home & introduction


projects & ideas



Island Vulnerability


Island Vulnerability explores the challenges which isolated geographies face when dealing with risk and disasters by examining the processes which create, maintain, and could be used to reduce their vulnerability. This page provides information on some islands in the Caribbean region:

CCA's old headquarters.

The old headquarters of the Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA), the predecessor of Caribbean Conservation.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1999)

    Caribbean Region

  • CARICOM. 1989. The Port of Spain Accord on the Management and Conservation of the Caribbean Environment. Issued by The First CARICOM Ministerial Conference on the Environment, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 31 May - 2 June 1989, full text (215 kb in PDF).

  • Chin, M.W. 1997. "Possible Mitigation Strategies for Hurricanes and Earthquakes in the Caribbean". Pp. 88-95 in R. Ahmad (ed.) Natural Hazards and Hazard Management in the Greater Caribbean and Latin American, Publication No. 3, Unit for Disaster Studies, The University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, Jamaica, full text (481 kb in PDF).

  • Day, S., C. Kilburn, and B. McGuire. 2008. Issues in Risk Science: Tectonic Threats in the Caribbean. Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, London, U.K., full text (1,794 kb in PDF).

  • Jessamy, V.R. 2002. "Progression of Vulnerability of OECS States: A Historical Analysis of Root Causes". The Society for Caribbean Studies (UK) Annual Conference Papers, Volume 3, full text (68 kb in PDF).

  • Lewis, J. 1991. The development of school design and hazard resistance, construction training and curriculum infusion. Educational Architecture Unit, Caribbean Sub-Region, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation), full text (5,224 kb in PDF).

  • Mercer, J., I. Kelman, B. Alfthan, and T. Kurvits. 2012. "Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change in Caribbean Small Island Developing States: Integrating Local and External Knowledge". Sustainability, vol. 4, no. 8, pp. 1908-1932, full text (as a webpage).

  • O'Keefe, P. and C. Conway. 1977 (April). Natural Hazards in the Windward Islands. Bradford Disaster Research Unit Occasional Paper 14, University of Bradford, Bradford, U.K., full text (1,946 kb in PDF).

  • Prevatt, D.O., G.M. Marcelle, I. Kelman, L.-A. Dupigny-Giroux and F.J. Masters. 2010. "On Reducing Hurricane Damage to Housing in the Caribbean Islands". Presentation and paper in the Proceedings of the 13th US-Japan Workshop on the Improvement of Structural Design and Construction Practices, Big Island, Hawai'i, U.S.A., 20-22 April 2010, abstract (8 kb in PDF).

Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda's Flag

Barbados Barbados' Flag

Southwest Coast of Barbados

Southwest Coast of Barbados
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1999)

A Bajan statement on vulnerability:
"Like all who live on small islands,
I must always be remembering the sea."
From "Hymn to the sea" by Frank Collymore

On 6 October 1976, two bombs were placed aboard Cubana flight 455 from Seawell International Airport in Barbados to Kingston, Jamaica. After the explosions, the pilots try to return to Barbados for an emergency landing but all 73 passengers and 5 crew on board are killed when the aircraft plunged into the sea. The CIA is accused of involvement or, at minimum, of knowledge of the plot.

Memorial to the Cubana terrorist victims at Paynes Bay on Barbados' west coast.

Memorial to the Cubana terrorist victims at Paynes Bay on Barbados' west coast.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1999)

Items recovered from Cubana flight 455 displayed in the Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución) in Havana, Cuba.

Items recovered from Cubana flight 455 displayed in the Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución) in Havana, Cuba.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2019)

Dominican Republic Dominican Republic's Flag

  • Cabral-Ramirez, M. 2017. Drought and Vulnerability in the Dominican Republic. Masters thesis from the MSc in Risk, Disaster and Resilience, Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, University College London, U.K., full text (1,693 kB in PDF).

    The purpose of this study was to offer insights about the importance that governments create specific policies to deal with natural hazards, and make sure that concise reliable information is available to all citizens to diminish their risk and vulnerability.

    The methodological design of this study had two stages: collection of data through a survey and examination of survey data against the context of official documents from governmental and non-governmental organizations. Questionnaires were used to collect data. The survey was applied to 600 people over the age of 18 living in the four territorial divisions of Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic.

    Comparing the current policies and the four main principles of drought policies placed by UNISDR, the DR is unable to meet all principles. Each priority action and indicator throughout the 2015 Dominican report of the Hyogo framework were determined to be ineffective due to the lack of resources, commitment from governmental departments, and lack of capacity. With evidence of the drought policy program, the DR has policymaking capabilities, but lacks successful strategic capacities for implementation.

    In general, even if the DR government does have policies, a high percentage of the population does not trust the government to fully implement and carry out the strategic plan. As the survey results revealed, 56.5% of the people residing in Santo Domingo do not trust the national government in preparing them for natural hazards, and 54.3% do not trust the local government in doing so either. The lack of trust in the government, national or local, in relation to natural hazards could hinder the very purpose of establishing drought policies.

    The DR experiences a wide array of natural hazards, but drought has become more imminent in terms of its impact. The “National Action Program against Desertification and Drought Effects” provides strategic frameworks to reduce drought impact. Due to the lack of drought awareness, the Dominican community is more vulnerable and susceptible to the impact of drought. In order to decrease the vulnerability of the Dominican population from drought impact, there needs to be an increase of awareness that leads to the understanding of drought. That creates a more proactive society and therefore a more prepared and resilient community.

  • Jeffery, S.E. 1981. The Creation of Vulnerable Populations. University of Bath, Bath, U.K., full text (171 kb in PDF).

Jamaica Jamaica's Flag

  • Ahmed, S.F. 2008. An Examination of the Development Path Taken by Small Island Developing States: Jamaica a Case Study. Masters thesis from the Island Studies Programme, Faculty of Arts, The University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, full text (779 kB in PDF).

    Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are threatened by myriad of economic, environmental, and social issues, most of which are structural in nature and beyond the control of SIDS. To date, SIDS have collectively and unanimously endorsed only one policy document that comprehensively addresses these issues, and outlines a strategy that seeks to mitigate the vulnerabilities facing islands. This document is the 1994 United Nations Programme of Action on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (BPOA). However, close to a decade and a half after the implementation of the BPOA, SIDS continue to be extremely vulnerable to the issues identified in the blueprint for development; indicating that even though SIDS policy makers are acutely aware of the vulnerabilities and long-term threats facing their islands, there exists an inconsistency between the goals outlined in the development plans SIDS governments have collectively negotiated, drafted, and implemented; and the outcomes SIDS are collectively experiencing. In order to investigate this issue, this paper seeks to elucidate the ideological inconsistencies in the development process SIDS have embarked upon. By undertaking an analysis of the BPOA, it is shown that the concept of sustainable development has been conceived primarily through the lens of economic growth as a means to improve the quality of life for island peoples. To this end, we place particular emphasis on Jamaica's path towards development and document the islands ecological-history, as well as follow the major trends in Jamaica's economy, environment, and society since the islands independence, but particularly since the adoption of the BPOA. The central thesis of this paper is that SIDS are trapped into perpetuating a mode of development that is increasing their economic, environmental, and social vulnerabilities.

  • Berke, P., T. Beatley, and C. Feagin. 1991. Hurricane Gilbert Strikes Jamaica: Institutional Design Implications for Recovery and Development.. Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, U.S.A., full text (1,963 kb in PDF).

  • Berke, P., T. Beatley, and C. Feagin. 1991. Household Recovery Following Hurricane Gilbert: St. James and St. Thomas Parishes, Jamaica.. Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, U.S.A., full text (2,347 kb in PDF).

  • Blackburn, S. 2011. Governance of decentralised disaster management in Jamaica: Processes of empowerment and power-sharing across scales. Masters thesis from an MSc degree in Disasters, Adaptation & Development at King's College London, London, U.K., full text (1,888 kb in PDF).

    This research presents a case study of decentralised disaster risk governance in Portland, Jamaica. A 'zoning in' approach to understanding power relations was adopted, interviewing individuals in national government, local government and local communities. The innovative approach to processes across scales draws on contemporary literature on the politics of scale. This study indicates scalar processes of scale-jumping, partial participation and weak accountability explain the existence and reinforcement of power asymmetries between actors, rooted in the socio-political context. It argues attention to processes and agendas at all scales is necessary to fully understand the construction of realities at a single scale.

  • Lewis, J. 1995. Project Identification and Equitable Development Planning for Vulnerability Reduction in Areas Affected by Natural Disasters and/or Civil Strife: Jamaica, Hurricane / Flooding / Earthquake, Environment and Community Development (Proposal), full text (1,734 kb in PDF).

  • Maharaj, R.R. 2010. Acceptable Risk in Caribbean Terrace and Port Royal, Jamaica. A Research Paper Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Natural Resource Management, Disaster Management, Centre for Environmental Management, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, Jamaica, full text (3,041 kb in PDF).

    Caribbean Terrace and Port Royal are high risk coastal communities, located on south east of Kingston on the south coast of Jamaica. Despite susceptibility to atmospheric and seismic hazards, permanent settlements continue to occupy both areas, as the upper middle class residents of Caribbean Terrace as well as the low income inhabitants of Port Royal, display a reluctance to leave. This risk acceptance is motivated by social, economic, and environmental factors, acting as both constraints and benefits to create strong ties to the community. The impact of these factors on risk acceptance varied in each community resulting in differing levels of acceptable risk. In order to assess the extent of acceptable risk in each community, an instrument was developed, comprising of a three part tool for data collection, an assortment of risk tables to calculate risk acceptance scores and a scale to compare and rank each score. This scale divided acceptable risk into two categories, voluntary and forced, using a ten point system to reflect intensity of risk acceptance. The assessment of both communities showed results on separate ends of the spectrum, as the community of Caribbean Terrace showed high levels of forced acceptable risk while in Port Royal analysis of the data showed that risk acceptance was primarily mostly voluntary.

  • Østensvig, I. 2006. Interagency cooperation in disaster management: partnership, information and communications technology and committed individuals in Jamaica. Masters thesis at the Norwegian University Of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway, full text (3,120 kb in PDF).

    Jamaica, with its location in the Caribbean, yearly experiences hurricanes and flooding. Hurricane Ivan happened in 2004. This study examines the partnership and interagency cooperation in the disaster management system in Jamaica during Hurricane Ivan. The use of information and communications technology in this system was also studied. Semi-structured key informant interviews were conducted of the involved agencies of the disaster management structures. A questionnaire with structured and open-ended questions was used to collect data at household level. This thesis describes the existing disaster management system in Jamaica, and the involvement of the international community. There is a national and parish level structure, with cooperation among key agencies in the varied specialised area. Popular trust in the system and the ability to prepare for action play important roles in the success of the disaster management. The time aspect and information sharing are key elements to the efficiency of operations. To some extent information and communications technology is used within the system for this purpose. This paper focuses on Red Cross' involvement at international, national and parish levels as well as examples of their partnership with private sector and community-based disaster response. This paper concludes that committed individuals within the system are needed to make the disaster management structure successful. There is also a need for training to improve the interagency cooperation and to utilise the available information and communications technologies. The experience from Jamaica shows that preparedness at community level can benefit the communities more than the disaster management system as such. Their success in community disaster preparedness, strengthen community and national self-esteem.

  • Overlooking Port Maria and the north coast of Jamaica, taken from Firefly Hill.

    Overlooking Port Maria and the north coast of Jamaica, taken from Firefly Hill.
    (Copyright Ina Østensvig 2003)

St. Kitts and Nevis St. Kitts and Nevis' Flag

A sketch by James Lewis of Nevis at sunset

Nevis until it goes into the darkness, 11 November 1991 (Copyright James Lewis).

St. Lucia St. Lucia's Flag

Lazarus Funeral Home: 'We have your size, don't drink and drive'.

Risk education in St. Lucia
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1998)

Les Pitons, St. Lucia.

Les Pitons, St. Lucia
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1998)

St. Vincent and the Grenadines St. Vincent and the Grenadines' Flag

  • Ferdinand, I. 2006. Hurricane Risk Reduction Strategies in the Windward Islands: Public and Practitioners' Perspectives. MSc dissertation from the Faculty of Business, Environment and Society, Coventry University, Coventry, U.K., full text (1,757 kb in PDF).

    There is a hurricane season every year in the Caribbean from June 1st to November 30th; however it is possible for hurricanes to occur outside this period. There are different perspectives of hurricanes held by experts to that of the public and this often create discrepancies in implementing risk reduction measures. Perception of hazards plays a role in how people will respond and make decisions. The Windward Islands are not in the direct path of hurricanes when compared to the Caribbean Islands in the north of the Island Arc, however they are often affected even by the presence of a storm in the region which may cause major devastation.

    While a lot of preparations are done to reduce the effects of hurricanes on a short term basis long term risk reduction strategies are minimal or maybe done in isolation to the community. There is therefore need to refocus the goals of Disaster Management to encompass risk reduction in the Windward Island and the Caribbean region as a whole. This can be done more effectively by incorporating the community on a greater level into planning and policies design aimed at risk reduction. Hence there is need for the promotion of a participatory community approach, improvement in early warning systems and greater collaboration in the Caribbean region to make use of the limited resources.

  • Lewis, J. 1997. "The Tale of Three Caribbean Volcanoes: Islands' History,Geography and Vulnerability". Stop Disasters, vol. 32, no. ii, pp. 26-27, full text (269 kb in PDF).

Contact Island Vulnerability.

The material on the Island Vulnerability website is provided as only an information source. Neither definitive advice nor recommendations are implied. Each person or organisation accessing the website is responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed and are strongly advised to verify all information. No liability will be accepted for loss or damage incurred as a result of using the material on this website. The appearance of external links on this website does not constitute endorsement of the organisations, information, products, or services contained on that external website.