INTRODUCTION TO THE RESEARCH CONTEXT
The Caribbean region is already experiencing the effects of climate change, and this is only expected to worsen. The link between climate change and disaster risk has become abundantly clear for the small island developing states of this region, as their high-risk profile for disasters has been compounded by increasing ocean temperatures (leading to increased wind speeds in tropical storms) as well as increased frequency and intensity of the yearly hurricanes affecting the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea.
Among the most affected small island Caribbean states, the Commonwealth of Dominica is fast becoming a global standard in improving resilience through legislation and governance. In 2017, the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria, a category 5 storm and one of the most destructive of the 10 consecutive hurricanes to hit the Caribbean during the hyperactive 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. This catastrophic event put every aspect of Dominica’s government, economy and society under strain, wiping out entire neighborhoods and crippling businesses and social services for months.
At the same time, the passage of hurricane Maria also provided the country with a unique opportunity to review its regulatory and infrastructure systems, with the integrated goal of advancing climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in a wider strategy to ensure sustainable socio-economic development. Since 2017, the country has made significant choices designed to have a long-term impact on its governance model, including the adoption of laws, strategies and plans, and the establishment of a Climate Resilience Execution Agency.
This study provides an in-depth analysis of such advancements with a specific focus on how integrated regulatory instruments across different sectors can enhance effective and consistent action. In doing so, it builds on previous reports drafted within the broader framework of the research project on “Leave No One Behind. Developing Climate-Smart/ Disaster Risk Management Laws that Protect People in Vulnerable Situations for a Comprehensive Implementation of the UN Agenda 2030” which respectively addressed the intra-regional alignment to international frameworks by the Pacific Island Countries and the protection of vulnerable groups against climate and disaster risks in the Philippines.
STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT AND METHODOLOGY
As illustrated in Section 1 of this report, the reciprocal contributions provided by climate resilience, sustainable development and poverty reduction policies is evidenced by data. This is in live with the fact that the objective to ‘leave no one behind’ identified in the UN Agenda 2030 can be considered as first and foremost a socio-economic development issue. Against this background, the rationale for the selection of Dominica as a country case-study for this project is based on its recently adopted integrated and innovative approach. Section 2 shows how this country – as the whole Caribbean region – is not only highly exposed to the impact of weather and climate-related hazards but, due to its geographic and socio-economic profile, it is also particularly vulnerable as for its development capacity and economic growth. This has led the Dominican government to consider DRR and CCA as joint governance sectors to be integrated with economic and social planning, as clearly reflected in the recently approved regulatory and institutional framework described in Section 3.
A series of analytical considerations on how the country is integrating sustainable socio-economic development in climate resilience law and policies, and on their expected impact, are therefore identified in Section 4. In particular, key findings focus on distinctive features of the country’s governance model, such as the importance of synergies with foreign partners as well as of global and regional instruments; the centrality of natural environment and ecosystems; or the relevance of gender integration and social inclusivity also through the recognition of social identities, including those of indigenous people. On this basis, Section 5 will provide some final reflections on the implementation of the new regulatory framework over the next years, while Section 6 will consolidates a list of suggested improvements that are drawn from the Dominican model as potential inspiration for other countries aiming at effective climate resilience law and policies that comprehensively link risk reduction and adaptation plans to longer-term sustainable development ambitions.
The present report results from a combination of desk-based analysis and empirical research conducted in the country via digital means through interviews with key-informants (KIs), whose names and affiliation are provided in Annex 1. KIs include IFRC and Dominica Red Cross staff; representatives from regional IGOs; representatives of civil society organisations/associations active in relevant sectors; and researchers with relevant expertise. Participants provided informed insights and evaluations of regional and national normative processes, while also assessing the actual impact of relevant normative tools at different levels and the inclusion and consideration of vulnerable groups in the decision-making processes. The interviews, based on a set of thematic open-ended questions, reflected their specific expertise in respective fields and focused on their personal evaluation/experiences.
This research was carried out after ethics approval was confirmed by the UCC Social Research Ethics Committee. All participants received and signed an ‘informed consent form’ where they acknowledged and specified the conditions of their participation. Privacy considerations were given the utmost importance, in line with the highest EU standards for secure data storage.