Nov 2012


Event Report: Forum on creating a long-term support and recovery network for the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster areas

On October 17, with the cooperation of NGO/NPOs and corporate partners, Peace Boat hosted an event focused on creating a network to quickly and efficiently provide support after disasters in Japan.

The event was organised by Peace Boat’s Disaster Volunteer Centre, with the help of sponsors including the Civilian Disaster Prevention and Disaster Area Support Network; corporate partner IBM Japan; intermediate support organizations such as Just Giving Japan; and NGO/NPO On the Road. With their cooperation, preparatory sessions have been held every two months since November 2011. The day the network was launched was also a chance to extend an invitation to other NGOs and NPOs involved with the Great East Japan Earthquake relief effort and support for future disasters. The event drew approximately 60 participants, comprised mainly of CSR representatives from various corporations and NGO/NPO employees. The two hour programme included a great deal of valuable hands-on advice, as participants shared their experiences with corporate volunteering and introduced examples of companies working together with local disaster relief organizations.

The first person to take the podium was Tamura Taro of the Institute for Human Diversity Japan, who gained valuable experience with relief efforts during the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake which hit Kobe in 1995. After the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11 2011, Mr Tamura joined the Cabinet Secretariat’s Disaster Volunteer Cooperation Office with the goal of facilitating cooperation between the public and private sectors. He currently acts as a senior official for party policy research at the Reconstruction Agency.

In addition to discussing the kind of relief efforts that will be necessary in the ongoing process to go forward in Tohoku, Mr Tamura also put forth a proposal for responding to future disasters. Japan’s birthrate continues to decline and the elderly comprise a larger segment of the population. Five or ten years from now, the demographic of volunteers able to provide disaster support will be very different. Hearing Mr Tamura’s talk reminded all there about questions of how we can respond to the challenges that might arise at such a time.

The next presenter was Peace Boat’s Disaster Relief Volunteer Centre President Yamamoto Takashi, who spoke about the achievements of corporate volunteer activities during the Great East Japan Earthquake. This was followed by a panel discussion featuring Sato Keisuke (Brand Promotion Dept, Social Activities Committee) from Bridgestone, which made the decision to send employees to volunteer at a very early stage; Tange Seiji  (Head Office Environment Committee, Head of Planning and Management) from Taisei Corporation, which expanded volunteer activities in addition to donating its general contracting services; and Orikasa Mitsuko (CSR Section Leader, Corporate Strategy Planning Dept.) from Nippon Steel and Sumikin Engineering, which challenged its employees to make donations via Just Giving Japan, as well as investigating new ways of providing relief and support. These 3 panelists discussed the specific process involved when a corporation decides to volunteer, and shared examples of volunteer activities in the disaster areas.

Wrapping up the event was a session to discuss the contribution of the corporate sector in going forward to help those affected by the Tohoku Disaster. Matsumura Gota, representative director of ISHINOMAKI 2.0, talked about the possibilities for creating new art and design-based projects, while making sure to remain grounded.

“Perhaps I can only say this because I was on the receiving end of the disaster, but I think now is the time when we can really experiment. Before the disaster, problems like the population drain were turning Ishinomaki into a ghost town. I don’t think recreating the old Ishinomaki is what we should be aiming for. I’m not saying this to get sympathy. I’ve been saying this from the very first days after the earthquake. Now we can cooperate with the corporations and designers who all share the same dreams and goals of ‘building a future’ for the area.”

** For inquiries about the Civilian Disaster Prevention and Disaster Area Support Network, please contact:
Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Center (Ms Tayama)
TEL: 03-3363-7967  FAX: 03-3362-6073  MAIL: kyuen@pbv.or.jp