Partnering to Jumpstart Action
moderated by President Bill Clinton
Six months after hurricanes struck the Caribbean region, leaders from government, business, and civil society have worked tirelessly to build the region back better. Given the magnitude of the storms, tremendous progress has been made, but there is still an opportunity for greater collaboration, coordination, and action. The spectrum and scope of needs can be overwhelming, but by identifying discrete opportunities where the private sector can work alongside civil society and government, we can make real and meaningful progress. In this session, panelists will discuss the most urgent needs in the region and highlight the onramps available for meeting participants to turn their ideas into action.
11:00 AM -
(Re)building Affordable, Resilient, High-quality Housing
Informal housing has long been prevalent in the Caribbean market, and many of these unpermitted, makeshift homes were destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria while most housing built to code for higher-income, urban dwellers suffered only minor damage. Those with self-built homes also are often without proper ownership documents, which has delayed their recovery by stalling aid and complicating mortgage lending. Moreover, many informal houses are built in known flood zones, creating ongoing risks for rebuilding in place. The massive need on hurricane-affected islands is an opportunity to rethink not just buildings but also neighborhoods, whole communities, home value, and the cost of securing safe, affordable housing for many with limited means. At the same time, this approach must be balanced with the urgent need for permanent shelter as soon as possible. In this session, participants will explore partnerships to address acute and persistent housing challenges in Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda.
Building Resilient Health Systems to Ensure Access to Care
Access to primary health care is a cornerstone of public health. It leads to lower rates of illness and mortality, lower costs, and fewer health disparities among population groups. Hurricanes Irma and Maria disrupted health systems in a region already struggling with a shortage of skilled health workers and adequate facilities. The storms interrupted supply chains for critical supplies, caused physical damage to facilities, and made it more difficult for patients to reach care centers. Significant efforts will be required to restore consistent access to care, and improve the resilience of health infrastructure against future disasters. Participants in this session will discuss concrete solutions to enhance the physical resilience of health facilities; improve access to critical supplies and medicines; support capacity building and retention of the health workforce; and ensure care for remote and vulnerable populations.
Harnessing Tourism's Potential Reinvirgorate Local Economies
Tourism accounts for nearly 15 percent of the Caribbean’s GDP, and more than 50 percent on many islands, directly and indirectly providing more than 2.3 million jobs while attracting 57 million visitors each year. In the wake of recent Hurricanes Irma and Maria, visits to impacted islands have dropped significantly, depressing incomes that many hospitality and small-business employees rely on. As the Caribbean rebuilds, boosting tourism can catalyze economic development and provide more islanders an opportunity to participate through job creation and the promotion of small, locally-owned and operated businesses. In this session, participants will explore sustainable tourism strategies that: promote local businesses, artisans, and cultural experiences through collaborative and innovative PR campaigns; protect and enhance the natural environment and cultural traditions; and catalyze economic policies, financial lending, and workforce development.
Meeting the Needs of Children: Education, Skills, and Trauma Support
Children are resilient by nature. Yet when exposed to natural disasters, children and adolescents experience increased levels of stress, anxiety, and trauma. Without the necessary support, traumatic events like Hurricanes Irma and Maria can cause a child’s learning, health status, and personal development to stagnate or deteriorate. In this session, participants will collaborate on integrated approaches to meeting the needs of children affected by the hurricanes, including: access to psychosocial support and health care services that children and adolescents need to cope with trauma; safe schools and communities equipped with power, clean water, communications, and resilient infrastructure; preventing students from falling behind academically and socially due to loss of instructional time; and education and skills development training to prepare young people for internships and future work opportunities.
Powering Up After the Storms and the Future of the Energy Grid
Energy provides the basis for the economic activity, health, and safety of Caribbean citizens. Yet the Caribbean’s fragile grid infrastructure and reliance on imported fuel, combined with exposure to climate events, leaves the region highly vulnerable to natural disasters. These shortcomings were exposed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which cut power to millions of homes and businesses and have left thousands still without power six months after the storms. On islands such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Barbuda, and Dominica, there is still a significant short-term need to restore power. A longer-term strategy is also needed to reimagine and rebuild the entire electricity system from the ground up. With a wealth of natural resources available to these islands, there is an opportunity to develop renewable energy generation, and utilize new business and financing models to create a grid for the future. This session encourages participants to partner on solutions to restore electricity following disasters, and to come together around a vision for long-term, more sustainable and resilient energy systems.
2:00 PM -
Addressing Trauma and Increasing Psychosocial Resilience
Hurricanes and other natural disasters can have significant impacts on the mental well-being of affected individuals. Such events can force people out of their homes and disrupt social networks, interrupt school and employment, and undermine people's sense of security and normalcy. Widespread reports of spikes in mental health issues have followed Hurricanes Irma and Maria, as a lack of adequate resources leaves populations with limited recourse to cope with the long-term impacts of trauma. As recovery efforts progress, there is an opportunity to integrate psychosocial support into rebuilding projects across sectors – for example, equipping teachers and hospital workers with tools to recognize and address psychological trauma. Participants in this session will explore direct trauma recovery initiatives as well as opportunities to build the capacity of service providers to respond to mental health needs in their communities.
Rebuilding Recycling Infrastructure and Co-creating a Circular Economy
The World Bank estimates solid waste to nearly double worldwide by 2025. In the Caribbean, per capita waste is already comparatively high due to significant tourist contribution, food packaging, and post-hurricane debris. Small islands have little space for disposing of this increasing waste stream, and limited market potential for generating value from it within their individual national markets. Many islands are also contending with aging technologies and incomplete processes that compromise health and environmental protections. New technologies and ideas for managing waste can mitigate the challenge and create economic opportunity, turning recovered and reused waste into a value-add resource. In this session, participants will work together to advance recycling, composting, and circular economy initiatives.
Restoring the Natural Resource Base for Thriving Societies
Natural ecosystems in the Caribbean provide a critical foundation for economic strength and disaster resilience – and nowhere is this connection more tangible than on small islands. Yet the degradation of forests, mangroves, reefs, and fisheries has undermined the ability of these resources to meet social, economic, and business needs. As Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands rebuild from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, these countries and territories are receptive to strategies that incorporate “green infrastructure” (e.g., forests, coral reefs) for greater overall resilience to climate change and natural disasters. Opportunities exist for the private and public sectors to invest in environmental protections and restoration projects that can create local jobs, restore livelihoods, and protect biodiversity. Participants in this session will examine specific opportunities to partner on green infrastructure projects that promote resilience and economic growth on Caribbean islands.
Supporting Small Business Recovery and Resilience
Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are the backbone of Caribbean economies, driving economic growth and job creation, and accounting for more than 50 percent of regional GDP. Yet MSMEs are highly vulnerable to natural disasters, in a region that experiences them frequently. Hurricanes Irma and Maria had a devastating impact on local markets, destroying critical infrastructure and inventory, disrupting agricultural and other supply chains, and compromising revenue, jobs, and livelihoods. Six months later, tens of thousands of small businesses across the affected areas remain closed. As stakeholders invest in recovery, there is an opportunity to provide MSMEs with the technical and financial resources that will safeguard business continuity and enhance their capacity to withstand future shocks. In this session, participants will explore strategies and specific projects to: restore critical infrastructure – particularly power, water, and communications; strengthen local supply chains, with a focus on connecting smallholder farmers to markets; facilitate emergency and medium and long-term access to capital; and foster entrepreneurial development to build a more diversified and resilient economic future.
3:30 PM -
4:00 PM -
The Region Reimagined: Planning for Prosperity
moderated by President Bill Clinton