The crisis organizations of the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba are insufficiently prepared for (future) disasters and crises due to the lack of capacity. The Dutch government will make additional funding available to tackle this issue, for which the islands are not to be blamed.
The Dutch Inspection of Justice and Safety concluded in a recent inspection report that disaster and crisis management in the Caribbean Netherlands was “not in order” and that the “serious change challenge” required attention.
Minister of Justice and Safety Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius stated in a letter to the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament that she appreciated the report from the Inspection and pledged to follow up on the findings.
The Inspection investigated the system of disaster management in 2017, after the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. It looked at how the system functioned on Saba and St. Eustatius before, during and after the hurricanes.
The Inspection presented a number of recommendations in 2018, which focused on improving coordination, the robustness of the crisis organisation, collaboration and transportation. In 2022, the Inspection checked the status of the follow-up of the recommendations.
“The report means, as the Inspection indicated, that getting the disaster and crisis management in the Caribbean Netherlands in order and making them robust and future-proof needs to happen fast and visibly, together with the public entities and with other crisis partners,” stated the minister.
“Even so, it is clear that it is my ministry that first and foremost has to act,” stated the minister, who pledged to make structural additional means available to the three public entities, 500,000 euros in 2023 and as of 2024, 800,000 euros per year. These amounts are in addition to the annual amount of 300,000 euros that the ministry already allocates for crisis and disaster management on the three islands.
According to the Inspection, there is a difference of opinion on the manner in which the Ministry of Justice and Safety gives content to system responsibility for crisis and disaster management in the Caribbean Netherlands.
The Inspection stated that this hampered the inclusive approach and professionalising of crisis management in the Caribbean Netherlands. “I agree with the Inspection that this is undesirable and that it can cause a discussion,” stated Yeşilgöz-Zegerius.
Seeing the special character of the public entities and the situation in which they find themselves, for example, due to their geographical location and their small scale, the ministry carries a larger responsibility for crisis management in the Caribbean Netherlands than is customary for the Netherlands, the minister acknowledged.
The minister also agreed with the Inspection that there should be clarity about the role and responsibilities of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK and her ministry on this matter. She said that she would get in touch with the Ministry of BZK shortly to arrive at clear agreements, which will be included in the new Handbook on Crisis Management for the Caribbean part of the Kingdom.
The finding of the Inspection that no norms were established for what the crisis organisations on the three islands should be able to handle was correct, stated the minister. This is one of the reasons that the public entities until now have not been able to indicate what they need to run a robust, functioning crisis organisation.
In this regard, the recommendation to carry out a capacity analysis per island is very valuable, stated the minister. After this analysis has been completed with the input of local crisis management authorities, it will be determined, together with the public entities, how to arrive at a robust crisis organisation and in which time frame.
Elements such as the location of the islands, the small scale, the differences between the islands and efficiency will play a role in this, and it cannot be excluded that, seeing these elements, “some risks to a certain degree have to be accepted,” stated Yeşilgöz-Zegerius. Agreements will most likely have to be made with the countries in the Kingdom to support this effort.
The Daily Herald.