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BVI, Chile, Colombia calls for stronger response to disaster displacement in LAC region – Caribbean News Global

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By Government of the British Virgin Islands

ROADTOWN, Tortola – The British Virgin Islands (BVI) has joined the governments of Chile and Colombia in jointly calling for the strengthening of the regional framework for response to forced displacements caused by disasters such as hurricanes in Latin America and the Caribbean. The BVI also congratulated Colombia’s minister of foreign affairs Luis Gilberto Murillo on his government’s successful hosting of an official consultation with the countries and territories of the wider region to advance the process.

At the ‘Third Thematic Consultation of the Cartagena+40 Process regarding Protection in the Contexts of Forced Displacement due to Disasters’, organised by the governments of Chile, Colombia and UNHCR in the city of Bogotá, BVI Special Envoy Benito Wheatley addressed the plenary on the situation of the Caribbean regarding disaster displacement.

In his statement, Wheatley highlighted the subregion’s unique circumstances as a grouping of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that should be considered in a refresh of the Cartagena Declaration that contains the guiding principles for responding to forced displacement in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“For the Small Island Developing States of the Caribbean, there is a direct link between climate change, displacement, and sustainable development. Our geographical location in a hurricane belt means that we cannot avoid natural disasters. We have no choice but to adapt to worsening weather conditions to minimise the possibility of mass displacement. However, the increasing frequency of extreme weather events in the Caribbean, driven by climate change, has considerably heightened the risk of displacements occurring,” said Wheatley.

The special envoy also called for preventive measures to be taken to minimise mass displacements by hurricanes.

“Importantly, none of us can control natural disasters. However, we can better prepare for them to prevent mass displacements from happening. This requires not just putting early warning systems in place, but also taking the necessary climate change adaptation measures to build resilience. In the Caribbean, housing must be durable enough to withstand hurricanes. Robust building standards and enforcement are critical in this regard. Drainage systems must also be able to handle much heavier rainfall. Insurance schemes can provide a degree of financial security in the event of a natural disaster.”

Finally, Wheatley explained that in the Caribbean governments’ must take an integrated approach to build the necessary resilience to prevent mass displacements due to extreme weather events.

“There is a high cost for all of these adaptation measures, but a country’s overall level of resilience must be high enough to allow the society to recover quickly from an extreme weather event to minimise mass displacement. This is why, in the Caribbean context, we cannot separate climate change, displacement, and sustainable development. Our reality does not give us that luxury. By necessity, as small island developing states, we must take an integrated approach. If we do not, climate displacements could become a regular occurrence in the future that would be unsustainable for the Caribbean.”

Wheatley and foreign affairs minister Murillo also directly discussed disasters and forced displacements in the Caribbean. Murillo affirmed the integral role of the Caribbean in the Cartagena+40 process and that Colombia will continue to advocate for the Caribbean and build stronger relationships with the subregion.

Wheatley thanked foreign minister Murillo for the special session for Caribbean representatives convened by Colombia vice minister for multilateral affairs Elizabeth Taylor-Jay to further hear the Caribbean’s challenges as a vulnerable group of SIDS.

The consultation meetings took place from 18-20 June. The contributions made by participants will feed into the Chile Declaration and Plan of Action to be adopted by ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean in late 2024.

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