The aftermath of the two devastating hurricanes unleashed in the Caribbean during August and September brought with it a realisation that there needs to be a very different approach to preparing for and surviving these natural crises in the future. Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne spoke of, “Building on a sustainable basis in order to limit the impact” of the natural disaster. Richard Branson, whose Necker Island home was devastated by Hurricane Irma, has been using available connections to speak with leaders of international finance organisations as part of his Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan strategy.
CARICOM members, including Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, have already voiced suggestions of how they can help countries that are more severely affected during the annual hurricane season. Guyana has offered to discuss the potential of using some of its vast land to house those left homeless from other CARICOM countries in the short term. Trinidad and Tobago recognised the opportunity it has to offer safe berth for boats to fellow CARICOM neighbours.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced that the island would rebuild to become the first climate-resilient nation. His statement was welcomed by UN and other officials, as he said, “What we’re doing is taking an opportunity to build back better; to build a more climate-resilient nation, the first in the world.” Adding that Dominica would not just be “helpless victims” of natural disasters, the Dominican leader explained that his aim to make his country the first climate-resilient nation in the world was not because Dominicans had chosen this message. “The message found us,” he said.
“Build back better” has become the mantra, both in the Caribbean and across major global donor bodies.