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(PRESS RELEASE) — Government officials from the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Local Government and Empowerment participated in a Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Conference on strengthening social protection for disaster resilience which was held in Lima, Peru from April 25-26, 2019.
The forum, which was jointly organized by the World Bank and the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP), was prefaced on the dual recognition of the significant exposure of Latin America and the Caribbean to various hazards and shocks, coupled with the high levels of poverty and vulnerability that confronts the region.
It was emphasized that the intersection of these two phenomenon more often than not results in substantial cost to the region in the form of human, infrastructural and economic losses and as such, it is imperative to expand and strengthen social protection systems to address vulnerabilities and to be more responsive to crises.
The conference noted that while the region has recorded some progress on the poverty reduction front, over the past 15 years, high exposure to natural hazards and climate-related shocks threaten to reverse these gains.
Additionally, it was also acknowledged that the region had made substantial investments in the development of unconditional and conditional cash transfer systems which can be leveraged as an effective tool to mitigate the adverse impact of such shocks on poor and vulnerable households.
Mrs. Velda Joseph, acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Local Government and Empowerment, participated in a plenary session on “Country Experiences with Improving Policy and Coordination for Effective Adaptive Social Protection”.
In her contribution, Permanent Secretary Joseph highlighted the sections of Saint Lucia’s comprehensive disaster management policy which speaks to the states’ responsibility to provide post disaster social protection support to affected households.
She also referenced the draft Social Protection Bill which speaks in broad terms on the development of a universal, sustainable and comprehensive social protection system against risks, shocks and vulnerabilities.
Further, Mrs. Joseph shared aspects of Saint Lucia’s experiences with coordination across the various agencies pre and post disasters and suggested the reintroduction of the Saint Lucia Social Protection Network, but with a broader mandate, to champion continued dialogue and action on the issue of shock responsive social protection systems.
She also noted that the establishment of an emergency fund is a low hanging fruit policy intervention that Saint Lucia can embark on in its efforts at making the island’s social protectionsystem more adaptive.
Permanent Secretary Joseph, in her closing remarks, acknowledged the timeliness of the conference to Saint Lucia, as the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Local Government and Empowerment continues discussions with the World Bank on available technical and financial support, under the Human Capital Resilience Project, for advancing Saint Lucia’s social protection agenda.
Additionally, Saint Lucia recently commissioned a case study with assistance from the United Nations World Food Programme and the Oxford Policy Management to assess the extent to which Saint Lucia’s current social protection system is responsive to disasters and other shocks.
The Ministry envisages that the recommendations emanating from this case study will contribute to the establishment of a more adaptive or shock responsive social protection system in Saint Lucia.