Gonsalves calls for greater collaboration in combating natural disasters.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has called for a closer working relationship with the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and other regional entities in combating challenges posed by natural disasters.

Prime Minister Gonsalves made this call while addressing the ACS Inaugural Excellence Lecture held at the Hyatt Regency in Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday. According to Dr. Gonsalves, the ACS must work closely with entities particularly OECS, Caricom, ALBA and specialised agencies such as CDEMA in order to streamline coordination of disaster preparedness.

Dr. Gonsalves urged member countries of the ACS to embrace the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction, which seeks to substantially reduce disaster risk and losses of lives and livelihoods.

The prime minister noted that some countries within the ACS are hailed as best practice examples in disaster preparedness. “It is well-known that following the major earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico instituted stronger building codes with the use of more durable, and better, construction materials, this initiative has served Mexico quite well in subsequent natural disasters…the example of Cuba is of great importance. It is hailed as one of the best-prepared countries in the world for natural disasters,” Dr. Gonsalves said.

Dr. Gonsalves urged for the signing of a comprehensive memorandum of understanding between ACS and CDEMA noting that greater coordination is necessary. According to the prime minister, the ACS must mainstream climate change in all functional activities of cooperation and coordination, while focusing on the protection, preservation, and sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea.

“Select particular areas for the attention of the ACS, training of personnel in all facets of disaster preparedness, assist in the sourcing and warehousing of vital materials in the most vulnerable member states, coordinating the use of suitable helicopters in disaster-struck member states while identifying and assisting in securing the use of barges to transport food, water and other supplies upon any natural disaster, the prime minister encouraged.

Dr. Gonsalves noted that despite the overlapping of the membership of the ACS and other regional groupings and organisations, there is relevance and geo-political space for the ACS particularly in the area of coordination of disaster preparedness regionally.

The ACS, which was founded on July 24, 1994, has as one if its four main central purposes the facilitation of more effective, coordinated responses to natural disasters in its twenty-four member states and seven associated members in the Caribbean Basin.

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