Yesterday, Dominica Foreign Affairs Minister Francine Baron talked about building codes, flood management, renewable energy and other initiatives to improve resilience on that Caribbean island which was also affected by Hurricane María.
Her speech was similar to that of local authorities after the hurricane that caused about 3,000 direct and indirect deaths in Puerto Rico.
For example, in Dominica, the government created an agency to address reconstruction and resilience initiatives for the next 45 years, including solar panels on roofs, restricting construction areas, among many other measures that seek to minimize the damage caused by hurricanes in this region.
During the first day of the CGI meeting on disaster recovery in the Caribbean, climate change was discussed a threat that has to be dealt with and not just as a concern. The CGI Action Network brings together leaders in government, business, and civil society to develop strategies and initiatives to address hurricane recovery needs facing the region and strengthen the Caribbean economy.
Former US President Bill Clinton thanked those who responded to his call 15 months after Hurricane María, when global attention is no longer focused on the region stability.
"We’ve seen incredible strength and resilience throughout the region—people working together to help their neighbors," Clinton said.
The meeting at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, gathered about 550 participants representing nearly 400 organizations from Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda. Nearly half of these organizations were already participating in initiatives promoted by Clinton to help with the reconstruction and economic sustainability of the Caribbean region. The rest have just joined the initiative.
Clinton opened the plenary listing some of the needs in the Caribbean islands: more efficient and cheaper energy, jobs for young people, medicine for the most vulnerable, among other issues.
In addition, he announced some of the commitments reached towards the start of the working session of the Clinton Foundation. For example, the Hogar Buen Pastor organization - that helps people with addiction problems in Puerto Rico - would receive technological support and medical equipment to expand their services. In a brief message, the organization director Rose Mary González, explained that lately, especially after the impact of Hurricane María, they had an increase in the number of cases related to opiates addiction, some even including dangerous drugs such as fentanyl.
González said that substance abuse in Puerto Rico is a major problem that increases every year. With María it has tripled, according to sources.
Clinton also announced that the IBM company would develop initiatives for students and private entities to compete in the development of technologies that help with damage prevention or response to catastrophes. Similarly, Good 360, a nonprofit, launched its commitment to spearheading an actionable mission around thoughtful giving during disasters by educating responsible business leaders at a number of Fortune 500 companies on adopting a proactive, needs-based, resilient, transparent and long-term approach to disaster giving. According to Clinton, more than half of the donations after a natural disaster do not help the victims and end up in garbage dumps.
The resilience panel included Baron, chef José Andrés, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, and the Expedia executive, Mark Okerstrom. Jennifer González, Resident Commissioner in Washington, was also to attend the panel, but she could not arrive because she lost her flight, said former President Clinton.
Chef Andrés stressed the need to help to promote agricultural business activity. He said this is particularly important for insular jurisdictions since it reduces food costs and promotes the safety since they can be less dependent on imports and air and maritime transportation.
Meanwhile, Scotland showed herself hopeful on technology development to address climate change caused by human economic activities.
Scotland said that human ingenuity brought “us here and it will also take us out” while emphasizing the importance of technological development to address climate change and its consequences.
Okerstrom talked about issues related to the Caribbean economic recovery, that depends on tourism to a large extent. For example, he said that destinations should develop initiatives to promote the Caribbean in general, in addition to individual efforts to promote tourism.
He said that some countries do not have a strong voice if they are alone, but if they work together they can do it better.
CGI plenary sessions will continue this morning with a discussion on the creation of opportunities for young people with the participation of the former US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton; the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz; the head of the organization Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, and IBM vice president Ángel Díaz.
During the afternoon, former President Clinton, Barbardos Prime Minister Mia Mottley; the Banco Popular executive Richard Carrión; and the governors of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Ricardo Rosselló Nevares and Albert Bryan, respectively, will participate in a plenary session on fortifying the future of the Caribbean economy.