The Virgin Islands joins with other nations around the world this week highlighting ways to protect persons from the impacts of natural and man-made disasters following the United Nations’ annual International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on Sunday.
The theme for this year’s observance is resilient infrastructure, which encompasses both structural resilience as well as limiting the interruption of critical services, as explained by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a message in observance of the day.
“In the coming decade, the world will invest trillions of dollars in new housing, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. Climate resilience and disaster risk reduction must be central to this investment,” Mr. Guterres said.
His Excellency the Governor Augustus Jaspert said that resilience is an absolutely vital part of disaster preparedness, management, and recovery.
Governor Jaspert said, “Resilience is everyone’s job: Our Government, the private and voluntary sectors, communities and individuals. This aim is shared in the international community and the United Kingdom is supporting the Territory’s resilience by providing funding and offering a loan guarantee to enable recovery to have strengthened resilience at its core. Wider assistance includes key components of disaster response including the seasonal response capability of the Royal Navy, and facilitating partnerships among the Overseas Territories and with wider donors and organisations.”
The Governor added, “I have seen firsthand the strength and capability of the Virgin Islands as a people since 2017. We need to build on that strength so that future generations would not be so impacted and would not have to work so hard to recover should there ever be another event like those we faced in 2017.”
Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Andrew A. Fahie said that Climate Change is real as the people of the Virgin Islands have been witnessing more powerful storms and hurricanes being formed.
The Premier said this is why the Government is doing what is necessary to make the Virgin Islands more resilient, not just in terms of building infrastructure that can withstand strong hurricane winds, but resilient in terms of the diversity of our economy, the equipping of its people with the skills that will reduce or remove their vulnerability to shocks.
The Premier said, “Furthermore, my Government is not building just for today. We are building for a lifetime so that future generations of leaders, Public Officers and customers can enjoy the results.” He said that examples of resiliency can be found in the soon-to-be revitalised Central Administration Complex and Virgin Gorda administration facilities, the new construction of the National Emergency Operations Centre, and the L-shaped building at Elmore Stoutt High School.
Deputy Governor David Archer, Jr also echoed these sentiments and added that as important to the strength of the Territory’s buildings are its services, and ensuring that they can continue to function after a disaster.
Mr. Archer said, “This week key leaders within the public sector are considering the lessons learned from 2017 and meeting to create a blueprint for how they will best be able to serve the people that will need them more than ever should we face another disaster. The ‘Continuity of Government Plan’ that they help create will be the way forward when it comes to continuing to provide vital government services such as education, health, and other services in the face of a disaster.”
The International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction was started in 1989, after the United Nations General Assembly called for a day to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction. Held annually on October 13, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raises awareness about the importance risk reduction in all facets of life.