From hurricanes to earthquakes, disasters are all too common in the Caribbean, bringing about devastating human and economic losses year after year. For example, in 2017, Hurricane Maria resulted in nearly $1.4 billion in damages and losses for Dominica—equivalent to roughly 226 percent of its gross domestic product. 

Even as some member countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), such as Dominica, have adopted building codes that improve the safety and quality of construction and take into consideration natural hazards, effective enforcement of these codes remains lacking. Across CARICOM, there is broad agreement that, in order to address this problem effectively, building professionals and relevant government stakeholders need the right tools and capacity to strengthen code compliance and enforcement mechanisms. 

With support from GFDRR and the World Bank, and in partnership with the European Union (EU) within the framework of the EU-funded Caribbean Regional Resilience Building Facility (CRRBF), a technical team has supported Dominica in developing a comprehensive training program for building code compliance and enforcement. A key goal of this initiative has been to provide Dominica’s peer countries in the CARICOM community with a model to follow for developing their own training programs in the space. 

The team initially conducted an assessment of building code compliance and enforcement training needs in Dominica, drawing on in-depth interviews with a range of stakeholders representing regional organizations, national agencies, and the private sector, and on an exhaustive review of recent training programs in the CARICOM community. 

The assessment uncovered four priority areas for both building professionals and government stakeholders: (1) improving understanding and application of national and Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) building codes; (2) improving understanding and application of relevant engineering principles; (3) providing ways to more effectively communicate the benefits of code compliance, as well as risks and penalties for noncompliance; and (4) conducting public outreach to promote code compliance. 

Informed by the assessment, a curriculum for a Training of Trainers (ToT) program was developed for Dominica that enables participants to train prospective trainees on how to strengthen code compliance and enforcement. 

In addition to the four areas of improvement, a major focus of the curriculum has been to equip prospective trainees with practical information that will enable them to better assess the relative costs and benefits of various interventions to strengthen code compliance and enforcement. In order to develop this part of the curriculum, the team engaged in a cost-benefit analysis of a series of hurricane retrofitting solutions for key housing typologies in Dominica: hurricanes are, by far, the most frequent natural hazard in the country. A key finding from the analysis is that, in the context of hurricane retrofitting in Dominica, retrofit packages generally save more than they cost. So, for all house types, it is worth progressing until an advanced retrofit has been completed. 

Equipped with this vital information, communities of building professionals and government stakeholders will be well-positioned to reduce risks to the built environment through better code compliance. Capacity building through the training program will also contribute to the broader fiscal resilience of the country by enhancing the resilience of the built environment in a cost-efficient manner. This program illustrates that code compliance efforts as part of the wider building regulations agenda do, in fact, go hand in hand with the equally important work of reducing the impacts of financial shocks from disasters to a country’s economy under the disaster risk finance agenda. 

In March 2023, the team implemented a pilot of the ToT program for representatives from within the government of Dominica—officials from the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Public Works, and the Climate Resilience Execution Agency for Dominica—as well as representatives from the Dominica Society of Architects and the Dominica State College. The team targeted the pilot for individuals with a significant role in building regulations in Dominica, and thus those who were best positioned to become trainers in the future. 

Overall, 94 percent of the participants reported in a survey that they found the ToT pilot to be “very useful” for their respective roles in building regulations in Dominica. Many expressed appreciation for the interactive structure of the pilot, which, among other hands-on features, included site visits to housing construction projects where participants were led through a series of tasks to inspect, identify, and communicate potential deficiencies in code compliance. 

Following the successful pilot of the ToT program in Dominica, GFDRR and the World Bank stand ready to support the country’s CARICOM peers as they embark on their own efforts to develop training programs for building code compliance and enforcement— including through the development and dissemination of a customizable training strategy and implementation plan with broad applicability throughout the Caribbean. Although other countries in the Caribbean face similar challenges, programs elsewhere in the region will need to be tailored to the specific context of each country. Going forward, GFDRR and the World Bank will continue to focus on strengthening the synergies between the building regulations agenda and the disaster risk finance agenda.

South Africa

View more results stories from fiscal year 2023 in GFDRR's Annual Report 2023.