May 2013

Global Disaster Risk Reduction: Sharing the Lessons Learnt from the Great East Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

Global Disaster Risk Reduction: Sharing the Lessons Learnt from the Great East Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

– Japanese NGOs attend the UNISDR conference in Geneva, Switzerland –

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) is hosting the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction (GPDRR) in Geneva, Switzerland on May 19th – 23rd. NGOs with extensive on-the-ground experience with relief and reconstruction efforts in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake will be participating in the conference in order to share their experiences and knowledge with the wider international community.

The UNISDR serves as the focal point in the United Nations system for the coordination of disaster risk reduction and has held the GPDRR biennially, where representatives of over 160 countries, civil society groups and researchers come together to build partnerships and exchange information about pressing disaster-related issues. The conference in Geneva is the 4th conference of this initiative and is also a major step in preparations for the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction, which is to be held in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture in 2015.

The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), which is widely regarded as the international standard for disaster risk reduction, was adopted in 2005 at the 2nd UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction. The framework spans from 2005 to 2015, with five main objectives to be attained over the course of the decade by 2015. The framework was symbolically introduced in Kobe city, which was devastated by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, on the 10th anniversary of the disaster.

Despite participation in these initiatives, the reality is that civil society groups still play a relatively minor role in Japan and the role of volunteers in the framework itself is still vastly under-represented and unclear. However, immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, there was a powerful response from civil society, where volunteers played (and continue to play) a major part in the relief and reconstruction efforts of the Tohoku region.

The experiences and lessons that these groups learnt have not been adequately shared and have not gained sufficient attention from the international community. In addition, the knowledge gained from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster has also yet to be fully disseminated, given the grave consequences of the on-going situation. The period leading up to the 2015 UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction is extremely important to ensure that the experiences from Tohoku, where so many perished and so many lives were disrupted, can reach the global community and contribute to the global disaster risk reduction knowledgebase.

The Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), Church World Service Japan/Asia Pacific and Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Center will be three of the NGOs in attendance from Japan.

Prior to the conference in Geneva, representatives from over 20 civil society groups gathered in Tokyo to discuss the most crucial lessons that can be shared with the international community. These opinions and recommendations were condensed into one document which will be presented at the conference. Ichio Muto, a farmer from Fukushima prefecture, is also scheduled to attend the conference in order to give a first-hand account of his experiences after the nuclear disaster and will be actively involved in the workshops and events that will be taking place.