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Deputy Premier and Minister of Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Honourable Kedrick Pickering attended the 5th Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) Council of Ministers of Environment and Sustainability meeting held in Montserrat on July 11.
Honourable Pickering addressed the meeting and shared experiences resulting from the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. He highlighted that while the Territory has a robust Disaster Risk Management framework, the scale and magnitude of the event overwhelmed its capacity to respond.
Minister Pickering thanked OECS Member States that lent the Virgin Islands a helping hand to respond and recover from the impacts of the storm. He further advocated for a regional approach to be pursued by OECS Member States to matters of response and recovery.
He urged his colleagues to remain ready to respond to hazard events and render assistance in times of need.
Ministers in attendance also strongly urged the OECS Commission to work along with National Governments to find long-lasting solutions to the issues posed by Sargassum. Those include the identification of an early warning system to detect and intersect the seaweed before it lands within the shore, cleaning and mitigating adverse impacts of Sargassum once on shore and finding commercial pathways to harness the benefits and enhance livelihoods.
The Council convened under the theme of Living on the Front Lines: Risk, Reality & Response: Experiences, Challenges and Call for Action. Regional programming, technical and ministerial programming and cooperation within the region dominated the dialogue.
Author of the Irma Diaries and Climate Change Officer in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, Ms. Angela Burnett Penn was a special guest at the meeting, where she shared firsthand experiences of Virgin Islanders as a result of the passage of Hurricane Irma. Deputy Secretary, Mr. Joseph Smith Abbott also attended the meeting along with the delegation from the Virgin Islands.
The Council of Ministers of Environment and Sustainability convenes annually under the leadership of OECS Ministers of Environment on a rotating basis, to chart the course for regional collaboration and technical assistance. The OECS has been instrumental in facilitating various projects, including the Northshore Stabilisation Project, under which the Cane Garden Bay revetment wall was built.