PARLIAMENTARIAN RETREAT: ‘BUILDING CARIBBEAN RESILIENCE’ NOVEMBER 8-9, 2017,Opening Remarks by Senator the Honourable Christine Kangaloo, President of the Senate

Nov 8, 2017

Salutations

 The Honourable Bridgid Mary Annisette-George, Speaker of the House of Representatives,

 Ministers of the Government of Republic of Trinidad and Tobago;

 Other Presiding Officers, Ministers, Parliamentarians and Members of the Legislative Assemblies of the Caribbean Region,

 United Nations Representatives and Members of the of the Diplomatic Corps;

 Permanent Secretaries of the Ministries of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago;

 Representatives of Civil Society, Interest Groups and Observers;

 Senior Technocrats and Specialists;

 Guests;

 Members of the Media;

 The Staff of the United Nations Bodies and the Office of the Parliament; and

 Ladies and Gentlemen.

 

I am delighted to welcome you to this two-day parliamentary retreat, on “Sustainable Development Goals and Building Caribbean Resilience”. The purpose of this retreat is to educate and sensitize stakeholders, including us Parliamentarians, on contemporary approaches to resilience planning and strategy, as well as to provide a forum for discussing resilience and emergency responses in cases of natural disasters.

This is an important retreat, in an important year. Caribbean countries have suffered enormous devastation during this year’s Hurricane season. Where hurricanes were not at play, flooding and landslides associated with torrential rainfall have wreaked their own brand of havoc throughout the region. And just last Sunday, here in Trinidad and Tobago, a 5.7 earthquake, 71 kilometres from Tobago, rocked both islands – with the worrying contemporary wisdom being that the country is overdue for a more catastrophic event.

As countries in the main surrounded by the sea, and possessed of a unique tropical topography that makes us particularly susceptible to events such as volcanoes and earthquakes, the Caribbean region is particularly at risk for natural disasters.

The time is therefore always right for a retreat of this nature – we need constantly to remind ourselves of the need for sustained focus on the threats that surround us and of the means by which stakeholders can play their part in ensuring that our societies and regional agencies continue to place, on the front burner, the question of resilience and emergency responses in cases of natural disasters. The Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago is always pleased to facilitate retreats such as this: in December of 2015, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, working with the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, delivered the Caribbean Regional Workshop on Energy, Sustainability and Development for the Caribbean and United Kingdom Parliamentarians. In different sessions of that workshop, the threats to sustainable development in the Caribbean posed by climate change, were discussed.

At that very forum, one of the experts indicated that Trinidad and Tobago would probably reach our climate departure date in the year 2030, meaning that whatever our highest recorded temperature was at that time may be the lowest going forward. For Jamaica, it may occur in the year 2023.

Again – and as recently as in August of this year – the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago hosted the 18th Biennial Conference of Presiding Officers and Clerks of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Regions. During that conference, and for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s Lecture Series, the topic “Geo-Political Responses to Climate Change” was selected and presented.

This retreat on “Sustainable Development Goals and Building Caribbean Resilience” also takes places against the backdrop of the adoption by the United Nations of two major global frameworks: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030. The Sendai Framework, in particular, is a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement that recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk, but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders. It aims for the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of people, businesses, communities and countries. It sets out specific targets and priorities for action with a strong emphasis on disaster risk management, the reduction of disaster risk, the prevention of new risk and on reducing existing risk and strengthening resilience. The Sendai Framework also covers, for the first time, technological disasters.

Doubtless, the principles and goals of the Sendai Framework will inform and inspire meaningful and robust discussions over the next 2 days.

This retreat takes place against the backdrop of all of these important events; it also takes place against the backdrop of an acknowledgement by the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago of its obligation to play a part in increasing regional awareness of the issues surrounding resilience and emergency responses in cases of natural disasters. We are extremely pleased at the presence of so many stakeholders today, because it makes clear that all of us in the region continue to be committed to the same goals of increasing regional awareness, and facilitating the required discussions in our respective countries.

On behalf of the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, I therefore welcome you to this important retreat. Over the course of the next 2 days, we will have much food for thought and much cause for introspection.  As I close, I want to thank all of your for coming and I want to thank especially our distinguished panelists who have agreed to give so generously of their time and expertise to assist us in our discussions.

May the lessons we learn at this retreat improve our understanding of the issues surrounding resilience planning and strategy, and redound to the benefit of our countries and our Region.

Ladies and gentlemen I thank you for your attention.

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