Remarks by SRSG Mizutori at the Virtual Caribbean Safe School Initiative (CSSI) Pre-Ministerial Forum - Regional Review on School Safety in the context of Systemic Risk

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
SRSG Mami Mizutori

(Check against delivery)

Remarks by the SRSG Mami Mizutori

The Virtual Caribbean Safe School Initiative (CSSI) Pre-Ministerial Forum

March 15, 2021 (Virtual Meeting)

Topic: Regional Review on School Safety in the context of Systemic Risk

  • Distinguished Honorable Curtis King, Ministry of Education of St. Vincent & the Grenadines
  • Distinguished Honorable Rodolphe E. Samuel, Ministry of Education of St. Marteen
  • Distinguished Elizabeth Riley, acting executive director of CDEMA

  • Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on this important occasion, which is a contribution to building safer schools and a more resilient education sector in the Caribbean.

  • As responsible societies, we must deliver on the most basic things. Ensuring that our students, our schools, and our education systems are resilient, is one of the most important.

  • This is why today we are meeting virtually at the Caribbean Safe Schools Initiative Pre-Ministerial Forum. Education systems, students, teaching and administrative staff, the resilience of school infrastructure has never been more important given the challenges of a global pandemic and the rise extreme weather events.

  • This is particularly true in the Caribbean which is exposed to the entire spectrum of natural hazards from storms to floods, from biological hazards to volcanic eruptions, to mention a few.

  • Nine of the ten countries suffering the highest losses from storms, floods and earthquakes in the world over the last 20 years are in the Caribbean.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic reveals the complex and interconnected nature of risks and potential for natural hazards to disrupt the normal functioning of society.

  • The pandemic has had impacts beyond the health emergency on tourism, industry, commerce and trade leaving millions unemployed around the world. It has increased extreme levels of poverty and left women and girls more exposed to abuse. 

  • In the education sector alone, around one and a half billion students around the world have had their education interrupted.  Their future employment and earning prospects are dire, according to the World Bank. The pandemic is a disaster that will last for generations.

  • Today, 3 out of every 5 students who have missed the entire school year live in Latin America and the Caribbean and based on the information provided by Ministries of Education, on average, primary and secondary students have lost 158 days of the 190 days of the school calendar in 2020.

  • This has been a tremendous test for the Caribbean, which has had to implement health and education measures during an exceptionally active cyclone season.

  • Nevertheless, more than half of the Caribbean countries now have their schools open, and more than 80 percent have set up educational platforms that allow students to continue classes remotely. This has bene made possible by working with other government ministries and is testament to the value of cross-sectoral collaboration to deal with systemic risk.

  • This pre-ministerial forum begins today, March 15, just three days before the sixth anniversary of the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. It is also six years since together we launched the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools in Sendai.

  • I would like to use this occasion to encourage more countries to join the seven in the Caribbean that have already completed a national strategy for disaster reduction in line with target E of the Sendai Framework.

  • These plans are an important element of good risk governance for the region and enable us to track progress and identify gaps in our efforts to reduce disaster losses including reducing mortality and economic losses. They are also useful tools for leveraging international cooperation when necessary.

  • The Sendai Framework calls on us to leverage public and private investments for disaster resilience particularly for schools and health facilities.

  • In order to move forward, we must do it together. We cannot rely simply on governments to do everything. We need an all-of-society approach. The Caribbean, whether it’s on the cricket field or through the huge levels of participation we saw last week in the Caribe 2021 tsunami exercise, is a region which demonstrates the value of solidarity and international cooperation. 

  • It is also a region which ensures coherence in the financing of action plans for implementation of the Sendai Framework, the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • The Caribbean Safe Schools Initiative is a clear example of a partnership that involves the entire region: the CARICOM* countries, as well as the CARIFORUM* and the Overseas Territories.

  • It is a cause of great regret that we had to postpone the 7th  Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean, which was supposed to take place last year in Jamaica. We hope that we can announce a new date shortly. The Regional Platform will be an important opportunity to take stock of progress in implementing the Sendai Framework, and the lessons learned from the pandemic and recent record-breaking Atlantic Hurricane Seasons.

  • We also invite you to discuss in depth the findings of the Regional Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (RAR) that we are launching tomorrow at the Forum of the Countries for Sustainable Development.

  • We have great partners to ensure we achieve our safe schools’ goal. We are grateful to CDEMA, the UN sister agencies and other partners for joining us in this endeavor.

  • We thank and congratulate all ministers of education, especially the current chair of the initiative, the minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the upcoming chair, the minister of St. Maarten, for their commitment to this cause.

  • We also welcome the participation of other sectorial ministers in the region, such as ministers of economy and finance, and the participation of education authorites from other SIDS in the Pacific region such as Fiji and Vanuatu.

  • I invite you all to participate in this work, to continue to strengthen resilience across the region and to work for a brighter and safer future for the new generations. We owe it to the children who have been deprived of so much over the last year.

Thank you very much