- MIAH is a regional initiative designed to strengthen coordination and response mechanisms for humanitarian aid in Central and South American, and Caribbean nations.
- The Caribbean has been identified as one of the most vulnerable areas in the world to natural disaster.
- Mr. Arscott underscored the need for the participants to develop the “new tools and initiatives.. in the area of disaster mitigation preparedness"
Over 130 officials and delegates representing more than 10 organisations from some 30 Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, are currently participating in the sixth annual International Mechanisms for Humanitarian Assistance (MIAH) conference in Kingston.
The three-day meeting, scheduled for October 16 to 18 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, is being jointly staged by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).
MIAH is a regional initiative designed to strengthen coordination and response mechanisms for the provision of humanitarian needs arising in Central and South American, and Caribbean nations.
The conference, themed: ‘Strengthening Public and Private Partnerships, Toward a Common Regional Platform for Humanitarian Action’, is being held in the English-speaking Caribbean for the first time. It will facilitate dialogue and deliberations among participants to enhance attendant provisions under the facility.
Addressing Wednesday’s (October 16) opening ceremony, Local Government and Community Development Minister, Hon. Noel Arscott, underscored the importance of stakeholder collaboration in providing humanitarian aid, particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters.
He noted that the Caribbean has been identified as one of the most vulnerable areas in the world to natural disaster, and statistics show that the region’s exposure to events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, and floods over the decades, have stymied economic growth.
He contended that with the onset of climate change “it has become clear that the continued impact of disasters will lead to greater impoverishment, lack of economic growth, and possible social and political instability.”
Against this background, Mr. Arscott said the conference will provide the opportunity for participants to discuss concerns relating to the “global humanitarian agenda”, while urging “stakeholder readiness” in delivering assistance.
“This meeting must serve as the basis for closer collaboration and cooperation between the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the international disaster response agencies existing both in Latin America and the rest of the world. We must find ways to determine how each agency measures up, in terms of capacity, to undertake the necessary humanitarian actions, should the need arise,” he stated.
Mr. Arscott further underscored the need for the participants to develop the “new tools and initiatives that will be shared with some of the major (stakeholders) in the area of disaster mitigation preparedness, and emergency management in the region.”
Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade State Minister, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, who also addressed the opening ceremony, described the MIAH meeting as “timely”, coming ahead of Jamaica hosting the eighth annual Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM), in collaboration with CDEMA in December.
“The CDM is regarded as the regional forum of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) global platform, and the outcome of that meeting will, no doubt, feed into discussions to be held at future MIAH meetings,” he pointed out.
While noting that countries across the Americas share and are “significantly affected” by vulnerabilities to natural disasters requiring increased humanitarian assistance, Mr. Brown contended that the “growing need” for this intervention is “worldwide”.
The State Minister pointed out that the United Nations (UN), through OCHA, has made “tremendous strides over the years” to assist regions and countries most vulnerable to natural disasters.
Additionally, he said the regional OCHA office, headquartered in Panama, caters to a group of small island developing states (SIDS), like Jamaica, “which have unique characteristics and vulnerabilities, that must be considered, particularly in times of distress.”
“As we prepare for the Third International Conference for Small Island Developing States, in Samoa next year, and the International Year for SIDS (2014), we anticipate continued and deepened interaction with OCHA and other United Nations bodies, in a partnership that will be of mutual benefit to all,” Mr. Brown said.
Other speakers at the opening ceremony included: Kingston’s Mayor, Senator Angela Brown Burke; United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative, Dr. Arun Kashyap; and OCHA Regional Office Head, Douglas Reimer.
The three-day conference is scheduled to run until Friday, October 18.