Several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are among 33 countries in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that are expected to benefit directly from new China-CELAC cooperation on disaster risk management.
Director General of the Guyana Civil Defence Commission (CDC), retired Colonel, Nazrul Hussain, addressing the virtual first ministerial forum on Thursday said Georgetown welcomes the new initiative, adding that it will support CELAC countries in disaster response, mitigation and risk reduction.
“It is our belief that the strategic and material input of China in this forum will inject an increased spirit of cooperation and guide the CELAC countries in the right direction. Guyana applauds the efforts of China and stands resolute with the CELAC countries in promoting this platform for disaster management cooperation in the region,” he told the virtual meeting.
Hussain said Guyana, like other Caribbean countries, is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. These risks include coastal flooding and sea level rise, flooding due to excessive rainfall, and even drought. In addition to that, Guyana, which is a new oil producing nation, is also faced with the potential risk of an oil spill.
However, China’s Emergency Management Minister, Wang Xiangxi, said that the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region is not the only one faced with increasing threats of natural disasters.
Xiangxi told the meeting that “strengthening international cooperation in disaster management has become a common demand of the international community” and as such, during the last ministerial meeting of the China-CELAC forum, the China-CELAC joint action plan for cooperation was adopted. He said disaster management was listed as a key area of cooperation.
“China is ready to support this mechanism with the Latin American and Caribbean side to share experiences and practices in disaster management, learn from each other and jointly improve the capacity of natural disaster prevention and control,” he said, making reference to the 2021 launch of the Belt and Road International Cooperation Framework for Natural Disaster Prevention and Emergency Management.
With the active participation of United Nations agencies and developing countries, China’s Emergency Management Minister said his country also welcomes the participation of LAC to make new contributions to the development of a global disaster prevention mitigation and relief mechanism.
The meeting was also addressed by the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, who said that in the last 20 years, LAC had the highest economic losses from disasters, accounting for 45 per cent of global losses.
As a percentage of each country’s gross domestic product (GDP), seven of the top 10 countries are in the Caribbean region.
“The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), along with the climate emergency, has highlighted the need for increased solidarity to tackle our common challenges. That is why we welcome the convening of this forum to enhance transboundary cooperation along the important priorities of the UN framework. And I commend the inclusion of disaster risk reduction as a priority within the China-CELAC joint action plan.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, a joint China-CELAC statement was adopted by all the countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname.
A special fund has also been established to assist with responding to natural disasters in CELAC countries.