Overcoming ‘Uncertain Futures’: Regional Cooperation, Migration Policies and Socio-Spatial Justice in Disaster Risk Reduction in the Caribbean

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Oral ROBINSON, University of British Columbia, Canada
Sheria MYRIE, Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning, Canada
The Caribbean Community, which comprises a third of the countries classified by the United Nations as Small Island Developing States (SIDS), is pummeled by earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and the effects of global climate change. The recent passage of Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria testify to the devastating effects of national disasters on the livelihoods and survival of these islands. These risks are exacerbated by their small sizes, fragile ecosystems, limited internal markets and limited abilities to experience economics of scale (UWI, 2002:1). The IMF’s “Vulnerability and Debt in Small States” report proclaimed “many [SIDS] face an uncertain future” (CMC, 2017). As in other parts of the world, when disaster strikes, Caribbean people use migration as a strategic tool of coping with uncertainties. Under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) project, the Caribbean has been harmonizing migration policies. However, the CSME is economically driven (Boxill, 2010), and better response systems are needed in disaster planning, mitigation, risk assessment and reduction. This paper draws on official and trend data to elucidate migration and other responses to disasters in the Caribbean, and uses the theoretical frame of spatial justice to make two arguments. First, at the regional level, anticipation of social dislocation arising from disasters must be met with proactive coordinated responses to provide people with options to relocate to safe spaces. Spatial justice calls for special attention to vulnerable groups such as the poor, elderly, women, children and rural people, who are often marginalized in policy, research and disaster planning. Second, SIDS need to mobilize in the global arena to demand recognition of their spatial vulnerabilities, and demand actions to support capacity-building and effective pre-and post-disaster response. We therefore propose a global project of cooperation utilizing research and action to address the intersections of disasters, social justice, mobility, and space.