By Theresa Goodwin
Minister of Social Transformation and incoming Chair of the Presiding Officers of Ministers of Social Development in the region, Dean Jonas has highlighted six areas that will be of top priority during his two-year tenure.
Jonas highlighted the areas during his closing remarks the end of the 4th regional conference on Social Development on Thursday.
They include data collection and harmonization, low vulnerability and low-cost housing, enhanced social protection systems, mental health and psychosocial support, persons with disabilities and unemployment benefits.
Antigua and Barbuda was the host country for the conference which focused on disasters, inequality and social protection in current protracted crisis, that is Covid-19 pandemic.
The main objectives of the regional conferences included promoting the development of national policies on social development and international, regional and bilateral cooperation in the field of social development, in order to examine multi-dimensional poverty and make progress on poverty measurement, inequality and structural gaps.
Jonas accepted the role as chair on the first day of the conference, which also made Antigua and Barbuda the first English speaking country in the Caribbean to assume the post that was previously held by Mexico.
Meanwhile, the newly installed chair stated that the regional conference was very engaging as a number of issues concerning social protection, disaster management and the regions’s resilience to disasters in all forms, was discussed.
“Several commonalities were identified as to how we design and develop public policies to strengthen social protection and disaster risk management systems. It is vital for us to be cognizant of the varying coping capacities of the various vulnerable groups by utilizing a targeted and integrated approach to policy design and formulation,” he said.
“This will further necessitate enhanced coordination and mobilisation of institutional resources and capacities, as we strive towards universal, comprehensive and resilient systems for future sustainability against disasters and health crisis,” he added.
Jonas also encouraged his regional counterparts to pay keen attention to the way natural disasters, and its likely impact on social protection programmes in the region.
He said this could have serious implications for the social protection systems in the region and will be important for regional leaders to ensure that there are enough resources available to cater to the needs of the less fortunate in the society.