Working Group Meeting DAS Kierscht Opening Remarks (Open Press)

U.S. Caribbean Resilience Partnership DAS Kierscht Remarks

Good morning.  Thank you for traveling from across the Caribbean to participate today.  A special thanks to Minister Hinkson for hosting us in Barbados for this first ever working group to inaugurate our U.S. Caribbean Resilience Partnership.

On behalf of the United States Government and the State Department in particular, I want to underscore our commitment to enhancing our cooperation with the Caribbean on the shared priority of disaster preparedness and resilience.

Our nations are bound by common interests and societal ties that yield daily, tangible benefits for our citizens and friends throughout the Caribbean.  As we look to strengthen those bonds, we turn to the U.S.-Caribbean 2020 framework, which the United States introduced in 2017, as the centerpiece of our engagement with Caribbean partners.

This strategy, which aims to deepen our engagement in diplomacy, prosperity, security, health, education, and energy, provides a strong framework in guiding our relationship to be able to collaborate on the important issues we will discuss over the next two days.

Conversations over the past two years, between Caribbean Ministers and Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan, as well as Under Secretary of State Hale, have led to this moment.  After our collaboration and planning, we are here together today to launch the working group under the U.S.-Caribbean Resilience Partnership.  Recognizing the importance of an inclusive approach, our leaders have given us a mandate to go farther, and to expand our Partnership to include non-governmental partners such as universities and the private sector.  Expanding the circle of experts and advisers allows us to draw on more experience, avoid duplication of effort and complement ongoing actions to address the challenges climate change, natural disasters, and extreme weather events pose in our region.

We know there is a great urgency to the work we do under this Partnership, and it takes the combined efforts of policymakers, practicioners, and stakeholders working together to build the durable resilience our countries need.  The recent destruction and devastating loss of life from Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas is a painful reminder that each of our countries, including the United States, remain highly vulnerable to natural disasters.

Here in Barbados, we come together to build on the lessons from yesterday to move forward and better prepare for the future.  The disasters we face are not concerned with the boundaries between our countries.  Therefore, we, too, must work beyond our own boundaries and jurisdications and overcome any limitations to effective cooperation. Over the next two days, let us communicate openly and collaborate on shared solutions.

I was in Miami on April 12 of this year as our Ministers launched the U.S.-Caribbean Resilience Partnership in response to a request from your ministers for more collaboration on resilience.  Your countries asked, and the U.S. government responded.  On June 17, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan hosted Caribbean leaders and insurance industry CEOs to discuss ways to improve access to catastrophe insurance to support disaster recovery across the Caribbean.  And I was in New York last month when the Ministers met and endorsed an approach to this working group; setting forth for us the tasks of creating sub-working groups, building an action plan, and identifying priorities for collaboration.  To help support these efforts, I am proud to say the United States is prepared to invest  in this new, comprehensive effort to better plan and prepare for disasters.  These efforts require continued cooperation and participation with on-the-ground actions to build the robust partnerships needed to foster durable resilience and move away from reactionary cycles of destruction, and reconstruction.

To that end, I am pleased that

  • Last Friday, USAID announced $5 million for a Caribbean-wide energy initiative – one benefit of which will be to reduce electricity outages resulting from the impacts of hurricanes and floods .
  • On Monday, the United States committed $1.5 million to support the implementation of the U.S.-Caribbean Resilience Partnership. This funding will support technical exchanges and consultations between U.S. interagency resilience experts, ministries and disaster management officials from the Caribbean region.
  • And, today, USAID has announced an additional $2 million to improve the ability of Caribbean partners to prepare for and mitigate the effects of disasters.
  • And because we all recognize that real resilience is based at our homes and in our communities, the Inter-American Foundation, an independent U.S. government agency, expects to fund up to $1 million in small grants for civil society and NGOs on enhancing community-led disaster resilience in the Eastern Caribbean. More information on the call for proposals is available at IAF.gov and we hope you’ll help spread the word in your countries.

As I reviewed today’s agenda, I see we have set a high bar for ourselves, based on the range and depth of topics we will address in each session.   We are privileged to have all of you together to form the foundation of this partnership, opening communication lines with U.S. government agencies, academia, and non-governmental partners to improve collaboration around disaster risk reduction and response.  Our task at hand is to improve our existing efforts and explore new avenues for collaboration.  We will need to leave here having fulfilled the mandate given to us by our leadership: to produce an action plan, identify sub-working groups, and produce a list of priorities for the Partnership.  I hope our work today solidifies relationships and commits us to continuing these ties as we face shared threats into the future.

The United States remains firmly committed to increasing engagement with the Caribbean.  The announcements made over the past few days and this Working Group itself are tangible evidence of that commitment.

Your presence here today shows that our friends in the Caribbean are just as eager to work together on this common cause.  Together, we are stronger as nations, and as neighbors in this hemisphere.

Thank you for your attention.