More than 500 representatives from governments, non-profits and global conglomerates joined forces to accelerate resilience building in Caribbean countries still recovering from hurricane devastation.

 International organisations and businesses, including Expedia, IBM, InterEnergy, First Bank and Pfizer met in San Juan Puerto Rico at a mega networking session on post-disaster recovery, hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative.

Representing the Commonwealth, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said the event was a prime opportunity to shift the global spotlight onto countries that are still suffering the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma that devastated Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and others in 2017.

“A year and half ago Hurricanes Maria and Irma swept through the Caribbean, erasing decades of infrastructural development, jobs, homes and lives. Indeed, in the recent past we have seen widespread devastation across the Commonwealth with mudslides and desertification in Africa, floods in Asia, cyclones in the Pacific and storms in Europe. 

“It is a heart-wrenching story, but it is also a story of the power of goodwill and concerted international action, and the resilience of the people affected. Because of global action, Dominica, the country most affected by Hurricane Maria, is now set to achieve a nine per cent growth in its economy in 2019 after losing 226 per cent of its GDP as a result of the hurricane.”

The Secretary-General continued, “But there is a lot more work to do politically, socially and economically. For example, we still have to address the issue of absorptive capacity, which is the ability to effectively access and use donated development assistance – particularly as a preliminary Commonwealth study shows that vulnerable countries failed to receive and use US$4.5 billion worth of development assistance donated between 2010 and 2016.

“So, this initiative by President Clinton is a prime opportunity to remind the world that, although the world’s news agenda has moved on, governments are still drowning in debt, and people are still grieving, still homeless, still jobless and still in desperate need of our help.”

The Secretary-General said that commitments made will ensure Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and all the countries affected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma can continue to rebuild economies, infrastructure, communities and homes that are strong enough to withstand the onslaught of future natural disasters.

She said, “The Commonwealth is committed to continuing its work in crafting a multidimensional resilience-building programme for the benefit of its member states.”

In 2016, the Commonwealth Secretariat launched the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, which installs experts in its developing member countries to ensure that their applications for climate-related funding are successful. So far £4.1 million has been mobilised for Commonwealth members from an initial investment of AU$1 million, with a further £201 million in the pipeline.