Make disasters priority, OAS told
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Assistant Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Ambassador Albert Ramdin, has told Member States “it’s time to make natural disasters a political priority”.
Addressing yesterday’s opening ceremony of the Second Inter-American Meeting of Ministers and High-Level Authorities on Sustainable Development in the Dominican Republic, the high-ranking OAS official pointed to the sequence of recent natural disasters in the hemisphere.
“Hardly a day passes without frequent and powerful reminders of the need to fortify ourselves,” he said.
“Most of our countries have faced the impact of hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and landslides. We need to place this issue high on the political agenda in the Americas, since it can affect everything from our economies to security and even democracy.” The OAS Assistant Secretary General acknowledged that some countries in the Americas have suffered more than others in the face of natural disasters.
His suggestion is to encourage investment in serious disaster-risk management systems.
“The reality of poverty and the crippling loss of life cannot be ignored,” Ramdin said. “We need increased investment in preemptive programmes. We must be proactive about this.” Ramdin said that the challenges of climate change have also become pressing in the Western Hemisphere.
“People in the Caribbean and Arctic regions, people in low-lying coastal areas in North, Central and South America can tell you the rise in sea levels, flooding and coastal erosion all are clear and present dangers to life and livelihoods,” Ramdin said.
He called on the international community to return to the commitments made in Copenhagen to review greenhouse gas emissions and make funds available to more vulnerable states.
He also called on OAS Member States to step up their own efforts to make their societies and economies more resilient. “We have a long and arduous road ahead, but the time has come to change how we think about natural disasters, climate change and our path to sustainable development.” The OAS official went on to praise the efforts of several countries in the region to promote sustainable development, pointing to conservation efforts in Bolivia and Costa Rica; urban planning efforts in parts of Ecuador and Brazil; eco-friendly systems in Canada and Oregon; and commitments to improve air quality in Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Brazil and Chile.
Several countries, he pointed out, are taking concrete steps to reduce their carbon footprint, including Nevis, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Belize.
According to Ramdin, “Progress has been made, but our region has no choice but to redouble its resilience-building efforts”. (CMC)