedicated to reiterating commitments to further improvements in disaster risk reduction.
Delegates committed to investing domestic resources and resources from international cooperation projects in planning, prevention, mitigation and preparedness.
They also called for progress in and strengthened support for the implementation of the Regional Action Plan and the creation of a voluntary commission to assess the progress of the implementation of the plan.
Ministers and officials said they would promote political commitment at the highest level, with the delegates stressing the importance of regional collaboration, cooperation between the public and private sectors and a stronger role for ministries of planning and finance in the promotion and integration of disaster risk reduction in budgets and investment.
They also addressed the need to promote a regulatory environment to incentivize the insurance sector to expand protection coverage and increase the accessibility of risk transfer mechanisms.
Furthermore, the Ministerial Declaration addressed the need to promote resilient construction efforts to reduce the burden of debt created by disaster-caused destruction.
The declaration promoted science-based policies to guide environment and ecosystems management, land-use planning, climate change mitigation and adaptation. The ministers and officials said this should be done whenever possible through nature-based solutions and that this work must be accelerated.
One of the ways in which the Ministerial Declaration proposed to do this was by redoubling efforts to support local governments in resilient construction. The declaration also called for more work to promote the active participation of civil society organizations, including those representing vulnerable and marginalized groups.
For example, the declaration proposed advancing “evidence-based tools and innovative technology, in articulation with ancestral and traditional knowledge and practices,” to harness the cultural experience of indigenous populations which have successfully lived in disaster-prone areas throughout the region for thousands of years.
The declaration also placed a renewed emphasis on developing communication strategies for “scientific, social, political and economic cooperation” and enhancing the integration of disaster risk reduction into humanitarian action, improving forecasting and strengthening post-disaster recovery planning.
Finally, the Ministerial Declaration wound down by calling on the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and other development-centred organizations to continue providing institutional and financial support to countries in the region as they continue to work to implement the Regional Action Plan for the Sendai Framework.
“Only together can the countries and people of our region be truly resilient,” ministers and officials concluded.