WASHINGTON, United States, Monday October 16, 2017 – The United Kingdom (UK) government will set up a private sector task force to help long-term reconstruction in countries and territories hit by last month’s Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
International Development Secretary in the Department for International Development (DFID), Priti Patel said the task force will mobilize private sector support to rebuild critical infrastructure such as roads and power supplies essential to get economies up and running again, and better withstand future natural disasters.
It will look at ways in which support from the private sector, both financial and technical, in industries such as construction, insurance, banking and tourism, can be used to help reconstruction on the three UK Overseas Territories worst hit by last month’s Hurricane Irma: British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The team of top business leaders, with experience in the Caribbean, will sit on the task force.
The announcement about the task force was made last Friday at a meeting to discuss the response to the hurricanes and how to enhance global crisis preparedness and response, hosted by the World Bank in Washington D.C.
Patel will convene a meeting in London in November to discuss how best to maximize the contribution of the private sector.
The UK government has already committed over £62 million (US$82 million) towards the immediate relief effort, and has delivered or procured nearly 180 tonnes of aid for the region.
It also established a UK Joint Task Force, led by DFID’s Chris Austin, in the immediate aftermath of the hurricanes, to deal with the humanitarian crisis on the ground and the initial relief effort as well as to carry out assessments to identify both short and longer term needs.
The focus of the private sector task force will specifically be the long-term reconstruction on the affected islands.
“No small island can reasonably be expected to recover and rebuild from a catastrophic disaster that undermines their entire economy without international support,” Patel said.
“They need businesses to step up. The private sector is key to reviving the region’s economies and must play a central role in the reconstruction of these islands, helping them to build back better.”
The UK official, who visited British Virgin Islands and Anguilla last month, explained that the longer-term reconstruction involves “working with the affected islands to build back better and more resilient hospitals, schools and other public services like water and power on which people survive.”
“We need to reduce the future potential impact on public services and livelihoods of any future disasters. Investing in preparedness makes good financial sense: each pound saves two pounds of aid,” Patel said.
The UK-led Centre for Global Disaster Protection in London will offer all the hurricane-hit countries and territories support and advice on disaster risk financing and insurance to ensure they are better prepared to cope with any future hurricanes. The centre will also offer advice on building more resilient infrastructure.
The DFID will work with experts to ensure new buildings and systems are more resilient, efficient and use more renewable energy options. This will include more than 12 major climate resilient infrastructure projects, at least 50 strengthened health facilities, and geothermal energy development where the potential exists.