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DRI Leadership Perspectives: Building Resilience through Disaster Risk Reduction in the South Pacific

April 5, 2019 Leave a comment DRI Admin

By Chloe Demrovsky, President & CEO, DRI International

The small island countries of the Pacific are vulnerable to many hazards including cyclones, tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. And more recently, climate change poses growing challenges including sea level rise, increasingly severe storms and changes in rainfall patterns. Chronic stressors like population growth, poverty, and increasing urbanization make the problem worse. The governments of these small states are understandably concerned about how they will build and implement national strategies for disaster risk reduction in order to improve their resilience in the face of these daunting challenges.

In March, a meeting of the Commonwealth was held to discuss this very topic. I was honored to participate in the Fifth Global Biennial Conference on Small States, which was convened from March 25-29, 2019 in Apia, Samoa. The Commonwealth’s Biennial Conference is a prominent platform for small states’ stakeholders, including government delegations, private sector, civil society organizations, regional and international development partners, academia, and other non-state actors from within the Commonwealth and beyond for strategic networking, knowledge exchange, sharing of best practices and experiences and discussing issues of importance to these countries. The theme for this year’s event was ‘Building Resilience through Disaster Risk Reduction’.

At the conference, small states reflected on important disaster risk reduction concerns and priorities including progress towards the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Samoa Pathway for outcomes on disaster risk reduction. The objectives of the conference were to:

  1. Provide training on disaster risk reduction and disaster finance for senior officials in Ministries of Finance in Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth small states
  2. Provide an opportunity for development partners, academia, the private sector and other non-state actors to present their innovative disaster risk reduction solutions to key stakeholders in small states
  3. Facilitate matching of products and strategies offered by development partners that could adequately address small states’ disaster risk reduction needs, and
  4. Create networking opportunities for senior government officials from small states and stakeholders working in the field of disaster risk reduction, particularly disaster finance.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are on the front lines of the climate change struggle with few resources at their command to adapt to changing circumstances. For this reason, they frequently band together on these issues to advocate for global action and support.

Fittingly given the topic of this year’s event, the Commonwealth invited us to participate and provide further perspective from the private sector resilience community. I spoke on a panel entitled ‘Examining the Role of the Private Sector and Non-Governmental Organizations in Disaster Risk Reduction’. This session aimed to review the policies, rules, and regulations that incentivize long-term private sector investments in disaster risk reduction. We also examined the governance frameworks that better enable collaboration between the sectors in building resilience of communities. I was able to provide perspective on how corporations see these challenges, how they structure their own programs for enterprise risk management and business continuity, and how public-private partnerships might be structured to provide resources and results.

We are grateful to the Commonwealth for sponsoring our participation in this important and productive event. We wish these governments much success as they work toward building resilient countries and communities and will continue to support this life-saving work.