19 Countries Now Part of Caribbean Safe School Initiative

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction – Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport of Sint Maarten
CSSI signature
Sint Maarten Government
Some of the signatories to the Sint. Maarten Declaration on School Safety.

Some 19 countries are now part of the Caribbean Safe School Initiative (CSSI) with The Bahamas joining by signing the Sint Maarten Declaration on School Safety on June 30, 2022, at the third Caribbean Safe School Initiative Ministerial Forum held on Sint Maarten.

The Sint Maarten Declaration replaced the Antigua & Barbuda Declaration signed in 2017 and updated in 2019. Thirteen CSSI participating countries also signed the Sint Maarten Declaration on School Safety and other islands are expected to sign later pending approval in their governance structures. 

The Sint Maarten Declaration recognizes the examination of critical issues impacting disaster risk management and its relevance to the education sector in the Caribbean region by Caribbean Ministers of Education, High-Level officials in the education sector together with youth and interested stakeholders. It further recognizes the diversity of recent biological, societal, geological, and meteorological hazards and their cascading impacts in the Caribbean. 

Besides The Bahamas, the signatories to the Sint Maarten Declaration on School Safety include Sint Maarten, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and the Turks & Caicos islands.  The supporting agencies and partners who signed the declaration are Tania Merien on behalf of the CSSI Youth Forum delegates, UNESCO, UNICEF Latin America & Caribbean Regional Office & Regional Education Working Group of the Latin America & Caribbean region, UNDRR, CDEMA, GADDRESS and CAF Development Bank of Latin America.  The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and OECS is also expected to sign once formal approval is received.

“During the three days, great achievements have been made with the signing of the Sint Maarten Declaration. With 20 countries now on board, we see the engagement level rising and becoming more important over the years, strengthening the framework and resilience of the education system that is exposed to hazards such as natural hazards, climate change, threats of violence in schools, pandemics etc. In this sense, we hope that the Comprehensive School Framework 2020-2030 and the summary version that was shared with you at the beginning of the Forum, together with coming CSS target indicators and the CSS operational guidance series will help you in implementing actions to achieve School Safety. You can count on GADRRRES and its Regional affiliates,” Ms. Lucille Angles, UNICEF & Coordinator of Global Alliance for Disaster Risk, Reduction & Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES) said in her closing remarks.

Ms. Andria Grosvenor, Acting Deputy Executive Director, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), said in her closing remarks that, “We have heard the passion of our MOEs (Ministries of Education) and the Youth on the CSSI. This has the capacity to impact, not only the Region, but also the world. As we consider the Declaration, Decisions made and the Updated Road Map, I want to encourage us to do three things:

  • A-dvocate for an Integrated Approach to advancing School Safety in our countries and territories in all of our spaces. We recognize that the multiple hazards and cascading impacts do require a systemic approach to School Safety. We need all parties on board if we are going to advance the School Safety agenda.
  • C-ontinue the commitment to advancing CSSI. We are pleased with the work that has been done so far. We have the opportunity to expand the engagement and the Sint Maarten Declaration allows us to do so.
  • T-ransform our countries and territories with a focus on education for development. Understanding and reducing risk in a world of uncertainty is fundamental to us achieving genuine sustainable development. The CSSI offers the space to transform our schools and how we treat with disaster risk management to reduce risk and achieve sustainable development. It also gives us a catalyst to embrace new thinking to transform our countries and see our challenges as stepping stones for forging a brighter future even in the midst of uncertainty.” 

Ms. Grosvenor also pledged the continuous support of CDEMA and their School Safety Specialist Mr. Bernez Khodra and thanked Sint Maarten for the excellent hosting.

Chair of the CSSI, Sint Maarten’s Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, drs. Rodolphe Samuel indicated that the CSSI’s Third Ministerial Forum was very productive and thanked all involved for their contributions in making the forum a success. “I commit to advocating for School Safety and working together with you to advance the regional Road Map. I endorse the call for the inclusion of youth through the creation of CSSI Youth Ambassadors and to giving youth a seat at the table. I thank the organizing committee comprising of CDEMA, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDRR, Dr. Idelia Ferdinand of the Ministry of Education and National Reconciliation of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Forum Facilitator Mr. Marcel Goyeneche and Head of the Student Support Services Division Mrs. Olga Mussington-Service and the local organizing committee,” Minister Samuel said.

He concluded by stating, “Congratulations to all countries who have signed the Sint Maarten Declaration and I am encouraging others to join the CSSI. We applaud the contributions of the youth and the School Safety Focal Points who were included at the forum level for the first time.”
Former CSSI Chairman Hon, Dr. Curtis King, Minister of Education and National Reconciliation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, took the opportunity to wish the new CSSI Chairman, Hon. Minister drs. Samuel, “a productive stay” while noting that St. Vincent and The Grenadines remains committed to working with Minister Samuel and “also the collective action towards advancing school safety in the region.” 

Dr. King also made a presentation to the St. Maarten School Safety Focal Point, Mrs. Olga Mussington-Service and congratulated her on her leadership in organizing the Forum.  

Mrs. Mussington-Service thanked all stakeholders and the local organizing committee for their contributions and commitment to the CSSI. “CSSI has created the occasion for deliberations, discussions, networking, building of relationships and also planning and working towards the betterment of our countries,” said closing session Moderator and Chair of the Organizing Committee Mrs. Olga Mussington Service.  She also indicated that, “As we close one chapter, we must remain mindful of where we are heading.”

The Caribbean Safe School Initiative Ministerial Forum was held from June 28 to June 30 on Sint Maarten. It was organized by the St. Maarten Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (MECYS ) in close collaboration with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Ministry of Education and National Reconciliation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Latin America & Caribbean, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The next CSSI Ministerial Forum will take place in Saint Lucia in 2025.

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