At the request of Emergency Management Cook Islands, the United Nations agencies of UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) conducted the day-long event.
It began with discussion on the drafting process for the Cook Islands Country Preparedness Package for disaster response. The package is an initiative to strengthen collaboration between national and international organisations during a disaster.
The workshop focused on the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT), an international group, that when requested, will come to the aid of the Cook Islands in the event of a disaster.
Made up of organisations including OXFAM, Red Cross, the World Food Programme and the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women; PHT is a network of humanitarian organisations that work together to assist Pacific Island countries in preparing for and responding to natural disasters.
The PHT recognises national Government leadership in disaster preparedness and response and works to align international partners with national response systems and capabilities.
The workshop was an opportunity for all involved to become familiar with PHT and the group’s management structure and processes; whilst also offering the PHT insight into the Cook Islands disaster preparedness plan.
“Today’s workshop is important for UNDP in figuring out how they (PHT) can fit in to the disaster processes that are most consistent with the national processes,” said UNDP representative, Paula Holland.
“In the event of a disaster, you don’t want to confound things, you don’t want to duplicate things, so today’s workshop is a way to clarify this and also familarise stakeholders with PHT. It’s essentially a two-way workshop.
In-country UN Coordination Officer Patricia Tuara and Holland praised the good turnout for the workshop and the collaborative effort from stakeholders who shared their opinions on the Cook Islands disaster preparedness plan and PHT.
“We need to formalise a relationship between the public and private sector when disaster management and preparedness is concerned. We are all in this together,” said honorary Japanese consul John Webb.
“However I don’t believe the (Cook Islands) disaster preparedness plan has been well communicated.
“What we actually have here is a document put out for consultation but frankly who in business has time to read that long plan?
“If you were to ask me if I have a comprehensive picture of what the disaster plan is, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have a clue. In fact, I have learned a lot more from just coming here today,
“If we (the private sector) can see a well-articulated plan, that is simple to understand. I think you’ll get a lot more buy-in from industries.
“It’s all about demonstrating willingness and commitment on both sides.”
The group from UNDP who coordinated the workshop will stay on the island for the remainder of the week. They hope to meet with ministry representatives and stakeholders regarding the Cook Islands Country Preparedness Package.