This year has seen unprecedented changes in the way we go about our daily lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes, and the "new normal" we are adjusting to as a global community, also apply to the 2020 hurricane season. According to the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, the 2020 hurricane season is expected to be an above-normal season with 13 to 19 named storms and an expectation that 6 to 10 of these will become hurricanes.
The Caribbean region’s experience during the 2017 and 2019 hurricane seasons, which saw category five (5) storms including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria (2017), and Dorian (2019), left long-lasting physical, emotional, social and economic scars. Moreover, these major storms not only resulted in very high economic and social costs but also led to significant displacement of persons.
To this end, the OECS Commission in partnership with the Caribbean Community Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS), the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Regional Security System (RSS) designed and delivered an online course on cross border displacement due to disasters and climate change scenarios.
The online course, which saw participants from Immigration, Police, Customs, National Defense Forces, Coast Guard and Marine Police across the nine OECS Member States, aimed to achieve the following:
Enhance understanding on issues related to environmental migration and disaster displacement in the Caribbean;
Maximise the capacity of Border Management Systems to process the arrival of displaced persons and improve mechanisms for the collection of data in receiving countries; and
Explore border officials’ response mechanisms or country protocols to address the needs of displaced persons.
The training, which was originally intended to be delivered as a face-to-face workshop, had to be converted into an online training due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A blended approach was therefore adopted for the delivery of the course.
The capacity building course included the use of an online course page, using the CBSI-Connect Platform, and three (3) Zoom webinar sessions held on June 9th, 16th and 23rd, 2020. During the Zoom webinar sessions, the border officials received instruction from fifteen (15) experts with knowledge in Displacement and Climate Change issues across the eight (8) participating agencies.
The topics for the training examined existing Concepts and Frameworks, Migration issues and Support in Displacement Situations in an effort to meet the capacity building needs of border officials in addressing potential displacement situations during the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season and beyond.
Through the webinar sessions, participants received practical training on how to engage with displaced individuals at the points of entry and examined tools and practices which enhanced their sensitivity and vigilance in dealing with displaced individuals. Participants also engaged with additional materials including zoom recordings, videos, templates for developing procedures, policy briefs and presentations on the course page hosted by CBSI-Connect.
The training was deemed a success by participants and organisers. Sergeant Pierre of the Grenada Coast Guard, thanked the organisers for coordinating and delivering such a timely exercise, which built capacity and provided opportunities for networking.
Above all, the collaboration among the regional agencies was highlighted as a key benefit as participants were given opportunities for information sharing.
Dr. Clarence Henry, Senior Technical Officer at the OECS Commission in closing the Zoom presentations highlighted that “all OECS Member States got the chance to benefit from the training and that among the participants was good diversity based on gender and seniority of officials attending the online training.”
Mr. Pablo Escribano, Regional Specialist on Migration, Environment and Climate Change at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), noted that “the training provided a comprehensive look at the management of disaster displacement in borders, including conceptual, border management and protection perspectives.” Mr. Escribano also expressed the availability of IOM to continue supporting capacity building exercises in OECS countries.
For his part, Mr. Atle Solberg, Head of Secretariat of the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) congratulated the OECS for this piloting and cutting-edge initiative, highlighting the commitment and support from the PDD to further this topic in the Caribbean region, including the development of regional protocols and frameworks.
Dr. Annett Fleischer, Advisor for the Global Programme Human Mobility in the Context of Climate Change at the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) based in Saint Lucia expressed her gratitude to the organizing agencies highlighting the unique cooperation of international and regional organizations. She also noted that “GIZ will continue to support capacity building measures for the OECS Commission and its Member States.”