DR. ARUN KASHYAP: Handover Ceremony – Roadmap to Seismic Risk Reduction

Apr 24, 2014

Dr. Arun Kashyap
UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative, Jamaica
Handover Ceremony – Roadmap to Seismic Risk Reduction
Ministry of Local Government and Community Development
Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Madame Chairperson, Ms. Cheryl Nichols (Acting Director of
Information and Training at ODPEM)

  • Hon. Noel Arscott, Minister of Local Government and Community Development;
  • Horace Glaze, Acting Deputy Director General, ODPEM
  • Excellency, Yasuo Takase, Ambassador of Japan to Jamaica and other members of the Diplomatic community
  • Distinguished Ladies and Gentleman ‐ a very good morning to all of you.

On behalf of the UN in Jamaica it is a pleasure for me to be here and welcome you to the Handover Ceremony for the “Roadmap to Seismic Risk Reduction”. It marks the completion of the first phase of this important initiative that focused on preparedness for Seismic events and minimizing their adverse impacts. It has been implemented under the leadership and ownership of the Government of Jamaica ‐ especially the Ministry of Local Government & Community Development and its Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. We are grateful to Minister Arscott for his continuing commitment as a Champion of this important initiative. His persistence in bringing the awareness of this important risk to all Jamaicans while also preparing to put in place an operational strategy to minimize the damage to human lives and livelihoods, properties and assets is really commendable. Today’s handing over of the Roadmap which will be described in a little while by my colleague Elsie Laurence Chounoune - demonstrates a milestone in the ongoing efforts to ensure Jamaica’s seismic safety. And, its implementation would mark the next phase of the Initiative.

The exploratory mission organized by UNDP of an international seismologist (Dr. Eric Callis) in March 2013 revealed the urgent need in Jamaica for strengthening national preparedness to cope with a seismic event of any significant magnitude. This realization provided the backdrop for the UNDP-ODPEM collaboration to host the Seismic Risk Reduction Forum in January this year. I would take this opportunity to once again express my gratitude to the Ministry of Local Government & Community Development and ODPEM for their commitment towards enhanced national preparedness, and to the Ambassadors of Chile, Japan and Mexico and the governments of Haiti and Dominican Republic for sharing their experience, insights, expertise and good practices to achieve optimal seismic safety.

The Roadmap represents a joint outcome of this partnership. It will continue to significantly raise awareness around seismic risk faced by Jamaica and galvanize stakeholders’ to collaborate in alleviating the same. We welcome the cooperation of our colleagues and associates in and beyond the region, and the presence of several of them here today to join us in this important handover ceremony is a reflection of their determination for sustained cooperation.

On behalf of the United Nations I would like to express our commitment to advancing South‐South and Triangular Cooperation and enhancing public private partnerships to support the state of readiness of the country in the event of major seismic activity. Such preparedness would also promote improvement in the lives and livelihoods of all Jamaicans, and especially those who are marginalized.

It is worth reflecting on the fact that the Latin American and the Caribbean Region has been impacted by at least seven earthquakes above 5.0 on the Richter scale since the Seismic Forum in January 2014 affecting Argentina, Barbados, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and the Leeward Island. And six of those events occurred in April 2014 – this month. Despite the severity of the events the damages caused by the events were manageable and relief and recovery processes were in place effectively, efficiently and judiciously. It is this kind of excellence in preparation and readiness that we would like to strive for in Jamaica given that the importance of preparedness and reducing risks for Jamaica posed by potential seismic disasters is indisputable. Current scientific evidence confirms that the geological faults affecting Jamaica can potentially generate an earthquake of magnitude seven or more on the Richter scale. It is therefore not if but when that an earthquake will jolt Jamaica. The evidence is also persuasive in that the adverse impacts of such an earthquake are more likely to be experienced in urban Kingston and other cities of Jamaica.

Global learning including from Latin America and the Caribbean region informs us that preparedness can significantly reduce the negative impacts of earthquake events. The national strategy to build resilience therefore should be grounded in strengthened tenacity to minimize the impacts of earthquakes. Along with access to cutting edge knowledge of building codes, building practices, architectural designs and spatial use planning, reinforced hospitals and other important structures this would require national leadership, commitment and human, institutional and systemic capacities for preemptive actions. The Roadmap offers a series of strategic measures including planning for relief and recovery that are designed to reduce the negative effects of earth quakes on the built environment and the people of Jamaica.

UNOCHA reminds us that an effective and timely humanitarian response that is directed by humanitarian principles is fundamental to successfully meeting the needs of populations affected by complex emergencies and disasters. It is necessary to minimize the human suffering, environmental harm, and setback of economic progress caused by disasters. Both, the emergency humanitarian response and early recovery require close collaboration with sector partners within and outside the country.

The link between inclusive and sustainable development and disaster risk reduction is mutually reinforcing. Accordingly, achieving seismic risk reduction and strengthening preparedness in the country will require a multi-disciplinary and an integrated approach that would include planning ministry along with the relevant sectoral ministries and institutions. It is mandatory that planning agencies collaborate closely with technical agencies involved in disaster risk reduction while ensuring that developed plans are based on accurate scientific data. In Jamaica this would for instance include close working collaboration between the Earthquake Unit of the University of the West Indies, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, National Environmental Planning Agency and other stakeholders including the private sector. The engagement of the private sector is vital as engineering institutions, insurance industry and architectural professionals and developers bring valuable resources that can be tapped into to monitor and safeguard implementation and enforcement of relevant policies and standards. I would submit that such a collaboration will contribute towards a timely and effective implementation of the Road Map.

As Jamaica begins to plan for an effective implementation of the Roadmap, the UN system in Jamaica stands ready to partner and contribute towards necessary technical and financial support. It is the strengthened partnerships between relevant stakeholders and political commitment to ensure integrity of national preparedness efforts that would safeguard the Jamaicans and national assets from the effects of all disasters including seismic disasters, and catalyze the achievement of Vision 2030 Jamaica.

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