On November 21, 2017, at the High-Level Donor Conference for the Caribbean in New York City, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica pledged a substantial €300 million development support package to the Caribbean region. This assistance comes in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes Irma and Maria.
This is in stark contrast to the situation in devastated Puerto Rico, which has been largely abandoned by the U.S. government following a token recovery effort that left some 90% of the island without power of clean water two months after Hurricane Maria.
Commissioner Mimica is also signing a new program with the President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Warren Smith. This program will support the development of geothermal energy sources to boost local resilience. The project will help these countries to reduce their dependence on energy imports and hence, promote clean energy sources and improve their energy security.
Out of the €300 million, about a third will be new grant resources for the countries of the region. Commissioner Mimica said: “Caribbean countries have again been struck by deadly hurricanes. The European Union stands by the region, and our assistance package of €300 million will provide much needed support to accelerate recovery, strengthen resilience, and step up progress towards a sustainable economic path. The EU is supporting the region to reinforce its resilience to natural disasters and climate change.”
While some of the funds will be used to cover humanitarian gaps in Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, and Cuba, the majority will provide support for medium-term reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts at national level in Antigua and Barbuda, in Dominica, in St Kitts and Nevis, in Cuba and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs). At regional level, the EU’s assistance will help to build longer term resilience by increasing the region’s disaster preparedness as well as its ability to adapt to climate change.
In the margins of the conference, Commissioner Mimica will meet key Caribbean counterparts to discuss reconstruction efforts, EU support and overall bilateral relations. This includes the prospects for a renewed partnership, after the Cotonou Agreement will expire in 2020. The Cotonou Agreement is the current legal framework for the relations between the EU and the Caribbean region.
In the aftermath of the hurricanes the EU has intervened immediately to provide immediate relief to those in need.
Under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, EU Member States have provided logistical support for humanitarian relief, civil protection expertise and in-kind assistance to affected Caribbean countries and territories. This has been complemented by humanitarian assistance worth €2.9 million to provide shelter, water and sanitation, food, logistics and health in Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Sint Maarten, and Turks and Caicos.
Moreover, within few weeks after the disaster, the European Commission has disbursed €7 million to the state budgets of Anguilla and Turks and Caicos from on-going programmes. A new budget support payment of €3.5 million will be released shortly for Dominica.
The EU has also provided funding for the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNAs) which have been carried out jointly with the UN and the World Bank in Antigua and Barbuda and in Dominica.
Looking ahead, the EU has put resilience at the centre of its development policy – highlighting the need to move from crisis containment to anticipation, prevention and preparedness. Therefore, the EU will join forces with the Caribbean islands to reduce structural vulnerability, and increase the resilience of economic infrastructure and fragile coastal ecosystems to extreme recurrent natural events.
The EU support will target interventions at national and regional level, and look into innovative financing solutions and mechanisms to help Caribbean countries in reducing vulnerability and building long term resilience.
Photo credit: WTKR.