Honourable Sean Astwood, Acting Premier Remarks at the World Food Program (WFP) on Regional Symposium on Shock-Responsive Social Protection in the Caribbean
“Protocol already being established; I would also like to adopt same. Good morning everyone and welcome to our beautiful by nature, Turks and Caicos Islands.
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the Regional Symposium on Shock-Responsive Social Protection in the Caribbean which is being hosted by the UN World Food Program in collaboration with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) here in the Turks & Caicos Islands.
It is a known fact that globally, the frequency, size and duration of disasters and crisis—be they the consequence of natural phenomena or economic or political shocks—are on the rise. The cost of responding to these disasters has been increasing at what some may described as at an alarming rate. It is important to note that many of these shocks are predictable and protracted, and often slow-onset, and therefore within our control to mitigate against them.
In this regard, the need to identify and expand effective ways to respond to disasters is as pressing as ever. It is true that Caribbean countries have come a long way: from a reactive approach to disaster response to one focusing on preparedness, resilience building and climate change adaptation. However, the achievement of critical targets are being done at very slow pace. While we all face the same hurricane season annually, we however have different degrees of vulnerability. As a result of Climate Change, the increase of devastating weather-related events is hindering governments’ efforts to protect people from collective risks, whilst eroding countries’ sustainable development gains sometimes 3-4 times the cost of their GDP. We may not want to believe it, but we are surely feeling it, Climate Change is Real, and it is not going away anytime soon.
Recognizing the seriousness of climate change, my Government has recently passed a climate change policy and have also banned single use plastic bags, Styrofoam containers. This is just few of the steps that my Government is taking to reduce the countries carbon foot print, though miniscule.
Statistics have also shown that the poorest and the most vulnerable are the ones who suffer the most from the impact of natural hazards. As such, it is not only important to have an integrated disaster risk management strategy but equally important is to ensure that it must go hand-in-hand with long-term comprehensive interventions designed to protect people living in disaster-prone areas from multiple risk scenarios.
In this regard, Social Protection is a key instrument to reduce poverty and vulnerability and enhance people’s capacity to manage economic and social issues. Social Protection role in climate risk management has also been widely recognized in global agreements in recent years. Social protection systems help individuals and families, cope with crises and shocks, find jobs, improve productivity, invest in the health and education of their children and protect the aging population.
Moreover, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that with the appropriate systems and programmes in place, Social Protection can also play a significant role in minimizing the impacts of disasters and strengthen disaster risk management actions, for a more rapid, cost-efficient and effective preparedness and response to emergencies. This was the case in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Dominica and British Virgin Islands, following a devastating 2017 hurricane season, where national social protection schemes were adapted and expanded to support the needs of hurricane-affected people. Much can be learnt from these regional examples.
Events like the WFP and CDEMA symposium on Shock-Responsive Social Protection, hosted by the Government of Turks and Caicos Islands, offers a tremendous opportunity to strengthen the linkages between disaster risk management, social protection and climate change adaptation. It enables countries and sectors to draw from each other’s experiences and best practices. Fosters regional collaboration and knowledge-exchange. And imbues traditional practices in disaster response with novel approaches and innovative ideas that can assist, protect and support the Caribbean people with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
I therefore urge you as we come together to focus more in-debt on our region for these next 2 days, that we will leave these beautiful Turks & Caicos Islands recharged and energized to ensuring that each and every one of us play our part in mitigating against the risks that our respective countries face and we will recommend and implement social protective strategies with the aim of building resilience among our most vulnerable.
Thank you and may God grant us a hurricane free impact season.”