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Hurricane Matthew: Secretary-General shares sympathies and concern

4 October 2016

With winds of up to 140mph, Hurricane Matthew hurtled through the Caribbean overnight with Jamaica, Haiti and Bahamas among the countries in its path. Among those killed were a teenage boy who was died in a landslide in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, spoke to the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation to express her concern and call for stronger climate action to help build resilience in all Commonwealth regions in the face of growing risk.

“We are sharing very much the anxiety of all in the region as they wait for Matthew either to hit or to pass over. I hope and pray that Matthew does not leave total devastation in his path,” she said.

“I will be asking everybody, think about what each of us can contribute, because if we are thankfully spared this time, we know that the climate threat we live with is such that there will be a next time. So what can we do in the interim to better prepare all of us for the next one?”


I just spoke to @rjrnews saying #HurricaneMatthew shows the innate vulnerability #climate shocks represent to our #smallstates pic.twitter.com/TDkqCjCUNd

— Patricia Scotland QC (@PScotlandCSG) October 3, 2016


Later this week, the Secretary-General is travelling to Washington DC for the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting, where climate finance is top of the agenda. Many of the Commonwealth member countries are particularly vulnerable to the impact of global warming and are facing unprecedented challenges from its devastating impact.

Speaking to the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation late Monday, the Secretary General set out her ambition: “Because we’re dealing with climate change, the challenges coming our way to our member states will be multi-faceted and I want us here in the Commonwealth Secretariat, to be better able to provide collaborative, concrete, facilitative support for all our members so that we can really feel that as a family we’ve got mechanisms that enable us to support each other in our hour of need.


PHOTO: Huge waves crash into the remains of a seawall behind the Annotto Bay Health Centre in St Mary as #HurricaneMatthew nears - @Ian1foto pic.twitter.com/T2G5dhFdgh

— Jamaica Gleaner (@JamaicaGleaner) October 3, 2016


The year 2015 was a milestone year for climate action, culminating in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which built on a commitment made at the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

The Secretary-General continued: “At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, we committed ourselves to tackle climate change because it poses an existential threat to so many of us. We agreed that there is a need for us to do better and to do more, to work harder in relation to our building resilience and adapting the climate we are tackling.

“One of the greatest things that we here in the Commonwealth Secretariat can do, is the coordination and the access to help and support. How do we draw the climate finance that is available at a national level but which most of nation starts haven’t been able to access?  We think that by working together on things like the climate finance hub, we can draw the money  - the millions, if not billions-  that is set aside to help with climate change.

“The other thing is looking at how we can build resilience to support the disaster preparedness. I remember only too well when I was appointed international coordinator for disaster relief after Erika hit Dominica, the pain of the difficulties that so many of our people suffered then. But what was essential, was to coordinate and galvanise international community. We now need to look together as a Commonwealth as to how we can formalise that sort of support, how to respond in a way that will make it easier for those in our countries at home who need our help,” she said.


BAXCOVA! Water sprout captured in Negril. #HurricaneMatthew @ safia pic.twitter.com/9RnkWXkGmq

— The Dutty Berry Show (@duttyberryshow) October 2, 2016