Monday 28 September, 2020

UWI moves to enhance regional disaster management capacity

As the Caribbean enters the official 2018 hurricane season, the Disaster Risk Reduction Centre of the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD) at the University of the West Indies is set to pilot the first of two courses as part of a new online Disaster Risk Management graduate programme.

Targeting the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) community, it will be the first in a series of such offerings to equip the practitioners and policymakers across the Caribbean with the skills required to help make the region more adequately prepared for and resilient to disasters.

The Community-based Disaster Resilience pilot will be held from June 12–15 in Barbados, while the Communications for Disaster Risk Management offering will be piloted in Jamaica from July 2-3.

 Director of the UWI's Disaster Risk Reduction Centre (DRRC), Dr Barbara Carby, explained that the initiative is a direct response to the pressing need for more effective and timely percolation of existing knowledge to those who can make a real difference in creating a safer and more resilient Caribbean.

“Globally, the problem has been that despite the mountain of accumulated knowledge, losses as a result of natural disasters have continued to mount,” she said.

One possible reason for this, she admitted, is the lack of a functional flow of information between the creators of new insights within the scientific community, and those who create and implement public DRM policy.

“The fact that scientists are producing facts, data information, knowledge… does not mean that this is driven by policy or development needs. We might be producing something quite esoteric, which is great for theoretical knowledge, but in practical terms, nobody else really has an interest in it… so increasingly we must ensure that the research we do solves real problems,” said Dr Carby.

It was this clear gap that gave rise to the Enhancing Knowledge and Application of Comprehensive Disaster Management (EKACDM) Initiative, a five-year project funded by Global Affairs Canada, and housed at the ISD. It is essentially a knowledge management project which is aimed at facilitating the direct application of knowledge to improving DRM policy and practice.

 Dr Carby, who is also co-principal investigator of the EKACDM Initiative, argued that apart from creating new and more directly relevant knowledge, success depends on a participatory and multi-disciplinary approach.

“What we need to do is create champions who will take the responsibility of translating that science to all the critical stakeholders to better secure the future of the region by making is more resilient to hazards, and ultimately minimising the impact of natural disasters,” she said

One key function of the EKACDM Initiative is to support the implementation of the regional Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) Framework 2014-2024 of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), by helping to train key personnel in the public and private sectors, and civil society groups.

Fifty (50) participants from across the region have been invited to participate in the review of the courses through the piloting exercise.

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