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Ceremony to mark the strenghening of CDERA: European Commission supports disaster management agency's new direction

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Bridgetown, Barbados, October 31, 2008 (CDERA) -- The European Commission (EC) is providing the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) with € 3.4 million to support the agency's new direction in which it will no longer just respond to disasters when they occur, but also promote prevention and preparation activities that reduce the risks posed by disasters before they take place.

CDERA's new approach to tackling disasters, called Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM), has led to the agency's responsibilities being widened to include disaster-related training and public awareness raising, and empowering the region's disaster managers with the resources and skills they need to best carry out their duties.

The EC support will help CDERA adapt to its new role, and will make the agency more capable of providing the intense coordination and leadership demanded of it in one of the most disaster-prone areas of the world. Specifically, the funds will be used to improve disaster-based legislation in CDERA's 16 member states, and to increase the skill set and knowledge base of the region's disaster managers by supporting disaster-related teaching and research. They will also be used to support awareness campaigns that make disaster preparedness and prevention seem not just necessary, but also cost-effective and appealing to Caribbean people, and to modernise emergency response and planning in the Caribbean by giving the region's disaster managers increased access to computer-based technologies.

The EC financing will also provide capacity building to CDERA, allowing the agency to become better staffed, equipped and organized. To this end, CDERA recently underwent an organisational audit that weighed what the agency is capable of against what is required of it, and which examined how CDERA could best tailor its resources and operations so that they fit the agency's new commitments.

The audit involved discussions with CDERA's staff and the agency's development partners, including the EC and the United Nations Development Programme. The consultations yielded recommendations for improvements to CDERA's human and material resources, management and financing, as well as for extending CDERA membership to non-CARICOM countries, such as the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Work has just begun on realising the audit's proposals. This landmark will be celebrated in a Signing Ceremony at which the EC, CARICOM and CDERA will publicly display their commitment to taking the disaster management agency down its new and, ultimately, more effective path. The ceremony takes place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday 5th November at the CDERA Coordinating Unit in Bridgetown, Barbados.

The EC support and audit are timely because disasters in the Caribbean are now more destructive than ever due to more frequent and stronger hurricanes, and because our populations are increasingly crowded together in urban areas where disasters can do much more damage. These increasingly destructive disasters not only kill, but also wipe out years of investments and infrastructure, and their rehabilitation costs are stretching regional economies to the point where development programmes are being sacrificed.

By strengthening CDERA and helping it move in its new direction, the EC support will yield a region that can better prepare for and recover from disasters, and in which the human and economic toll of disasters is minimised.

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