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Guyana applauds China-CELAC cooperation

— aimed at tackling disaster risk management

By Samuel Sukhnandan in Beijing

GUYANA is among 33 countries in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) set to benefit directly from a new China-CELAC cooperation on disaster risk management.
Speaking during the first ministerial forum held on Thursday, Director-General of the Guyana Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Colonel Retired Nazrul Hussain said the country welcomes the cooperation.

The CDC Director pointed to other regional forums for disaster risk management under the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and Mercosur (Southern Common Market), but said this new mechanism will help to streamline countries in mitigation and risk reduction.

“It is our belief that the strategic and material input of China in this forum will inject an increased spirit of cooperation and guide the CELAC countries in the right direction. Guyana applauds the efforts of China, and stands resolute with the CELAC countries in promoting this platform for disaster management cooperation in the region,” he told the virtual meeting.

CDC Director-General Colonel Retired Nazrul Hussain

Hussain said Guyana, like other Caribbean countries, is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. These risks include coastal flooding and sea level rise, flooding due to excessive rainfall, and even drought. In addition to that, Guyana, a new oil producing nation, is also faced with the potential risk of an oil spill.

China’s Emergency Management Minister, Wang Xiangxi, pointed out that not only the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region is faced with increasing threats of natural disasters but China as well, explaining that the ‘COVID’ pandemic has increased the complexities of a response to some disasters.

Minister Xiangxi told the meeting that “strengthening international cooperation in disaster management has become a common demand of the international community”. As such, during the last ministerial meeting of the China-CELAC forum, the China-CELAC joint action plan for cooperation was adopted. Disaster management was listed as a key area of cooperation.

“China is ready to support this mechanism with the Latin American and Caribbean side to share experiences and practices in disaster management, learn from each other, and jointly improve the capacity of natural disaster prevention and control,” he remarked, making reference to the 2021 launch of the Belt and Road International Cooperation Framework for Natural Disaster Prevention and Emergency Management.

With the active participation of United Nations (UN) agencies and developing countries, China’s Emergency Management Minister said his country also welcomes the participation of LAC to make new contributions to the development of a global disaster prevention mitigation and relief mechanism.

The meeting was also addressed by the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, who revealed that in the last 20 years, LAC had the highest economic losses from disasters, accounting for 45 per cent of global losses. As a percentage of each country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), seven of the top 10 countries are in the Caribbean region.

“The impact of ‘COVID’, along with the climate emergency, has highlighted the need for increased solidarity to tackle our common challenges. That is why we welcome the convening of this forum to enhance transboundary cooperation along the important priorities of the UN framework. And I commend the inclusion of disaster risk reduction as a priority within the China-CELAC joint action plan.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, a joint China-CELAC statement was adopted by all the speakers who participated, including representatives from various Caribbean countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname, among others.

A special fund has also been established to assist with responding to natural disasters in CELAC countries. Argentina and Mexico are the first two countries to donate to the fund, which will be managed by a special committee of LAC countries.

Recently, China donated a cheque valued at US$50,000 to the Government of Guyana aimed at tackling disaster relief and risk management countrywide. The funds were received by the CDC Director-General, and was presented by the Chinese Ambassador to Guyana, Guo Haiyan.

(NCN Editor, Samuel Sukhnandan is currently in Beijing on the China International Press Communication Centre (CIPCC) 2022 Fellowship at the invitation of the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA)