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Government has signed an agreement with representatives from the United Nations, cementing Jamaica’s participation in the ‘Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready!’ global campaign.

The programme, which has been launched in 1,300 cities worldwide, aims to strengthen Jamaica’s disaster risk reduction and disaster resilience capabilities, through the development of relevant policies, tools and mechanisms.

The campaign also encourages local government officials and Mayors to familiarise themselves with the UN’s 10-point check list for making cities resilient, in an effort to inform and educate residents.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott, signed the agreement on Tuesday, May 7, along with Acting Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Richard Thompson; Resident Co-ordinator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Arun Kashyap; and Regional Reporting Officer, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, (UNISDR), Jennifer Guralnick.

Speaking at the signing ceremony and programme launch, held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Kingston, Minister Arscott said the agreement is of great significance, as it highlights the government’s commitment to disaster preparedness and emergency management.

“This is only the beginning, as we can never be too prepared for the next natural or man-made disaster. The key to (disaster reduction) is really our level of preparedness, effective response and resilience,” he said.

He commended the work of the ODPEM and the local government system, noting that the various departments have been playing significant roles in managing comprehensive disaster preparedness and risk reduction in communities across the island.

Meanwhile, Ms. Guralnick emphasized that disaster and risk reduction is critical to the economic and sustainable development of countries, such as Jamaica.

She pointed out that every year the Caribbean faces losses of up to US$1.5 billion as a result of disasters.

“This affects not only the communities and the economies…, but also affects the future process of development and our investments,” she stated.

Ms. Guralnick noted that tools and mechanisms for disaster prevention were therefore quite important, as every US$1 spent on prevention leads to a reduction of US$7 in economic losses.

The campaign, which is built around the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), also addresses issues of local governance and urban risk, while exploring sustainable urbanisation principles.

The 10-year HFA came out of the World Conference held in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan in 2005 and outlines five priorities for action, and offers guiding principles and practical means for achieving disaster resilience.

The campaign’s 10-point check list include:putting in place organisation and co-ordination to understand and reduce disaster risk, based on participation of citizen groups and civil society; assign a budget for disaster risk reduction and provide incentives for homeowners, low-income families, communities, businesses and public sector to invest in reducing the risks they face; and maintaining up-to-date data on hazards and vulnerabilities, prepare risk assessments and use these as the basis for urban development plans and decisions.

Contact: Athaliah Reynolds-Baker