UWI to assist Nat Sec with national disaster research

Ministry of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds and UWI's Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine at an MOU signing at the ministry, Abercromby Steet, Port of Spain. - SUREASH CHOLAI
Ministry of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds and UWI's Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine at an MOU signing at the ministry, Abercromby Steet, Port of Spain. - SUREASH CHOLAI

THE University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine and the Ministry of National Security have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in efforts to build national disaster resilience through a range of collaborations.

The signing ceremony was held at the ministry in Port of Spain on Wednesday morning.

The MOU will allow the development of formal and informal training programmes, joint publications, information exchange, joint sponsorships, the use of materials and facilities for research, internship programmes, among other things.

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said the MOU aligns with government's Vision 2030, and "directly supports" the ministry's mission "to advance national development by creating a safer and more secure society through enhanced collaboration among all stakeholders, intelligence-based decision making and strengthened inter-agency structures and systems."

He believes it will provide a "rich opportunity" for the building and application of knowledge.

The MOU, he said, comes against the backdrop of COP27 which was held in Egypt in November 2022, as well as recent flooding woes in TT.

"I am certain we all can recall the graphic images of damage and destruction and the agony faced by many of our citizens, which were carried on both traditional and social media platforms."

Hinds said he is empathic towards those who were affected, but assured: "You are not alone and be assured that your caring government will continue to work with you to ease your difficulties through the programmes of the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, the Ministry of Works and Transport, the Self-help Programme of the Ministry of Sport and Community Development, and of course, the Ministry of National Security."

Speaking to Pro Vice-Chancellor and principal of UWI, St Augustine Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Hinds said it is through the university's research, along with "on-the-ground knowledge and experiences," that solutions to manage the effects of climate change can occur.

"We have been doing our part to respond to the climate crisis.

"Led by the ODPM, we have been making strides to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction using an all-of-society approach. Hence, this initiative to partner with the university is not a chance occurrence, but a deliberate effort to benefit from the UWI's strengths."

He said the MOU is more than "building competences and capabilities" when it comes to climate change adaptation and risk reduction management.

"This MOU also has benefits for our youths who may be interested in a career in disaster management or any of the other services offered by our ministry.

"Consequently, through this approach, we now have a framework to develop programmes that offer opportunities for the youth to make their contributions to society."

Belle Antoine said she was delighted to sign the MOU, adding that she has done a lot of work on this topic and even drafted legislation, so she has a "personal interest in ensuring the success of this venture.

"We need solid data and factual information in order to make informed decisions.

"Together we can develop and reinforce scientific and technical co-operation, share knowledge and experience, and support each other's endeavours in the fields of disaster risk resilience, crime, forensic science and other fields."

She praised Dr Gabrielle Thongs of the campus' Department of Geography for working closely with the ministry.

CEO of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) Major General (Retired) Rodney Smart said the organisation envisioned a Centre of Excellence in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management "as a transformative element to improve national resilience."

Noting that there is a similar centre at the Mona campus in Jamaica, he said it is something they hope can become a reality in TT.

"Our approach to the St Augustine Campus was therefore very deliberate.

"To us, tertiary institutions such as the UWI play a vital role in societal development where ideas, information, theories and knowledge are shared and just as importantly, new knowledge is created. They are also institutions of research, which not only look for solutions to today and yesterday's unsolved problems, but also peer over the horizon to begin to contemplate that which are emerging, as well as things that are not yet conceptualised."

Dean of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture Dr Mark Wuddivira also praised the initiative.


"UWI to assist Nat Sec with national disaster research"

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