Commonwealth finance ministers concluded their annual meeting today in Bali, Indonesia, by endorsing key strategies aimed at helping countries reduce disaster risk.
The Treasurer of Papua New Guinea, Charles Abel, chaired the meeting and described a “sobering” backdrop to the discussions, which started just hours after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the Bali coast, followed shortly after by a 7.0-magnitude quake in neighbouring Papua New Guinea. A week before, Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island experienced a deadly earthquake and tsunami that has claimed more than 2,000 lives so far.
Acknowledging recent natural disasters in South Asia, Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “No longer are such disaster episodes a blip on a chart representing a distant exogenous event – violent storms, earthquakes, wildfires and the like, are now the new norm.”
She continued: “The ideas discussed at the Commonwealth Finance Minister Meeting today are not only innovative, but represent a holistic Commonwealth approach to tackling the issue of disaster risk, which at its roots encompasses vulnerability.”
Under the theme of ‘Enhancing National Capacity to Reduce Disaster Risk’, ministers discussed and approved the creation of a Commonwealth Disasters Risk Finance Portal, the expansion of the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CFAH), and the establishment of a joint fellowship programme with the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI).
The online portal will simplify access to information on the various sources of disaster funding for member countries. CFAH will also deploy experts to help governments secure disaster finance, while also training national and regional advisers. Similarly, the ODI-Commonwealth partnership will place skilled ODI fellows in ministries to provide technical and capacity-building support on disaster risk reduction.
Ministers also endorsed efforts to build consensus on the definition and measurement of vulnerability, and welcomed the work of the Commonwealth Climate Resilience Network, which enables universities to exchange expertise in climate resilience and adaptation.
The Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ Meeting has been convened annually since 1965 as a forum to discuss practical ways of addressing economic challenges faced by member countries. It is held in the margins of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank annual meetings. The 2019 meeting will be chaired by Cyprus.