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Jamaica to sit on UN disaster risk council for first time

Published:Thursday | July 31, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer

Jamaica is to sit on a high-level United Nations (UN) council that will formulate a mechanism to reduce disaster risk globally.

The country will, for the first time, take its place on the council of the United Nations Preparatory Committee for the Hyogo Framework of Action Post 2015, a 10-year international disaster risk-reduction plan.

Richard Thompson, acting director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), says despite the challenges, Jamaica along with other small island developing states (SIDS) will have an influence and will benefit from mechanisms to reduce risks and protect the environment.

"What this means for us is that we have a major part in the shaping of the agenda for disaster risk reduction beyond 2015. We have a key part in the programmes being implemented by countries globally to reduce risks, and this is the first we have ever done that," he declared.

Lagging behind

"We literally had to move stones to get on the committee because the fact is that, if you aren't a part of these sittings, you basically are lagging behind. For SIDS who encounter special vulnerabilities, where one disaster can wipe out an entire economy, it is essential that we have a major contribution to the agenda that will affect us in terms of risk management," he told The Gleaner in an interview Tuesday.

He also noted that it will take a collaborative effort to ensure that the country continues to make strides internationally.

"Whatever is done must be region specific and country specific because the fact is that the scope of measurement will be much different for a developing country as opposed to a more developed country," he said.

"As an agency, we are working to make our mark globally in terms of the role we play in disaster risk management, but it is constant work. People are of the notion that ODPEM works only during the hurricane season, and the rest of the year we are playing dominoes, but the work never stops," he declared.