Caribbean leaders united in race against climate change

28 November 2018

Caribbean leaders and senior officials have agreed to accelerate joint action to build resilience to disasters, stressing climate action as a matter of their survival.

Caribbean leaders and senior officials have agreed to accelerate joint action to build resilience to disasters, stressing climate action as a matter of their survival.

Meeting in Washington D.C., the leaders welcomed the Commonwealth’s plan of action to help member countries boost resilience and cope with the impacts of climate change.

Describing the Commonwealth as a “force of good” in the world, Nigel Clarke, Jamaica’s Minister of Finance and Public Service, said, “The Commonwealth offers opportunities to collaborate across a wide range of priority areas, including climate change, for galvanising and creating momentum around specific reforms that can be of benefit for member countries.”

His words were echoed by the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia A. Mottley, who praised the Commonwealth’s leadership on the universal vulnerability index.

The Prime Minister underlined the urgency of recognising economic vulnerability through a universal agreement of its definition and way to measure it.

The leaders were speaking at a conference of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank entitled Building Resilience to Disasters and Climate Change in the Caribbean.

washington building resilience landscape

The Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, highlighted the need for solutions to address the high debt burden of Caribbean countries, which limits their ability to fund disaster preparedness.

Secretary-General Scotland also called for the establishment of a Resilience Lab in Dominica to learn from the country’s response to climate and other challenges inherent in post-disaster recovery.  

“Building on a knowledge-sharing approach, the Resilience Lab could draw on the experiences of small and other vulnerable states to help build resilience to disaster and climate change,” she stated.

The Secretary-General urged collaboration between governments and development organisations to coordinate efforts and to improve their ability to use development assistance effectively.

The leaders proposed solutions including a disaster relief fund as a proactive approach to mitigating the severe financial fallout caused by natural disasters.

They recognised that the Caribbean region’s vulnerability to natural disasters is worsened by climate change. They agreed that a coalition of leaders, development partners, climate funds and financial institutions could help build a more resilient, robust and sustainable Caribbean.

Notably, Caribbean leaders identified priority areas for strengthening regional cooperation for a unified response to climate change which included:

  1. accelerating efforts to transform political commitments into practical policies and strategies;
  2. understanding resilience in the form of climate, environment and infrastructure;
  3. rethinking challenges associated with accessing climate finance in the face of vulnerabilities and disasters;
  4. building a greater understanding of risk transfer instruments so they are more climate-sensitive;
  5. reducing the constraints that exist in small states through capacity building, data collection and adaptive solutions.

The findings of the conference will contribute to the discourse at the Commonwealth’s first-ever research conference on small states, to be held in Malta, which will explore new and emerging developments in disaster risk reduction.


The Secretary-General, alongside Chief Minister of Anguilla Victor Banks, speaks on incentives and financing to build resilience to natural disaster.


The Secretary-General meets Kilaparti Ramakrishna from Green Climate Fund to discuss innovative financing solutions for small and other vulnerable states.